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Written by Silver Sorrow   
Wednesday, 15 October 2008 00:30
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Title: Jade Empire - Special Edition
Alternate Title: Hey Hey Scholar Ling, When You Walk That Way, Watch Your Honey Drip, Can't Keep Away
Developer: Bioware
PC Port Masterminds: Gray Matter
Official Site: jade.bioware.com
ESRB Rating: M 17+ [Blood & Gore; Intense Violence; Mild Language; Suggestive Themes; An Actual Plot]
Reviewed By: Silver "Funny Nickname In Quotes" Sorrow
Catering By: Lady Chow's Chew-Chew Train And Full Body "Massage"
Score: 10 outta 10

The Acronym Key: Your Friend In These Troubled Times
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
IMDB: Internet Movie Database
JESE: Jade Empire Special Edition
KOTOR: Knights of the Old Republic
NPC: Non-Player Character
RP: roleplay
RPG: Role Playing Game
XP: Experience Points (I know, I know: it's stupid)
SLFAROAM: Scholar Ling Filed A Restraining Order Against Me!

J A D E  E M P I R E  -  S P E C I A L  E D I T I O N

My surname is Sorrow and my personal name is Silver and I have a slight flaw in my character.

Note: I had thought that the more-or-less mature themes of Jade Empire would make it perfectly acceptable (i.e., "shockingly inappropriate") to post here, in its entirety, a highly immature vignette of mine, "The Cerulean Dragon." I had written the piece as the Abstract to a Hangar 16  HL mod review several years ago (I don't even remember the mod now...that's how desperate I was to make the stupid review memorable); however, I edited it out entirely much to the relief of Darkwolf, who felt that he got enough hate mail as it was. He even threatened to make me eat the thing if I ever posted it. Not being one to leave anything alone, I referred to it obliquely over the ensuing years as a sort of running gag. So it languished on my hard drive. And, thanks to a rare flash of common sense, it will *continue* to languish there. I get enough hate mail as it is, myself.


An RPG Of An Ancient China That Never Was
The place is the Jade Empire, a fantastical, mythical version of -- you guessed it -- Ceti Alpha V. No. Sorry. I meant *China*. (However, the previous Jade Empire emperors had trouble with their own version of Genghis Khan, and I'm guessing there were times when, bedeviled and exasperated by the sheer hell of it all, they shouted...you see where I'm going with this, don't you?) You are a student of Master Li, a man with a mysterious past who runs a martial arts school in the borderlands. I mean HE runs the school, not his mysterious past. Although when you think about it, aren't all of our past experiences really running the show? And you might as well admit it: those past experiences are strongly colored by a parent's well-meaning, yet badly-misguided attempts at child-rearing via the failed method of Reverse Psychology. Think about it: you're three years old, there's a hot stove, there's a parent telling you to touch the stove, because hey! The damn stupid kid always does the opposite of what we tell him/her! So you reach out...

Okay, never mind that. The point is that you're the student, he's the master, you have a slightly annoying friend named Dawn Star, and I cannot type without screwing up eight words out of nine. You discover -- through the deliberate use of character interaction -- that you're the most promising student at the school and everyone's sick to DEATH of hearing how great you are.

It soon becomes clear that your master, who raised you from a baby (I mean he was an adult who raised you, who were the baby in question, and...wait...or is it "you, who was the"...oh, never mind), knows a lot more than he's telling; inevitably, this leads into epic situations peppered with lots and lots of ass-kicking, which is far better than the alternative, i.e., mundane situations peppered with lots and lots of neurotic navel-gazing. The story unfolds from there, and far be it from me to go into any sort of detail that would involve my unfortunate lack of typing skills. Let's just say that it is indeed 1) epic and 2) complicated, featuring plot twists, possible romantic entanglements, treachery, deceit, arson, lots of pretty explosions, an advanced form of Galaga, and plenty of other stuff.

An Aside Of Some Minor Speculation
The writers had obviously read Barry Hughart's Master Li novels, particularly the first, Bridge of Birds...but I won't go into a lengthy in-depth analysis of the similarities because 1) I'm shallow and impatient, and 2) no one reads books anymore. So to hell with it.

But I gotta ask: where can I find a cartload of jade and pearls for when I eventually run into Lotus Cloud?

