It's set in an idyllic training school at Two Rivers, and you play a young student who has both the adulation and ire of his peers. When the student is forced to leave home due to a devastating attack, you are caught up in a whirlwind saga filled with supernatural forces, deceit, and political turmoil that will change the face of an empire.
Years after its original release, Jade Empire bizarrely finds a new home on mobile. While many have questioned the intentions behind this conversion, all we care about is how well it works. If it works at all.
Jade Empire is a perfect balance of great story, fluid gameplay, and a unique aesthetic. And while this port does a good job of capturing some of these qualities favourably, others have been lost in translation.
For starters, the visuals appear stretched and out of alignment with the size of the screen - particularly during cut-scenes and loading sequences. The game looks especially rough on larger phones - such as the iPhone 6s Plus - with the shrunken widescreen effect.
As a result, some cut-scenes are badly pixelated and strained which is in stark contrast to the glistening scenery and sharp character models that make up the bulk of the experience.
There are two separate control schemes for combat. One presents you with visual cues on the right side of the screen while the other allows you to pull off a variety of swipey gestures to perform strong attacks or area attacks amongst others.
Both schemes have issues which are particularly noticeable on higher difficulty settings - though the expert scheme does seem to be a more appropriate fit for mobile provided you can memorise the combinations.
Regardless of which you choose, the screen can be incredibly difficult to manage at times. Using the full battleground becomes essential in later fights, and not all responses to gestures are immediate so this may present some challenges.
Of course, it is possible to play using an MFI controller, though there is an argument to be made that this defeats the purpose of the port in the first place.
The good news is that the mini-games are a perfect fit on mobile. One is similar to Ikaruga, and sees you take charge of a ship and shoot at enemy vessels in order to reach new locations. Simple taps and swipes are a natural way to control this, sometimes even rivalling the original mechanisms.
Jade Empire boasts a rich universe with a truly compelling history. Weapons are given legacy and brought to life with enlightening factoids. Side characters contribute to the weaving arc with a unique sense of purpose. The game even has its own languages, such as Tho Fan.
You can make plenty of choices along the way, from deciding whether to follow The Path of the Closed Fist or The Path of the Open Palm, and your actions - good or bad - affect your relationships and perception of the world as you progress.
On the whole, Aspyr has done a commendable job converting this 4GB monster to mobile. Jade Empire doesn’t work as well as KOTOR, but bringing it back allows a whole new generation of gamers to experience a classic. And for the most part it does play fairly smoothly and succinctly.
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