Jade Empire's Storyline *Spoilers*

Well, I finally got around to finishing Bioware’s Xbox RPG, Jade Empire yesterday. Great game!

I’d like to use to this topic to discuss the game’s storyline with others who have finished the game. Or just the game in general, and what you’d like to see in a sequel…

I was a bit disappointed with the main plot twist (Master Li plotting against you the whole time). Compared to KOTOR’s awesome twist, it wasn’t as spectacular. I did thoroughly enjoy it though, but there wasn’t quite to pull that KOTOR had to keep me playing it constantly.

I like the game’s combat system. I thought the switch to a real time battle system was an improvement, even if there wasn’t a lot of depth to most battles. Most battles could be won by repetitively pushing the A button, dodging, and healing.

The length of the game was perfect… the story didn’t feel too drawn out, like many 40 hour RPGs. I might even play through it again, which is something I don’t usually do with RPGs besides Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Another thing… I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It felt too similar to Knights of the Old Republic with good and evil endings. Haven’t tried the sacrificial ending yet, though…

I would be great if in Bioware’s next game the path of good or evil affected the storyline much earlier on in the game.

There is more than two endings.Personally I’ve experienced three.

The evil ending ,the good ending and the Master Li becomes a God ending.This last one happens if you hear Master Li’s proposition and accept it.

But I think there are other endings if you have a love affair…

Yeah, I haven’t tried the sacrificial ending yet, but I have seen the other two. What I meant, was all the main choices come at the end of the game - it would be nice if the choices that you made earlier on in the game mattered as well. You could be a heartless bastard throughout the whole game and still get the good ending based on one choice. Nobody would care about your actions up until that point, and still consider you a hero.

If your influence throughout the game actually effected what other characters chose at the end of the game, that would make all your choices much more important, rather than just a single choice at the end of chapter 6.

I’m thinking of something more along the lines of KOTOR2 (an influence system, but also based on your alignment), but where it would actually change the outcome of the game.

I was wondering how long it would be before a Jade Empire topic popped up.

First up, something i’ve been puzzling over recently:
I don’t know what is it exactly, but for some reason Bioware’s RPGs always feel oddly short to me. It’s not that they actually are all that short, it’s just that it doesn’t actually feel like much actually happens in them… RPGs like PDS or Chrono Trigger or Phantasy Star 4 (which I finally got to play, hurrah for emulation :anjou_love: ) only last 20 to 30 hours on your first play through, but it feels like a lot has happened in that space of time. Where as Jade Empire lasts about the same length, but it felt nowhere near as long.

I think this has to do with the actual content of the games. There are a lot of BIG events in PDS and Chrono Trigger or Phantasy Star 4 - there’s always something around the corner, and it feels like you’ve accomplished a lot when you reach the end. However, in Jade Empire and KOTOR, most of your time is spent talking to towns people and your companions, and the games often feel a bit drawn out in places by “well, we need components x, y and z before we can go anywhere, let’s start asking around” type quests.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the games while i’m playing them - the characters are brilliant - even regular NPCs have a lot of personallity, but the trade-off seems to have been the content of the main story, and by the time you reach the end, I generally just feel a bit dissapointed because it doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that much… I’m not sure if i’m making any sense here, or if anyone else felt the same way… but, there seems to be less events in them and it just doesn’t feel as though the characters have been through as much.

This probably isn’t helped by the fact that the main events all occur using the in-game character models - as in-game graphics for when you’re just wandering around town, they’re brilliant, but when a big, emotional event happens, and all the characters can do is recycle animation you’ve seen 100 times before, which often look silly or out of place (such as the awful clutching-their-head-and-shaking animation in KOTOR) it just makes the scene a lot less dramatic.

And the whole good/evil thing is great, but it’s wearing a bit thin by the time you’ve played KOTOR, KOTOR2 and Jade Empire. I know it’s kind of a trademark system, but I think it would be great if there were more in the way of different paths, and more moral ambiguity. In a future Jade Empire, for example rather than two “Paths”, there could be many, and rather that just decided it based of “good or bad” decision, it could take into account cirumstances, such as whether you were being cruel, egocentric, kind, uncaring or just plain thugish.

