Great moments in PC gaming: Debating John Cleese in Jade Empire

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Jade Empire

(Image credit: EA)

Year: 2007
Developer: BioWare

Your character in Jade Empire is an orphan from the Land of Howling Spirits who was raised at an academy that’s basically Hogwarts for kung fu. You’re a bit cut off from the world, until you’re sent to quest across it. And then, traveling from town to town you spend as much time match-making as you do ass-kicking, which means you get good at talking to people as well as fighting them. You learn about the land and its philosophies as you go.

So by the time you meet ‘the outlander’ in the Scholar’s Garden you’re well-placed to feel like you understand this in a fantasy version of Imperial China. Then suddenly here’s this interloper from a fantasy version of Imperial Britain who has washed up on your shore and basically set himself up with a big sign that says, “My culture is better than yours. Change my mind.”

This character, named ‘Sir Roderick Ponce Von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard’, is voiced by John Cleese. It’s a surprisingly great bit of casting in a game that wastes Nathan Fillion as a whining bully who doesn’t get any jokes. Meanwhile, Cleese here gets to play Basil Fawlty with a monocle and morion helmet. He’s also armed with a blunderbuss named Mirabelle, which he demonstrates by shooting up any of the local heathens who earn his displeasure. He’s great.

It’s your job to prove the Jade Empire is the equal of Roderick’s homeland so this colonialist will give up trying to convert you to his pantaloons-and-moustaches way of life and just go home. In what seems like a rare moment of generosity, Roderick lets some of the local scholars and the Minister of Culture be the judges of this debate. 

(Image credit: EA)

He tries to tear down your culture by pointing out that you’ve had gunpowder for years but never invented guns, that your martial arts are all foolishly based on melee rather than ranged combat, that you believe in spirits and waste far too much time bathing. Choose your counter-arguments to cater to the judges and you’ll win the debate, at which point Roderick turns out not to be so magnanimous. The competition was clearly rigged, he claims, and with his honor slighted he demands a duel.

He enters this duel with Mirabelle, a booming carriable cannon that knocks off half your health with every shot. You, meanwhile, probably have a sword or staff and maybe the ability to shoot ice and transform into a toad. You demonstrate the value of your culture’s focus on melee by waiting for him to reload, then slapping him down up close.

Finally his honor forces him to accept you may have a point, and he promises to leave. In defeat he offers a gift, and while there are several stat-boosting options you can also demand Mirabelle. While initially weak, pump a few points into the associated combat style and suddenly Mirabelle becomes a total boss-killer, letting you beast your way through most of the late game. Sir Roderick Von Fontlebottom may have been a wanker, but he was right about one thing. In Jade Empire, kung fu and ancient magic actually are worthless against modern technology in the form of a very big gun.


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