Lengthy Install, Growling Reviewer
Upon the very first installation -- this was several installs of WinXP ago -- a solid 25 minutes was required to install this from the DVD. After a recent reload of WinXP, the install took *45* minutes. I want to cry. This did not include the brief time expended in registering the game at Bioware's site, nor does it include the additional half hour I needed to update my video drivers (don't ask), find a solution to the SecuROM dilemma**, as well as other even more uninteresting events I won't recount here.
[** SecuROM is like Homeland Security: theoretically designed to protect, but in reality a fascist weapon of annoyance. And it's getting worse.]

Initially, A Childish Note; It Takes A Somewhat Depressive Turn; Tribulations Abound; Redemption Is Eventually Achieved; Cautious Contemplation On The Pure Sweet Love, A Sign From Above, On The Wings Of A Dove
I have the Rhino Demon fighting style and you probably don't! Nyah nyah nyah! [rude noise]

Okay, but seriously. I really wanted the special content available only to those who pre-ordered the game -- because I've been waiting [i]years[/i] to play this thing on the PC -- but I couldn't pre-order because I'm wretchedly poor. Not just in a material sense, either: I'm morally bankrupt and my spirit is an arid wasteland promising nothing, featuring only useless dust, the end result of a lifetime of dreams and ambitions crumbling away in the alkali wind of failure.

Depressed yet?

Anyway, I gnashed my teeth over this thing, and I finally scraped together the cash...a week after it was on the shelves. "It's only a fighting style, right?" I asked, quite reasonably. "Really, what am I missing out on?" I delude myself like this a lot. Because it was unobtainable (or is it "inattainable"? and, who cares?), it was therefore doubly attractive. Even though I am barely human, I am sometimes subject to the whims of human nature: what we cannot obtain, we wish for all the more. Don't believe me? Go to Ebay and watch people bidding furiously over useless crap that most of us would either throw away or toss in the garage with the spiders and cat vomit.

How I lamented the lowness of my station. How I wanted to be able to afford these things. How I wanted to be rich without any effort on my part. How I wanted to marry someone insanely rich and strangle them in the conservatory with the rope and frame Colonel Mustard for it and collect all that money and do stupid wasteful things with it such as hiring people to chew my food for me...

Pfah. To make a confoundingly boring story short, I finally found a copy of the Special Edition at Amazon.com.

On to the game.

Sponsored By...
I hate logo videos. The Bioware video is cool, but the others? Ha! I spit upon their corporate ego trips! Ptui! If you're like me (although I seriously doubt that's possible) and dislike jarring, garish logo videos that have nothing whatsoever to do with the theme of the game and serve only to announce to the world that more than one cook was sticking his willy into the porridge, then I have a solution for you:

Run the game launcher and select "Configuration" from the list of choices. This will launch the configuration utility, with which you may configure your game. (It's funny how these things tend to dovetail.) Under "Jade Empire" on the left, select "Video." This will give you a list of things you may check and/or uncheck in your quest for a customized gaming experience. Find the "Disable Intro Movies" entry and check that bad mother. There! No more intro movies!

Alternately, you may tweak your .ini -- thank God that this is still legal in some countries -- but it's totally unnecessary...which is a perfect reason for doing so. In the Jade Empire root directory, find the "JadeEmpire.ini"; back it up by copying it to another folder, or something (it's always a good idea to back up important things before you tinker with them yes?). Open it up and find the line "NoLogos=0". Change the 0 to a 1, save, exit, and start up the game. There! No more intro movies!

Please feel free to send any and all large cash gifts to me, care of this website.

Speaking Of The Configuration Utility, Why Is It...
...I always get this message?

Jade Empire will not run properly because the driver for your display adapter is too old. You must update your driver to correct this problem. Please see your hardware vendor's website for further information on obtaining the required drivers.

No matter how up-to-date my drivers are, I get that message. Perhaps it is mistaken and should be filed under the same category ("Bugs!") as the curious problem the game has in remembering my brightness settings.

Personal Perver--uh, *Preference*: And A Hot Character Shall Lead Them
Some might think that I choose my characters based entirely upon how hot they are. This is patently untrue. Or, at least...incomplete. I also require that my hot babe's gazongas are one Harmonic Combo away from popping out of her top. In this, I found Scholar Ling to be a prime candidate for my first character.

