Made by Bioware, the people who brought us the original KOTOR. Jade Empire follows the same principles from KOTOR, but don't expect THAT game. Aside from being text heavy and the ability to be good or evil, it lacks in the whole "RPG" department.
First off, let me say that Bioware did a great job with this game. My review may seem a bit harsh and that I didn't like the game, but that's not true. I did enjoy the game; it just didn't live up to my expectations of what I thought it was going to be.
Graphics Everyone that's played KOTOR knows that the graphics were not that spectacular. Jade is the same way. The cut scenes are very good, very nice to watch but the overall gameplay is somewhat bland. The scenery is nice in the game and mixes the environment of the storyline well, but certain things take it down a notch. Images are a little rough and the ability to run through monkeys still astounds me. Also, aside from a heavenly area that you explore in the game, everything is kind of bland color wise. Nothing really sticks out.
Learning Curve Ah, the learning curve. I'm never really sure how to rate this, as many people learn differently. However, I feel that Jade does take a bit to get used to, as far as the fighting goes. When I first started the game, I probably died three or four times through the first three hours of the game, trying to get fighting down. Once I learned how to dodge attacks and flip over enemies, I never died again until the end boss. Once you learn how the fighting controls work, the game becomes somewhat easy, as you can go in for a couple of hits, roll out of the way, flip on the other side of the enemy, and hit them some more, usually killing them.
Replay Value There is some replay value to Jade Empire, mostly for the fact of being able to choose your path of 'Open Palm' or 'Closed Fist.' There are many different scenarios that pan out through the game, depending on the choices you make. So, yes, there is at least a good reason to play through the game twice, just to see both sides. Other than that, no, not really -- play KOTOR instead.
Sound The music blends well for this game. Flows very nicely with the overall environment and gameplay. However, when you get to the end of the game, it seems somewhat repetitive, but nothing that warrants muting the TV.
Gameplay The cream of the crop in a game. The overall gameplay of Jade is great. I really enjoyed this game and have played through it twice, just to see both sides of good and evil. However, I was expecting the game to have a few more RPG elements in it and it does not. You cannot customize your character's appearance, only the moves and stats you start with. No armor. There are weapons but only two, so that leaves a little to be desired. Many different styles can be used, but I found myself personally only sticking with one, as it takes a lot to get them leveled up.
Your companions that you pick-up cannot be customized, except in one area. You can have them either attack or support. In support mode, each one does something different; such as replenish your health, your magic, and your focus. Overall, I found this game to be much more 'Action/Adventure' oriented rather than 'RPG.' I guess you could qualify it as an 'Action/RPG', though that brings Fable, Baulder's Gate, and Bard's Tale to my mind. All of which have more customization than Jade.
Overall, I enjoyed Jade and I would suggest anyone that enjoys the KOTORs, Baulder's Gate, or Fable, to try this game. It has a little of each of them in there and you shouldn't be disappointed.