Monday, September 28, 2009

Jade Dynasty... the game that plays itself.

Jade Dynasty is great. I've never had more fun not playing a game.

It's good-looking. The environments are pretty and full of blossoming cherry trees and such. The music, however, is less than stunning. It's pleasant, but it's bland, plinky, tuneless stuff. Also, the developers ripped one track straight from PWI and stuck it in Jade Dynasty, hoping no one would notice. Some of the ground textures looked a bit familiar, too.

One of the most interesting things about Jade Dynasty is this: everyone is sexy. Character creation was disappointing in that I had 7 faces to choose from and 7 hair styles to choose from. No control over coloring or build. So, of course, I kept running into clones of my character, which was annoying. On the flip side, it's impossible to create an ugly character. All the same, more options would be nice. I wanted to make another Mary Sue.

Jade Dynasty seems to have a more structured plot than PW. The problem is that it doesn't make any sense. You travel from area to area finding out more about the life of some great hero who turned into a great villain and now nobody knows what to do with him. Why should you care? Frankly I don't see what this noble Shaw Danon of Jadeon, who defected and became the villainous Velonus of Vim, has to do with me.

This brings me to the subject of factions. The terminology is confusing, because in PW a faction is what Jade Dynasty calls a clan, but in Jade Dynasty a faction is what PW calls a class. Your faction determines your weapons, armor, and skills. You have five choices, and here's the rundown on each:

  • Jadeon, pompous pricks in bathrobes with swords.
  • Skysong, happy healer monks.
  • Vim, who use two swords stuck together.
  • Lupin, crazy dancers who use circular glaives.
  • Modo, gothic ninjas with claws.

I find it highly entertaining that the first two of these factions are arbitrarily labeled "Good" and the other three "Evil," especially since at the earlier levels the difference between this so-called "Good" and "Evil" is pretty hard to see.

How does Jade Dynasty handle? Pretty well, over all... perhaps too well. There are many convenient features, my favorite of which is Auto-route. This allows you to click on a destination from your quest menu and your character finds the shortest way there.

Once you're near your quarry, you can press another button to "Invigorate"--automatically attack everything in range. All you have to do is check every once in a while to make sure nothing has killed you.

If you do get close to dying, you can Meditate to regain health and magic power... also experience points. Continuously. For doing nothing. I once left my character meditating overnight, and when I woke up in the morning he'd gained five levels.

The first fifteen or so levels are ridiculously easy, too. Enemies are stupid and sluggish, and you start out with a skill that kills them in one hit, anyway. It's possible to get to level 15 in one evening and still have time for Facebook.

I have a theory. Jade Dynasty is a relatively new game; it's only been out for four months. I think the developers are trying to get a lot of really high-level players quickly. There's a chance that in future updates and patches the difficulty curve might steepen as the ranks of Jade Dynasty players swell--right now, there aren't a lot of players, and they're spread out over too many different servers.

I still recommend Jade Dynasty. I mean, why not? It is free, after all, so there's nothing to lose except some hard drive space. It's pretty and relaxing. It's also a great game for multi-taskers, since you can play it without actually playing it. If you don't find that self-defeating, you'll love Jade Dynasty. If, however, you're an experienced gamer looking for a challenge, or an internet socialite looking for a new community, Jade Dynasty might not be a good choice for you yet. Check back in a few months or a year when it's not fresh on the market anymore.

Believe it or not, this review is the condensed version. If you want the 3 1/2 page monstrosity I wrote for class, let me know and I'll get it to you.

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