Anyway, it’s probably begining to sound like I hate the games - I don’t. In fact I love them, it’s just that I’ve been think about this recently and wanted to get it off my chest. Sorry about that. :anjou_embarassed: And it’s hardly like I seriously believe that having a KOTOR or Jade Empire with everything i’ve said above corrected - if they did it would probably be the greatest game ever made.

Anyway, since i’m posting here, I might as well give my opinion of Jade Empire on it own.

I really enjoyed the combat system, I’m not sure if I prefer it to KOTOR, but there was a surprising amout you could do with an interesting set-up of fighting styles, and the fights often looked great when you pulled off some of the flashier move, such as magic-styles area attacks and transformation moves. The only down side was that there was less customisation, the gems were good, but I would have liked to be able to buy more weapons (there were only, like, 6 in the whole game) and to get other eqiuptment. I don’t mind your allies being AI controlled, but I wish you could level up your companions and equip them with things - towards the end they were practically useless unless they were in support mode.

Ther characters were great, as you’d expect from Bioware. I particularly liked Kang, and he had a pretty cool back-story and sidequests as well. You also did seem to have more of an influence over your companions - you can actually lead the love interests in the game down the same path as you, if you get them to understand why your philosiphy, which I thought was a nice touch.

Oh, and I agree that the plot twist was nowhere near as good as KOTORs, I saw it coming a mile off, and it seemed a bit cliche, but at least it was well executed… wow, this has probably been my longest post ever :anjou_wow:, well, i’m off!

I agree with nearly all of your points Drenholm. I think the problem with Bioware’s games - as great as they usually are - is that they focus a lot of the dialogue on characters that have very little importance to the overall story. I know the very nature of RPGs makes it hard to avoid this, but if you look at another medium such as a book or a movie, characters are usually only introduced if they have some part to play in the overall story. If you were reading The Lord of the Rings, would you really care if in chapter 6 of the second book Aragorn left the rest of the group and spent his time hunting down a few outlaws when the fate of the world hangs in the balance? It wouldn’t work as part of the narrative, and I find that the amount of side quests in RPGs slows down the pace of the storyline to a point where sometimes it doesn’t feel like the main quest if very important/urgent after all.

This was one of the reasons why I thought Jade Empire’s 20 to 30 hour quest didn’t feel too short. Compared to other RPGs like KOTOR where you spend much of the time tracking down bounties as side quests, the story felt much more - how should I say this - stretched? I think if RPG developers could think up some new ways of making interesting side quests that contribute to the main story, the side quests would seem more relevant to the story that is trying to be told. That is, the characters in side quests should have some part to play later on in the story, rather than just being randoms who you just meet once and never hear from again.

I actually played Jade Empire with a specific goal in mind. I had been working on a Kung Fu RPG game idea for about 2 years before the game was even announced, and seeing how it was BioWare, I all but gave up on my idea, thinking that they’d do it better than I could ever imagine.

So, when the game came out, I wanted to play it to see how it compared. To put it bluntly: I enjoyed the game, but was very, very disappointed. Here’s the short list of reasons:

  1. It’s a Wu Xia movie-as-a-game. And yet, the wire-fu was horrible. The animation trees, although better than KOTOR, were extremely limited, and animation blending was almost non-existant. Never once did I actually feel like a kung fu master, but rather, like somebody playing rock-paper-scissors. There were very few battles where I felt like I got by on skill, rather than simply using the same technique over and over again. And there didn’t seem to be a natural progression of difficulty to the battles. They were either unreasonably easy or unbelievably hard (or sometimes both, depending on what the enemy AI decided to do).

  2. No cinematic imagery of the world. They spend so much time and energy developing the world via books and stories, yet never let you see any of it. When you see what Wu Xia movies are doing nowadays (Crouching Tiger, Hero, etc), they are replete with beautiful imagery that enhances the already fairytale-like settings of the movies. Jade Empire did none of that.

  3. Mortal Kombat-inspired character designs. The faces and stuff looked liked they were modelled after real people, which is good, but the outfits and styles looked like they were taken from the Mortal Kombat school of Asian design. There was little attention paid to actual historical fashions, etc.

  4. 2D shooting??? No.

