Just like everyone else, I'm a big fan of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
and it's sequel. In-depth dungeons and dragons combat, an amazing cast, an intriguing story, and a universe which is a delight to explore led both of those games to be some of the best RPGs of all time. While Jade Empire is not on the same tier of those games, it's still reminiscent of them while being a breath of fresh air.
Just like KOTOR, Jade Empire has a great cast (excluding Sky who has almost no story time and no character to bout). I found myself switching through followers because I enjoyed which ones I had. Similarly, it was a blast to explore, and the lore created here by Bioware is a uniquely Asian influenced culture with some odd elements which work to its favor. Both Tien's Landing and the Imperial City had a ton of fun quests and cool environments.
Speaking of quests, this game's quests are consistently great. While there are some less interesting go here and fight these guys quests, there is a vast amount of unique quests which lead to some fun decision making. A few great ones off the top of my head include The Marriage Quest in Tien's Landing, the Outsider quest (probably the best one), and the stage play quest. That being said, this game weirdly copies some of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
's storylines and events such as the arena. However there are very few instances of this and it's a fairly minor thing.
What is not a minor thing is the game's falling off point after you leave the imperial city. The story starts to become a bit of a mess (a plot twist out of left field trying to recreate the same reaction as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
's twist) and game becomes a linear slog focusing almost exclusively on combat.
This wouldn't be as big of an issue if combat wasn't this game's biggest flaw. The game's combat is 90% of the time piss easy, and the other 10% an annoying slog. While the developers created a variety of different styles, it is clear which are the best one's as you pick them up. One of the strongest things you can do in the game is to simply alternate between using storm dragon and what ever weapon or martial style (I used a longsword) you have. This stun locks everything but ghosts and demons. Even then, demons are still torn apart by weapons, making ghosts the only somewhat tricky thing to deal with. The combat system provides a lot of features, but most of it is useless except in rare occasions. Chi strikes didn't do significantly more damage, and when I needed that damage I'd rather heal myself. The slow down move drains too much chi to be useful. Even blocking is rarely used since you can just hack at enemies and kill them in a few swings. What should be a rich combat system ends up being shallow and exploitable to such a degree it trivializes fights such as the final boss. At the very least, there are times rolling around and getting hits in can be fun, but I wouldn't tolerate this if the rest of the game wasn't so good.
As mentioned before, the last bit of the game feels like a slog but it's over before it gets too draining. I 100% (minus like 1 quest I missed at the start of the game) in 20 hours, which felt perfect for what was going on here. Unlike KOTOR which could easily keep me in for 50+ hours, this game's shakey story near the end felt solid at 20. This shakey story is not helped by the fact that certain conversations feel super drawn out by the end of the game.
I also am extremely confused by the inclusion of the schump minigame, they are short, easy, and lacking much depth. I can't really complain since you can avoid them if you want (and I'd recommend you do), but it still feels super shoehorned in, like it was an abandoned idea from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Ultimately this is a really solid experience and if it wasn't for the poor timing of this release, I guarantee this game would garnish a lot of love.