Written by Jake Patrick Cu
Game Title: Jade Empire: Special Edition
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: BioWare Corporation
Publisher: Aspyr Media, Inc.
Also Available On: Mac, Steam
Jade Empire: Special Edition was first released by Bioware on the original Xbox in 2005. Fast forward to 2016, we now have a port of the game for iOS. Does the port stack up to the original game, which was awesome, released on its console counterpart? Let’s find out in this review.
Right off the bat, this game is stunning to look at. It’s no Infinity Blade in terms of graphics, mind you, but it looks great nonetheless. As for the controls, as with all RPGs on mobile devices, it will take some getting use to, but the layouts are top notch. If you have an MFi controller, that’s where this game will be at its best, since this is a port from a console. What I also like about the controls is that your character can only look left and right, no up and down, which eases the gameplay experience, IMO. It just simplifies the experience overall. The video cut scenes are blurry, I’m guessing because the videos are in their original resolutions from way back, but other than that, there’s nothing to complain about this game in terms of looks. Everything looks and handles beautifully.
In Jade Empire, you play a prized student of Master Li who runs a training school in a small town. You can select from a number of fighting techniques before the start of the game. You cannot alter your character’s face like other Bioware games, because it will appear in pre-rendered cut scenes. The story is classic Bioware: you play a character that is destined for great things, learn the back stories of people and places you come across, and maybe, find love along the way. There’s a morality mechanic in play in this game which will determine how people will react to you and what ending you will receive. As for the moral choices themselves, it’s very black and white. There’s good (Open Palm) and there’s bad (Closed Fist), no grey area in the middle. Your actions will determine what path your character will follow, along with techniques exclusive to each path.
You can have up to four martial art styles in the game which you can equip one at a time. Some classic RPG elements are present in the game. You have your basic, heavy and area attacks, block, evade, heal, and magic. There are three meters you need to manage in the game: health, chi and focus. Various attacks and technique will deplete some of those meters, so you need to manage them carefully, or you’ll end up using your most basic attacks, which is hand-to-hand.
Moving around in combat can feel clunky at first, especially in the first few instances you run into enemies. Even though the enemies love to gang up on you, they can sometimes be beaten with little effort. You just don’t feel as all powerful as everyone in the game says you are. Nevertheless, it’s fun to try out the different fighting techniques and finding out which technique suits you best.
Outside combat, you get to explore different locations and get to interact with NPCs with a single button, though only a small percentage will actually have anything interesting to say or offer you side quests.
Though the game is set in China, which is a rarity in games, if you’ve played any of the Bioware games before (I myself have played Mass Effect), the setting and flow of the game can feel all too familiar at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story will have you choosing between good or bad, and some of the twists in the story will genuinely surprise you. The characters in the games, at least the important ones, will have their own stories behind them, and it’s up to you if you want to dig into them.
Replay Value: 4/5
While the combat can feel clunky at times and the flow can feel all too familiar, Jade Empire is a solid RPG with its setting in China, strong characters and excellent dialogue. If you are shopping for an RPG for your iOS device, you should definitely check out Jade Empire.