Jade Empire Updated Impressions - Freeform Combat Details

We take a new look at this promising Xbox role-playing game set in ancient China.


Earlier today we met with Dr. Ray Muzyka of BioWare to check out some of the latest features that have been implemented in Jade Empire. We had another opportunity to take a look at the Teahouse and Lord Lao's Wondrous Furnace levels, which were first shown a couple of weeks ago, and then we were afforded brief glimpses at no fewer than four previously unseen levels--none of which were populated.

The Lotus Assassins Castle was a dark and creepy-looking interior level with large statues of warriors. The Tians Empire level was a large fishing village with tall grasses and clotheslines moving in the wind. The last two levels that we got to see, which we weren't told the names of for fear that it might spoil the games all-important storyline, were a dark cave lit by glowing mushrooms and a town that was in the process of burning to the ground. The one thing that all of the levels have in common is that they look extremely impressive, particularly the burning town (which we weren't permitted to film), which was engulfed in realistic-looking flames and looked like it could be reduced to ashes at any time.

Muzyka also took the time to demonstrate the latest feature to be implemented in Jade Empire--a third way for you to enjoy the game's combat sequences. If you've been following our previous coverage of the game, you'll know that combat can be played out in much the same way as most fighting games, allowing you to target a specific enemy and have your chosen character face them at all times. You'll also know that by pressing the "back" button on your Xbox controller you'll be able to pause the combat at any time and then adjust the camera angle and switch to another of the game's 30-plus fighting styles (divided into weapons, martial arts, magic, and transformation categories) before returning to the action. But you may not have heard that BioWare has recently implemented a free-roaming combat mode that removes the targeting option when you tap both shoulder buttons simultaneously. This option should prove especially useful if you are outnumbered by enemies or want to attack inanimate objects rather than enemies at any point. It's also worth noting that you'll be able to return to the regular targeting mode simply by tapping one of the shoulder buttons.

Jade Empire is currently scheduled for release in March 2005. Since the game gets more impressive every time we see it, we're looking forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.

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