Overall, though, it was a pleasant departure from the usual fantasy or sci-fi stuff, and the use of Open Palm vs Closed Fist was fairly interesting. Overall, though, I think they failed to deliver an experience that was truly Wu Xia…

What did you find wrong with the 2D shooting sections, Abadd? I thought that they added variety to the game while still fitting into the story quite well. KOTOR could have done well with something like this when traveling between planets too.

Bear in mind that although Jade Empire is based on Ancient China, the world if far from meant to be an accurate depiction of it. It purposely introduced magic, flying machines, and inaccurate fighting costumes to add the whole “fantasy” element to the game world, and I think they pulled this off quite well.

I certainly agree with your comments on the battle system though; there is much that could have been improved there.

I don’t expect them to make a carbon copy of ancient China, but rather, if they are going to make a fantasy world (particularly one that has so many well-known references), it would do the game good to allow the player to explore that world and see what they have changed.

In addition, the 2D shooting portions simply didn’t fit. It served no purpose in moving the story forward (if there were so many bandits with planes, how come there weren’t more bombings and aerial attacks???), and created an artificial sense of variety. The reasoning for the existence of the airships, I have no problem with. It simply felt even more gratuitous than the pod race scene in Episode 1. It was simply put in so they could have a mini game in there to artificially increase the play length of the game.

In addition, the simplistic nature of the gameplay detracted from the attempts at creating depth throughout the other parts of the game, and the barebones graphics undermined any attempts to create a more atmospheric setting.

As for the clothing… Sure, it’s a fantasy setting, but they way they did it was extremely generic. There was no rhyme or reason, no attention to culture (which is the only difference between this game and any other BioWare game… the cultural setting). No consideration was given to why monks would develop the flowing robes they did in real life, the evolution of the clothing of peasants and royalty, the functionality of a martial artists uniform, etc. Certain elements can be made fantastic, but when you create strict rules in certain areas of your new world, then blatantly ignore any rules in others, it makes for an incongruous experience. Why do you think the artistic direction in the Lord of the Rings movies is so praised? Every distinct culture in the world had a unique look, but had specific reasons for those looks. There was a natural evolution to the clothing and architecture, and proper reasoning behind it all.

(And by the way, KOTOR did have something similar, and was done in a way much more characteristic to the world. There were sequences where the player had to mount a cannon in the Ebon Hawk and shoot down enemy ships, like Luke and Han did in Episode 4.)

I put about ten hours into this game recently- I am very disapointed as well. All the story is just text- you actually see very little of it- it is like they are telling you how rich of a world it all is instead of showing you.

I know most RPGs progress stories through fetch quests (go to A to trigger B) but it just seemed so transparent- when you start to skip through teh pages of text you realize it is a very simple game. I feel like Japanese RPGs do this in such a better manner- things just happen and break through the montony of juts going to A to trigger B- a cienmatic event, or an unexpected subquest, or something. This was just so bland and obvious- it felt like a chore to do stuff …

The combat is just so stiff, as well. It is supposed to be real-time but it felt like turn based, with teh turn clocks just hidden from teh screen. I had just played a lot of beat’em-ups before playing it, and it just felt so stiff and awkward.

In my tiredness, I read that as “Kung Fu hamster:anjou_angry:

I have played KOTOR, but all the comments people are posting about Jade Empire are precisely the reasons I never picked that game up - why give you the option of being good/bad/rude if it makes no difference until the final chapter? I’d rather have a JRPG that doesn’t even pretend I have a choice in the outcome than Biowares’ shallow “offering”. Do something properly or don’t do it at all.
My main reason for not picking up JE is a cultural one - I’ve never enjoyed watching Western remakes/interpretations of Eastern films, as they always pick up on the visuals but miss the point behind them.
Take Sadakos hair pulled over her face in The Ring, for example - this isn’t done because it looks creepy, it’s done because that is how the Japanese dress their dead. They carbon copy the visual cue, but never think about the reason behind it (or how it is completely lost on audiences from a different culture).

Why should this be about eastern agehnst western RPGs and not about good western RPGs and bad western RPGs?

It’s not about West RPGs vs East RPGs - both have very good, and very unique styles. I was talking about the cultural references that get missed when one tries to emulate something from the other - for example Capcoms side scrolling beat em up about King Arthur, or Xenosaga’s insistance on name dropping Christianity, without ever looking into the meaning or cultural baggage of the terms they’re using.

