The Let's Play Archive

Jade Empire

by Doc M

Part 6: Red Skies

Episode 05: Red Skies

Last time, we learned from a mysterious spirit that Wu is the last Spirit Monk. Before we could learn more from Master Li, we found out Gao has kidnapped Dawn Star. There is only one way Gao could have gone, and that is to the swamp outside Two Rivers.

Here we are. It's... well, it's a swamp. It's very drab and boring, just like any self-respecting swamp level in a video game. That said, we're here to find Dawn Star, so we should get a move on before Gao gets too big of a head start.

Naturally, the swamp is infested with all manner of scum, and we barely get to take ten steps before we overhear bandits threatening some poor bastard.

Apparently, the local ruffians aren't too pleased about Gao's mercenaries running around the swamp, or about us being here for that matter.

Now that we've murdered/horribly injured our first men outside Two Rivers, we should probably find out why the bandits were threatening Merchant Hing here.

Merchant Hing is voiced by Jeff Page, who you may know better as Conrad Verner from the Mass Effect games. Nothing special about that, really, because BioWare uses the same voice actors all the time, just thought it was funny to hear Conrad's VA voicing another hapless moron.

We were traveling to Two Rivers. I bring goods between the farms that line the valley. I knew we were getting too close to the marshes. Why was I so foolish? Of course these thieves would strike at my beautiful Fen. I can't leave without her. They'll work her to death, or eat her, or worse! Can you do anything? Please?

If I see her, I'll do what I can.

I thank you, and my Fen will thank you when she is returned to me.

I decided to give Wu a new portrait, because that render didn't look anything like her in-game model. Of course that one also stood out more, but this should be okay as well. If it's not, please let me know.

We'll keep an eye out. It would've helped if Hing could have told us what Fen looks like, but if we beat up every bandit in this swamp I'm sure we'll run across someone who knows something about her.

We also leveled up during the fight. I'm not showing off the leveling from here on, because there usually isn't that much to say about it. If there is something interesting, I'll point it out.

As we make our way forward, we're greeted by a cutscene.

Someone's being attacked by Gao's men, but doesn't seem to be intimidated by them in the slightest.

Being surrounded by Gao's soldiers doesn't bother him much either...

...and as such he proceeds to murder the shit out of them with his staff.

He also clearly doesn't mind finishing off a defeated opponent.

When he's done with all the murdering, he notices Wu looking on and approaches her.

This is a very reasonable response on her part. We have no idea who this person is, aside from the fact he's a skilled combatant and fights without mercy. For all we know, he's just another bandit.

A misunderstanding? I still say we had a very appropriate reaction to a staff-wielding maniac approaching us after effortlessly killing half a dozen trained soldiers, but sure, let's call it that.

I don't picture a thoughtful and perceptive emperor fighting in a swamp.

I see your point. There are differences. Tien was a knowledgeable man, whereas I feel that a person can sometimes think too much. I don't believe I need to explain myself beyond that.

Sagacious Zu is obviously a man of few words. Still, though... why live in this swamp? I doubt he's staying here for the great weather and picturesque scenery.

I meant nothing. It's just that I was trained fairly well, so I recognize when someone else is skilled.

If you are not an enemy, why are you out here?

Seriously, there's a perfectly fine town right next to the swamp and you even visit it regularly. I'm sure he has his reasons.

Besides, I have already shown that I have no love for the more common kinds of filth roaming out here.

Why were you fighting Gao's mercenaries?

If you know that name you know the type of men the family employs. I wonder... does their increased presence in the marsh have anything to do with why you are here?

Gao the Lesser? I know the family. This is a brazen act, even for them, but now I understand why their men are clearing a path through the marsh. No wonder you came out here as you did; you're looking to rescue someone. You probably gave no thought to your own safety. That is very selfless of you. I tend to think more... efficiently. I did hear something about a camp. They seem to be killing bandits so they won't be disturbed. There wasn't much more. I just wanted some peace and quiet.

You must know the swamp well. Can you lead me in the right direction?

I mean, you have a unique character model and I'm pretty sure we saw your silhouette in the party screen (and you were on this area's loading screen as well), so we all know where this is going. Let's get to it, shall we?

