Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are gone. Lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more…

Someday I’ll turn these articles into awesome highlight videos with that song playing in the background, similar to Supernatural season finales. But as my editing skills more than suck, I’ll just write it all down.

A couple of weeks ago I resumed the Let’s Play of Jade Empire I’d started months ago. I picked the game up right where I left it, after the destruction of the Two Rivers School, hot on the trail for Master Li and Death’s Hand, the Emperor’s main enforcer and the leader of the Lotus Assassins. First I hit Tien’s Landing and took care of a lover’s quarrel between a man and an old friend, then went on to get our passage to the Imperial Capital. This I did by cleansing a forest from corruption, meeting a minor Deity and her Elephant-man bodyguard, beating down an entire Pirate clan and fighting our way through hundreds of spirits and assassins. You know, the usual stuff.

At the Capital, there were lots of things to do, but only did the Black Leopard school, finding a surprisingly charismatic and not totally demented evil teacher in there. If you see the video, you’ll notice my surprise when that happens, as just then I was commenting on how all evil guys in this game were totally predictable.

This week you’ll see more of the Imperial Capital, including a cameo from a certain very famous member of Monty Python. It’ll be a blast.

I’ve had a few things I’ve liked so far, and others I’m not a fan of, and you can consider The Road so Far a mini-review that I’ll build on over the course of this Let’s Play:

Good:

  • It looks beautiful, even for its time. The settlements have tons of details, particularly the Imperial City with its gardens and fountains, and the waterways coursing along the streets. I love how ghosts look, how you can see through them, the ‘veins’ in them.
  • It has an interesting cosmology that combines primordial spirits, the balance of the universe and the Chinese Pantheon, The Celestial Bureaucracy aka Tai Di.
  • The over-the-top names for everyone, from Sagacious Zu to Sun Li The Glorious Strategist. It reminds me a lot Legend of the Five Rings.

Bad:

  • The women in this game have no self-respect, no self-esteem and no self-anything. They all instantly fawn over a pretty word. Dawn Star is the worst, she has no notion of self-worth beyond what you tell her and she even says so. It’s painful to say the least.
  • I know that writing cryptic characters is difficult, but there is a very definite line between cryptic and obtuse. Most major characters in Jade Empire are just obtuse, refusing to give any information. It’s not even thinly veiled, or with any misdirection. It’s fairly obvious what they mean if you just pay attention.
  • There are dozens of martial arts styles…and most of them are useless. From the transformations—that don’t make much sense—to the couple dozen hidden styles and scroll-fetch-quest ones, you’ll probably ignore most of them and just upgrade the core two skills: Leaping Tiger and your weapon of choice.
  • Combat is a constant catch-up thing. Every combo pushes your opponents out of your reach, breaking up your rhythm and the flow of battle and forcing you to get close to them again.
  • A follow-up, combat is shallow. You can beat every enemy by just mashing buttons. Dodging is almost pointless and I only use it to get behind enemies, not that it has any effect on them, they turn around immediately.

As the Let’s Play continues, I’m sure I’ll think of more good and bad things about it, or change my mind about a few of them.

If you haven’t seen any episodes, check out the videos on this post and don’t forget to keep an eye out for The Mental Attic’s YouTube channel, for new episodes at 9:30am GMT, Mondays to Fridays!

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