I was talking about the player’s impact on the story.

Quick comment about Sadako’s hair: Not entirely correct. For the most part, the Japanese part the dead’s hair and oftentimes cover their face with a white cloth… That is, before they cremate the body. The reason for Sadako’s hair is 1) it calls to mind stories of the “urameishiya” which is the spirit of a vengeful woman, and 2) it’s freaky looking. Reason 2 still applies to the Western audience simply because it relies on a universal human reaction known as the Uncanny Valley. When you create images of human forms, the more realistic it gets, the more positive a reaction the audience will have, right until you get to about the 85-90% realism mark. Then, people freak out. The Ring, Jacob’s Ladder, etc all rely on this Uncanny Valley effect to create a natural, gut reaction to the imagery.

As for Bioware’s stuff, the reactions to the player’s actions don’t simply take place in the final chapter. The final chapter is the culmination of the player’s actions and has the biggest, most noticable effect for sure, but along the way, individual quests, NPC relations, etc are all affected. Heck, I played through JE as an Open Palm master, and didn’t see half the stuff my friend did, who played as a Closed Fist master. Makes a huge difference that goes beyond cosmetic.

The problem I have with JRPGs is the fact that you have no involvement in the story. You get to play all the menial tasks: the traveling from location to location, shopping, and random battles. All the stuff that would be cut out of the game if it were a movie. What’s the point in that? If I wanted to watch poorly written/acted movies, I’d watch anime. Why would I want to do that for 40 hours?

Well, the influences are subtle really, in KotOR for example, your party members, and the people around you will act differently and say different things depending on your allignment, charisma stat, etc.

And there have been Japanese RPGs with different outcomes, why, Enix’s Star Ocean 2 had 83 different endings you could guide the story to.

But erm, yeah, generalising isn’t the best thing to do. =D But as to influencing the story, not every RPG can be, or tries to be Morrowind. >.>;;

The problem here is BioWare have to make games digestable by the masses. Play Planescape: Torment for branching stat and alignment driven dialogue taken to an extreme. You can end the game in a number of different ways and determine the future of your friends as well, not to mention delve deeper into your past.

Being too deep has a nasty habit of putting people off. That’s why Torment wasn’t an instant smash hit despite being an improvement on BioWare’s winning Baldur’s Gate formula (you can see a few parrallels between Torment and KOTOR 2 if you know what you’re looking for too, since some of the same people worked on both games). I loved this RPG, and resent the fact that we may never see more RPGs like it.

And Abadd, have you even played V:TM - Bloodlines yet? It’s one of the best western RPGs I’ve played in a long time with multiple unique endings (I wish liberals would leave politics out of games but Troika’s swipes at Bush and the blatent homosexuals in the game were rather bold to say the least). Of course, siding with the good guys is truly the most explosive ending (totally fitting). Play it fool! :slight_smile:

Haven’t played it, unfortunately. I’ve heard that it has some of the best character writing of any recent game, but I’ve also heard of some questionable consistency issues with the tech and overall stability of the game.

My main issue, though, is that I have a friend who started played Vampire: Masquerade back in high school and got all… “weird” about it. Turned me off to the brand ever since =\

I actually own a copy of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, but I have yet to play very far into the game because I feel the game would run a lot better once I perform some upgrades to my PC, if not a new graphics card, then at least some more RAM. Unfortunately, for a game that uses the Source engine, it runs a whole lot worse than Half-Life 2. The game does seem to have some bugs in it, even when patched, too… I don’t know if this has been improved since I last installed it.

Having not played very far into the game, it’s difficult to know what to make of it at this point, but you don’t take me as the kind of guy who would become “werid” over a game, Abadd; I think you’re safe there. :anjou_happy:

Regarding Jade Empire, at least Bioware are planning on creating a new system for dialogue scenes in Mass Effect. I don’t remember the actual website that the interview where this was mentioned was on, but I’ll post it if I find it.

Well you know me, I like to champion underrated games. Bloodlines really was a breath of fresh air for me. Not many RPGs give players the chance to play as different classes/factions/races/etc which allow you to approach situations from different angles. As for the stability of the game, Bloodlines is rather resource hungry even after the final patch which irons out the major bugs. I’m not prepared to let a few glitches stand in my way, however, all things considered.