What? You'll just sit here in the swamp for the rest of your life then? Fine.

I'm sorry.

I'm sure. Thanks for nothing, Zu. Have fun doing whatever it is you do around here, I'm off to kick Gao in his dumb smug face again.

Well, that's more like it.

I can refuse some fool determined to get lost in the swamp, but I doubt your friend earned her fate. Gao the Lesser shouldn't get such a prize without a fair fight. Now come, we have some catching up to do. We'll find them. Like I said, they can't get out in that direction. Not on foot.

Also, he totally pulled that excuse from his ass, but we're not gonna ask about it further. Not that we can do so at this point, anyway. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

Let's go. The main camp is to the north, but there are soldiers all around this area. If you want to find trouble, let's do it quickly.

Zu has joined the party, and we should not believe what the game is saying about him being a valuable asset in battle because he's just as useless at fighting as Dawn Star. His support ability isn't that great either and he's generally a bit boring, so I rarely roll with him unless the plot requires it or he has unique dialogue with an NPC. He is also a Closed Fist character, so he disapproves of all kinds of altruistic deeds. Not to the extent of MORRIGAN DISAPPROVES (-10), but he's still a bit of a drag at times.

Now before we go anywhere, there is a scrollstand we need to look at. Priorities, you know. This scroll has some information on ogres, which we haven't seen yet but that'll change soon enough.

As Zu helpfully informs us, we have two paths to the north. It doesn't matter which path we take because they both converge to the same location, and in fact the most efficient way to do this is to explore both paths. There's plenty of EXP to be gained, and the paths are also very short so it doesn't take much time to check out both of them. This whole area is actually very short and linear, if you skip all dialogue you can easily get through the swamp in a couple of minutes. In any event, let's start with the path on the right.

I guess we may have found the Flower of the Fields.

Let's just do a bit of pest control first.

I thought I was saved when they killed the bandits that raided my husband's wagon, but these soldiers were no better. You have my gratitude.

Oh. Oh my. At least we didn't call her Fen, that would have been awkward. Well, more so.

Zu, at least, seems quite amused by the situation. I didn't think he had a sense of humor.

You aren't the Flower of the Fields that Hing mentioned?

I guess that's a safe assumption to make at this point.

Fen! Come!


I knew this great fighter would save you. I couldn't leave without you. The cart needs your strength to pull it.

Great Dragon give me strength Have either of you seen a man named Gao?

Gao? One of the soldiers said someone with that name is at a camp to the far north. Of course, he may have been speaking of someone more important. Perhaps the camp goat!

I prayed for your safe return, dear, but the cart will not move itself.

You will be lucky if I don't make you pull it while the ox rides. She is clearly important enough.

This has all been fascinating, but is there a reward or something?

Yes, dear.

Do I have to slaughter that thing for you to show me some attention?

No, dear.

Are you lying again?

No, dear.

Are you listening to me?

No, dear.

Wonderful. Let's forget that whole episode ever happened and check the rest of this path.

This is the camp Sing Wa was talking about, but as mentioned we're not going there just yet because there is a whole other path to explore.

At least someone bothered to build something resembling a bridge on this path so we don't need to wade knee-deep in swamp water. Not that it makes any difference to us at this point, since we've already spent some time doing exactly that.

The left path has a couple of Gao's men, who mistake us for bandits.

Fortunately, some actual bandits show up to correct them.

We proceed to kill them all. There's not much of a difference between Gao's men and regular bandits, really.

And this is the end of the left path. We're right back at the mercenary camp, and standing next to us is quite an interesting contraption. We'll get a better look at it soon.

Just got to take care of business first. We can actually see the contraption a bit better from here, looks like a big mosquito of some kind.

Zu went and got himself knocked out. Good job. The cutscene made him look competent in a fight, but I guess not. What we're doing here is the area attack of the Dire Flame style, in which you conjure up this fire-spewing dragon to immolate anyone foolish enough to be in its area of effect. The problem with this attack is that it's massively slow and you can still get damaged while doing it, which is one reason why I'm a bit low on health here (another reason is that I am bad at video games).

Huh, one of them managed to stay alive. Good for him, he'll tell us what we need to know.