Precious-Double-Handful-Of-Goodies Wu The Lotus-Eater (or whatever) had her own interesting thing going on, as did the astoundingly nifty Radical Ziggity-Zang Zen Yi (again, whatever). However, Ling was just right for me. Maybe it was the fact that she was wearing cool blue pants with gold dragons and I like blue pants with gold dragons. Not that I wear such things, no; I find wardrobe colors besides basic black to be an inconvenience. In all respects, Scholar Ling was the perfect choice for a doom of my own devising. Although Zen Yi *does* have interesting panties, I didn't let that affect my decision. Much.

It may please those of you who like playing male characters that there are, in fact, plenty of guys to choose from. So go nuts.

However, picking a character based entirely on attractiveness is not the way to win in an RPG. Ironically, it *is* the way to win in real life. Never mind that now, butt-ugly. As the default settings stand, you could just go with a pre-made character if you like; there are four styles to choose from in the male gender (fast, balanced, magic, strong) and three in the female gender (fast, balanced, magic). If you're familiar with this type of game however, you know that you can, and probably should, customize your character's skills.

One good aspect is that you can nurture these skills in a different direction, if you realize that you've made a huge mistake in your choice of fighting styles/stats, and yet are too lazy to start a new game with a design more to your liking. Once I had chosen the default Ling for my first playthrough, I found that the whole magic thing was, at first, a little distracting from my usual tactics -- charging bandits like Xerxes at Thermopylae** -- so I began to funnel any level-up points into making her a more formidable fighter; i.e., improving Body, but not forsaking Mind and Spirit, either. Those are good to keep at moderate levels, even for a badass.
[** I'd like to thank Michael J. Nelson for inspiring that analogy, even though his use of it had something to do with tennis and was, honestly, a lot funnier than anything I could ever come up with in my whole miserable life.]

Easy Interface, Annoying Running Gag

Dear Idiots,

The first
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon reference was okay...charming, in a brain-dead sort of way, like a profoundly retarded puppy with an embarrassing flatulence problem. But continuing the gag into another section was immensely stupid. I'd like to entreat Silver Sorrow to 1) bite my trousers, and 2) munch my shorts.

Thank you,

A Loyal Reader.

Oh, come on. One more. Just one more:

"Grunting Ferret, Farting Weasel"

Thank you. I didn't say it was good...I never implied that. No refund for you. Okay, enough of that. On to the game's interface.

One of my favorite aspects of playing games is being annoyed by the interface and HUD. Most of the best games feature an interface that is minimal and unobtrusive. For example: Deus Ex, with its utilitarian (!) HUD and tabbed character sheet, was easy to use once you figured the damn thing out. Deus Ex: Invisible War, however...the weird eye-shaped HUD, the goofy inventory organization, the confounding way that the HUD elements would eventually burn themselves onto your retinas...the interface was terrible. While it wasn't that bad of a game (it was pretty good in many ways, actually), a whiny main character ("What's going on?? I have a right to know! Waaaaaaaah!"), goofy physics, and cramped maps made it a tad less than optimal. Worst of all, it felt like a tech demo for a much larger game that was never made.

So we can see -- without any solid evidence one way or the other -- that a good interface is key to making or breaking a game. DX: universally revered as a great game. DXIW: so not.

I'd like to point out two exceptions to this admittedly just-made-up rule, but I won't. You're welcome.

I'm pleased to report that Jade Empire features a very nice interface, along with an easy-to-understand and easy-to-navigate character sheet. The HUD is minimalist and attractive, and does not distract me from the action. Or Scholar Ling's sweet booty.

Good grief. I need to get out of the house once in a while. Look at some real booty for a change. Get punched in the mouth by someone taking offense at me looking at their booty. On second thought, it's safer indoors looking at virtual booty. Screw the real world, it's better in here. Also, I just like saying "booty." Booty, booty, booty. Yar, me hearties! Pass that booty this way so's I can gets a good look at it f'r meself! Ye say yer name's Kiera Knightley, lass? At yer service, madam. Now prop that ripe booty on the railing there so me and the lads can see it. Now shake it around a bit. That's nice.

Stop looking at me. Stop it, I said.


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