+ not your average fantasy setting
+ beautiful visuals, colorful and pleasing to the eye
+ nice soundtrack
+ very professional and varied voiceovers
+ all of which results in a great atmophere that strongly helps immersion (it's also quite eerie at times, due to all the ghost and spirit stories)
+ kick-ass martial arts combat
+ good choice of memorable companions, each with their own story, attack and support styles, and they also interact with each other at times
+ the writing is definitely above average
+ while you can't customize the look of your character, you can choose between several male and female avatars; if you choose a female one, the game respects that and treats you accordingly all the time, not just by replacing personal pronouns (and in a mature way)
+ unlimited inventory - just loot whatever you want and sort through it whenever you feel like it; no tiresome inventory management won't get in your way and ruin the flow
+ you can't really mess up your character, and you can delay leveling up and distributing skill points as long as you want
+ a little more variety in gameplay compared to other RPGs due to an (optional) mini game
+/- the story is not all that special and a lot of it is quite predictable, but I enjoy it nevertheless; I like the story-telling and plot much better than e.g. those of Neverwinter Nights (contrary to NWN your character actually has a part in the story), and personally I also prefer them to the first Baldur's Gate (but that's probably because I find the Jade Empire a more interesting setting than the Forgotten Realms, and because I prefer fast-paced, slightly more linear - or focussed - stories to directionless huge world exploration)
- you can only travel with one companion at a time, so if you only play through the game once, you're going to miss out on a few of their comments in certain situations
- very easy difficulty; the balance is definitely off and most of the time strongly in favor of the player. I'm usually not one to complain about easy difficulty and it's fun to feel like a powerful kung fu master, but it's a bit disappointing that there's hardly any challenge at all and in consequence leveling up is not as rewarding as it should be, because you can beat most of the opponents easily even if you neglect improving your techniques and leave most of your skill points unused. There are three or four quite challenging fights in the game (half of them are optional / mini-game), and they will take you by surprise, because the rest of the game is like a walk in the park (and also because they're not the ones you'd expect to be the toughest). Also, you have a good choice of different techniques and tactics but no real incentive to make use of them, other than to toy around with them for your personal amusement. The AI isn't all that sharp either, and I'm saying this as someone who's not a particularly skilled player and who played with mouse and keyboard.
- the concept of the paths of Open and Closed Palm could have been complex and interesting: when it's first explained it sounds as if there's more to it than the usual Good/Evil dichotomy. But in truth there isn't. There are hardly any good examples for followers of the Closed Palm in the game, most of them appear as simple thugs or cruel megalomaniacs, while the followers of the Open Palm are all portrayed as wise and sympathethic. Contrary to the initial definition, in practice it all comes down to altruism or selfishness, humbleness or power abuse, sympathy or cruelty once again, like in every other average RPG.
- it's a bit formulaic in its structure and use of plot devices, a typical Bioware RPG. Some parts are extremely linear, others suddenly grant you all the time (or even require you) to chat with each and every commoner on the street and solve their problems although you have much more pressing matters to attend to. You'll recognize a lot of ideas and gameplay elements you know from other Bioware RPGs already.
- it also has that silly barrel smashing loot system of NWN and Diablo-clones, although I admit the pottery kicking of Jade Empire is kind of funny, but still pretty out-of-character. Luckily there aren't that many containers to smash throughout the game, so it won't become a full time job like in NWN.
- a few minor bugs like the occasional spoken line played at low volume or the voiceovers for it missing completely (happened 2-4 times throughout the whole game, for a single line each) or the camera suddenly directed at the floor after a cutscene, so I had to exit the area and reenter for the camera to adjust again (happened to me about 4 times); also, the targeting system for usable objects in the environment (> move close to the object and turn in its direction) was a bit imprecise and didn't always work at once. Apart from that though, I didn't notice anything distracting during about 36 hours of gameplay (completionist/slowpoke mode).
- a minor complaint from the completionist: in the villages you can click through the commoners' one-liners until you've heard them all and they repeat the same cycle, in the city though the one-liners are suddenly randomized, and if you want to hear them all, you have to listen to dozens of repeats, which is pretty annoying if you consider that they're spoken out loud each time, not just written like in NWN.
All in all I really enjoyed the game. It's definitely worth the asking price and I would recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of a real-time Martial Arts RPG and who's mainly looking for an immersive experience with great atmosphere; not so much to anyone in search for real challenges, surprising story twists or complex philosophy.
Post edited October 17, 2013 by Leroux