Fine. Just tell me what I want to know.

Yes, I can do that. Whatever you want.

Hm, he's more co-operative than I expected.

Well, we read that scroll earlier so we know about ogres, but demons? So far we've been fighting mostly bandits and the occasional spirit and have barely heard about demons even being a thing. I think if you speak to Si Pat and ask him to list all the fighting styles, he'll mention transformation styles that will allow you to change into a creature or even a demon, but that's about it.

Why did he kidnap Dawn Star?

I don't know. He just said it was very important that he get her tonight. He brought a few groups of us over for it. We didn't take her; we made Gao do that himself. I know we shouldn't have let him talk us into any of this, but he doubled our pay. It was just one woman. Compared to some things... well, all I'll say is that this wasn't the worst thing done by a Gao lately.

What do you mean?

Look, that's all I can say. Just let me go. I won't be any more trouble for you. If I go back to Gao's father, I'll be killed as a failure.

Yep, Closed Fist all right. He's usually fairly pleasant so you kinda forget about that, but then he chimes in with "FAILURE SHOULD BE PUNISHABLE BY DEATH" or something to that effect.

Get out of here. I'll follow Gao into the cave.

We don't kill surrendering opponents. What the shit, Zu? Maybe he thinks this guy will go back on his word and tell Gao the Greater or whatever, but I highly doubt sparing this random mook's life will turn out to be our undoing.

The merc runs off. Before we head into the cave, let's just explore this camp and steal everything not nailed down.


Well, that's a dick move. Many loot chests in Jade Empire are trapped in various ways, and you get hurt if you don't manage to focus evade the trap. Before this, the game has not told you that is even a mechanic.

I may have accidentally pressed A when the trap activated. I like to interpret this line as Zu making fun of us.

Yes, thanks. We can also get some gems that increase our chance to evade traps, as well as ones that let us see which containers are rigged. Right now, there is no way to tell.

Let's just get into this cave before we embarrass ourselves any further.

This cave could maybe be considered a mini-dungeon, although there is barely anything to it so I don't know if it really counts as one. We can just about see there are a couple of paths we can take, so let's see if we can find Gao and Dawn Star.

Well, first we find two ogres on the path to the right. There's also something going on further ahead, seems to be another ogre walking around.

Walking around or, more accurately, fighting Gao.

Gao has no time for any of that nonsense. If you didn't read the scroll earlier, this cutscene also gives you a hint on how to deal with ogres. They are very weak to both fire and ice.

Gao manages to cause a cave-in by knocking the ogre down. Either the impact was much larger than it appeared, or these are load-bearing ogres.

At least Dawn Star seems to be doing okay and got free at some point, which is nice to see.

I wonder how long they've been at this.

Be careful, that means fresh enemies for us. These caves harbor strange creatures.

The path to the right has two ogres, whereas the path to the left only has one. Starting with the path that has fewer ogres is generally a decent idea. Both paths are actually dead ends and there's only a couple of chests at each of them, but since we're here let's fight some ogres.

As you may have figured out, ogres are very strong but also extremely slow. One of them is no problem at all.

Fire works well, as Gao demonstrated in the cutscene. That one fireball is about to hit Zu, but there's no friendly fire here so no harm done.

The two ogres at the other dead end aren't really that much more of an issue. As long as you can avoid their clubs, you should have no trouble whatsoever.


These chests have nothing good in them, by the way. This one has a bit of silver and the other contains a Scholar's Gem of Fate, which increases the drop rate of focus powerups at the cost of a -1 reduction to Mind. Can you say "vendor trash"?

I do quite like those glowing mushrooms. They make this cave a little bit less boring to look at.

Oh, and speaking of inconveniences.

Toad demons are no joke. They're much tougher than ogres and their attacks are harder to avoid, and being demons they are immune to magic styles. They're also too fat to be affected by area attacks from any style.

Oh, and their attacks poison you on top of being pretty strong in the first place.

They have a couple of special attacks, the first of which involves their tongue. I don't know how much damage that does or what status effects it causes, because I'm absolutely not going to get hit by that.

Like I said, magic won't work at all.

