In 2003, Bioware surprised the role playing community by releasing the instant hit, “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,” which gave gamers the opportunity to create their destiny through interesting narratives seemingly ripped out of choose-your-adventure novels. With this success, Bioware decided to forego a lucrative sequel to “KotOR” and instead created a new RPG universe, the ancient Chinese saga of “Jade Empire.”

In “Jade Empire,” Bioware builds off elements that have made their games successful by creating an enormous, picturesque living world fueled by an alluring story right out of Chinese mythology. Starting in a rural martial arts school, gamers assume the role of a student whose destiny is one of greatness. The student is out on a mystical adventure across the Jade Empire in order to find his/her master, who was kidnapped by the dangerous lotus assassins. Not is as all as it seems, as several intuitive plot twists change the landscape of the game. Players once again have the opportunity to choose their destiny through many branching conversations and relationships with computer controlled party members, such as studying under a drunken master. These choices result in a good or evil philosophical alignment for the main character that opens up several different side quests and outcomes in the game’s many diverging pathways.

 

Additionally, the game revolves around developing into a legendary martial arts master. Like many stories in Asian cinema, the balance of the body, mind and spirit determine the strength and varying abilities of the character. Players are also encouraged to learn several fighting techniques, each with his own style to balance his chosen strengths and weaknesses. These styles fit the Chinese world perfectly with names like leaping tiger and fortunes favorite. The game also introduces transformation styles that literally transform the character into different kinds of mythical beasts, such as a horse demon or colossal jade golem statue. These abilities and styles help to establish “Jade Empire” as an action RPG that allows gamers to change styles on the fly to better attack the various enemies ranging from the empirical guards to restless phantom souls.

Conversely, the only real problem with this game is that those who are familiar with Bioware’s previous work, mainly “Knights of the Old Republic,” might find that “Jade Empire” is just more of the same. And while the fighting system has the opportunity to be very deep and strategic, it can also be very simple, repetitive and downright dull. That said, “Jade Empire” is still Bioware’s best work to date and is one of the best RPG’s on the Xbox.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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