This is the toad demon's other special attack. He charges at you and tries to hit you with his massive gut, which (I'm assuming) does massive damage but is pretty easy to dodge because it's telegraphed from a mile away.

Eventually I figure out that weapons work just fine, and Fortune's Favorite makes fairly quick work of the demon.

And we get our first transformation style! That's right, you can be the toad. Honestly, I've never used transformation styles very much because even though they're powerful and it's fun to stomp around as one of these guys, they tend to be a bit too slow and lumbering for my liking.

There's Gao and Dawn Star. As I said, the cave is a very short area and only takes a couple of minutes to explore.

Gao reacts to our presence in his usual dignified and understated manner.

Did he think we wouldn't come after him after he kidnapped our best friend?

I... don't like the sound of that.

You'll see. Death comes from above to ferret out your hidden master and his real name! Dawn Star was the only thing I wanted to save, and what thanks do I get? Nothing! So be it, I'll just kill you all and forget your pitiful little village ever existed!

What have you done, Gao?

You'll see. You've already lost, no matter what happens here. You'll see. I'll make you see!

Yeah, that's what the ghost of the Old Master said, and look what happened to him. It does seem like Gao knows something we don't and it'd be nice if we could investigate that further, but that's unfortunately not an option here. Most dialog options we get here are of the variety.

If we have to fight this moron again (spoiler: we do), we'll get Dawn Star to help us out.

Actually, I think Dawn Star might want to kick Gao in his stupid face herself, but she'll have to settle for support duty.

I'm pretty sure everyone except the main characters know where this is going. Right now, though, all we can do is fight Gao once more.

VIDEO: Boss: Gao the Lesser (again)

I don't know how, but Gao manages to hit us with a strong fireball from point-blank range. That was not pleasant.

Despite that minor setback and the fact he can now use his fire magic against us in the first place, Gao isn't that much tougher than he was in our previous encounter. Dawn Star's chi-restoring ability is of course extremely useful here, and the game even drops a chi powerup for us.

Gao probably didn't expect us to also be able to throw fireballs. What better way to take him down than the very same magic he's been using against us and been all smug about?

Unfortunately, while I spend several seconds setting up my fire-breathing dragon attack, Gao takes the opportunity to heal... and keep healing while on fire. Welp, so much for all that progress we've made in this fight.

One nice thing about the combat in Jade Empire is that enemies can also run out of chi. Gao used all of his on healing, so now all we need to do is beat him up some more and that should be the end of that.

The end of Gao the Lesser.

He had to know that someone in the village would come for me... although I suspected it would be you.

I wouldn't let anything happen to you, Dawn Star.

Well, I am grateful I have you as a friend. I've always respected your strength. I'm surprised Gao didn't have an interest in you, instead of me.

Yes. Yes, he was. About the things he was saying before we fought him, though...

Never mind that, why are his arms covered in brown gunk?

I don't know, but I think we should head back to the village.

Agreed. I want Master Li to know that we are both safe. It's too bad, though; he wanted to reach Gao. I'm sure of it. Gao just seemed to get more and more bitter. He didn't respond well to discipline. It's too bad.

Zu, head for the entrance. Dawn Star and I will clear the rest of the cave.

We could leave immediately, but there are goodies to be found.

That mosquito-looking thing we saw earlier? That's a flying machine. The world of Jade Empire has a hint of... magical tech? I guess you could call it that. We haven't seen much of that technology yet, but we'll be seeing all kinds of interesting contraptions later on.

Gao drops this gem, which gives us a +5 boost to Intimidation and +1 to Body and Spirit. Pretty good, although I usually prefer to use Charm or Intuition rather than Intimidation.

I'm not sure what the point is of having these spirit and focus shrines AFTER the boss fight. I certainly would've liked to top up my chi before fighting Gao.

Viper's Wit is a technique (Focus +2, Charm +1), not to be confused with the Viper martial style.

Here's what evading a trap looks like. Usually there is some kind of dodge animation as well, but maybe I was too far from the chest for it to actually trigger.

This is the first scroll of the Viper style, which we won't be seeing in this playthrough because it's a Closed Fist style. I'd show it off in the bonus Zither of Discord update, but the save editor doesn't seem to let you add or replace fighting styles.

That's all the loot, let's get out of here.

I didn't realize you took that much of a risk getting to me. Thank you.

I didn't want to fight them all, but there was no real choice.

I heard Gao yelling at them to kill any bandits who might approach. I guess they wouldn't stop to ask questions. His mercenaries didn't seem too eager to follow me into the cave, though. It seemed like they were humoring him.

Yeah, that's what the merc told us as well.

An entire fleet of flyers and some kind of airship. That doesn't look promising.

You may have won a victory over Gao the Lesser, but it looks like he put things in motion that have outlived him.

What? What do you mean?

These machines have weapons. They drop casks that explode on impact. There will be soldiers on the ground as well.

Definitely does not sound promising.

He kidnapped you so you wouldn't get caught in an attack?

It doesn't matter! We have to get back! The students... everyone will need our help!

No Zu, we're not going to sit in the swamp while Gao's flyers bomb the town.

I doubt there are two people in the Empire that know *how* they work. It's a baffling combination of magic and artifice.

How do you know so much about it?

I've seen this kind of attack before. The tools used are different, but it's the same kind of destruction.

Wouldn't that be a different kind of attack?

There is a handle attached to something like the reins of an ox yoke. You move it left and right, forward and back. It should swim through the air fairly smoothly.

Will you come to help us, Zu? You seem to have a good heart.

If... you are intent on returning, I will accompany you. I have already done more than I wanted, but I could not avoid this forever.

I'm sure that's nothing and will never come up again.

Perhaps I am imagining it. We will discuss it another time. I hope we are not too late.

At least we got it into the air. Flying it and landing it might be tougher, but so far so good.

It seems we've got everything under control as far as flying this thing goes. Now all we have to do is head towards Two Rivers and hope we are not too late.

You know how BioWare's games occasionally have vehicle sections spicing things up? KotOR had the swoop racing and the space battles, Mass Effect had the Mako (and Hammerhead, but I'll pretend that doesn't exist) Well, Jade Empire has its own take on these. I don't know if there was a gas leak or what at BioWare's offices when they were coming up with concepts for Jade Empire's minigames, but somehow we ended up with... well, this:

VIDEO: A vertically scrolling shoot 'em up

It's a pretty involved one as well. We can use various powerups (Radiant Aura is the only one we have for now, it's a shield that absorbs a bit of damage) and upgrade our main cannon to fire two or three shots instead of one at a time. As far as shoot 'em ups go, this definitely isn't Radiant Silvergun or even Ghost Pilots, but you can't blame BioWare for half-assing it.

While this is very, very weird, it also works quite well in this particular section of the game. As we fly over Two Rivers, we can see the town on fire below us and I think this is more effective than a simple cutscene would be. This is the school, and it has been hit hard already.

The town has not fared any better. We are, indeed, too late. Not that we'd have had much chance against a whole bombing fleet anyway, I suppose.

We eventually land on the beach. Everything is destroyed, but maybe we can still find someone who survived.

We will find survivors. There has to be someone left.

I hope you are right. Master Li wouldn't let this happen. Not without a fight.

Do what you can together. We will meet in the heart of your school.

Zu runs off, presumably to scout ahead. He seems to know a lot about what's going on, so perhaps he can find something that could help us. Maybe not. Doesn't seem like there's much to be done for Two Rivers at this point.

This is not how it was supposed to go. We were supposed to beat up Gao, rescue Dawn Star and come back in time for a celebration at the beach.

We immediately find out Old Ming didn't make it. At least it seems he died doing what he liked best, tending to the statue of the Emperor.

This whole section has pretty great atmosphere, bolstered by the fact we've actually spent time in this area, knew all the townspeople and therefore have a connection to Two Rivers. Obviously, it was the boring tutorial village and I doubt anyone's too broken up by its destruction, but at least they gave us some reason to care.

I think that was Lin.

They said no survivors, so there better be no survivors.

Looks like we have a few more peasants to put down.

Let's just make it quick.

Well, if you insist.

Things aren't getting any better as we approach the school. No sign of survivors.

Wait, perhaps I spoke too soon. Looks like someone's still fighting.

Kia Min is still kicking ass, thanks to us helping her out earlier. Had we screwed her over and given her the bearded tongue grass, this fight would have had a very different outcome.

I'll look to the villagers and save as many as I can. Go!

It's a bit hard to tell in the screenshot, but there are a couple of other people escaping ahead of Kia Min. At least some made it out okay, it seems.

Not that you could tell by looking at the state of the school. There's something going on in the center ring, but it doesn't look good.

Indeed, it's just one of Gao's men murdering yet another student.

Of course he's gloating. With the exception of that one merc whose life we spared back in the swamp, everyone who works for (or is related to) Gao is required to be as much of a raging dickhead as possible.

I think we have a pretty good idea why, but might as well ask.

Men! Gao the Greater wants this village cleared! Get the job done!

A couple of waves of Gao's mercs for us to mop up, they can't really do much to us at this point.

The lieutenant eventually joins the fray with his Leaping Tiger claws.

He has more health than the low-level mooks around him and hits a bit harder, but dodging his attacks isn't that big of a deal.

This is a support style we haven't seen before. It's called Storm Dragon, and it's one of the more useful ones especially if you want to do harmonic combos. "Shocked" status causes damage over time, although the amount is rather minimal.

The fight takes a bit longer than I would've liked, because this dick keeps avoiding that last hit and his martial style has a range advantage over mine. So, I end up throwing a fireball in his face.

Jing Woo emerges from the wreckage, badly wounded.

Shhh. We've chased off all of Gao's men. You'll be safe now.

It turns out Gao's men weren't responsible for this whole thing. They were involved, obviously, but it seems the Lotus Assassins did the heavy lifting and Gao's goons got to mop up what was left.

Death's Hand himself arrived to oversee the proceedings. No wonder almost nobody made it.

Jing Woo finally succumbs to his injuries. It's a miracle any of the students even survived this long against such a horde.

Master Li was taken when it began. He went without a fight, giving them what they wanted, but afterwards the students... they were killed anyway.

The figure your friend spoke of is Death's Hand, the leader of the Lotus Assassins. This... student was strong to live as long as he did.

Woo mentioned a woman giving orders. What about her?

A lieutenant, perhaps? Death's Hand leads all others. He would not appear unless this was important. He usually acts behind the scenes. I don't know why they were so intent on taking your Master Li, but they never attack without purpose.

Master Li told me that he was the Emperor's brother. Gao overheard.

That's... not possible. Sun Li the Glorious Strategist was the Emperor's brother and the head of the Imperial Army. Your Master Li cannot be him.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time Dawn Star actually learns about Master Li being the Glorious Strategist, although I suppose Gao may have mentioned it at some point.

And besides, the Glorious Strategist would not have made such mistakes.

What mistakes?

Revealing himself, for one. For another, he would have known that giving himself up would not save your students.

If Death's Hand is as vicious as you say, he had to try something.

The Glorious Strategist would know his enemy, and if anything is true about Lotus Assassins, it's that they don't leave survivors. I should know.

That would explain how he knew so much about the attack. Still, if Zu was still associated with them, he would've tried to kill us already and certainly wouldn't have helped us find Dawn Star.

I like it when these games let you pick a reasonable response.

You know a lot. We will have to talk about the source of that knowledge.

Well, I guess this is still a reasonable thing to say here. Zu may not be a Lotus Assassin anymore and doesn't seem to be trying to actively kill us, but we'll still want to be on guard just in case because we still don't know much about him or what he may be planning.

I have to say - while the faces in Jade Empire occasionally end up in territory, the expressions we see here are quite well done for the time. Especially Dawn Star's.

It won't be stable enough to get to the Imperial City, but we might reach the trading village of Tien's Landing. All trade routes lead to the heart of the Empire. If we are lucky we can find someone to give us passage. If we're lucky.

And so, with Master Li missing and most of their friends dead, our heroes leave the ruins of Two Rivers - their past - behind them for good.

As for the future, all they know for sure right now is that they must find Master Li, and to do so they need to get to the Imperial City via Tien's Landing... somehow. Wu and Dawn Star have spent their entire lives being guided by Master Li, and now that that guidance is gone it's pretty much off to the unknown for them.

Let's go.