The Player character, aka The Last Spirit Monk, is the main protagonist of the Jade Empire. The character is defined not only by a physical model, but by choice of martial arts styles, allocation of skills gained through leveling, and choice of philosophy.
You can choose one of six (seven with Limited Edition) characters that come pre-named and given default character types and starting styles. Names, starting styles and stats are all customizable, but the appearance of the various characters themselves cannot be altered.
Character types are pre-determined attributes for each character. They are given a short in-game description:
- Balanced: "While not the fastest or strongest of warriors, the balanced character is the most versatile. The Balanced character excels at adapting to exploit his/her enemies weaknesses". In Wu the Lotus Blossom and Lu the Prodigy, the two default balanced characters, Body, Spirit and Mind are all almost equal making them "Jack-of-all-trades, master of none" characters.
- Fast: "A fast character may not be the strongest, but he/she can maintain Focus in battle longer than others, easily sidestepping strikes and delivering counterattacks with blinding speed". In the default fast characters Furious Ming and Radient Jen Zi, Mind is significantly higher than other attributes allowing them to wield weapons longer or remain in focus mode for longer periods of time.
- Magic: "Though not as physically strong as others, a magical character is the best at channeling his/her Chi to enhance her physical strikes and fuel powerful elemental magics". In the default magical characters Monk Zheng and Ling the Scholar, Spirit is significantly higher than other attributes giving them more time to use magical spells, augment their strikes with chi and heal themselves before running out of chi.
- Strong: "A strong character trades speed and magical aptitude for raw strength and power, enabling him to dish out and withstand much more damage than other warriors". In Tiger Shen, the only default strong character, Body is significantly higher than other attributes letting him take much more damage before needing to heal.
- Character Type: Fast
- Default Stats: Body 3, Spirit 2, Mind 5, Health 130, Chi 120, Focus 150
Furious Ming represents the quintessential light and fast martial artist. He may not be the strongest, but he attacks quickly and with more finesse than most.
The starting combat style for this character involves quick dodges, lightning punches, and liberal use of Focus mode. Several weapon styles are available for Ming, but he favors light weapons over heavy axes and the like.
Lu the Prodigy
- Character Type: Balanced
- Default Stats: Body 4, Spirit 3, Mind 3, Health 140, Chi 130, Focus 130
While not the fastest or the strongest of warriors, Lu the Prodigy is the most versatile. His agile mind and body enable him to use punishing physical styles and exotic magical styles with equal skill, and so he excels at adapting to exploit his enemies' weaknesses. Lu is always ready to do whatever it takes to master any challenge.
Radiant Jen Zi
- Character Type: Fast
- Default Stats: Body 2, Spirit 3, Mind 5, Health 120, Chi 130, Focus 150
Radiant Jen Zi's razor-sharp mind enables her to easily sidestep strikes and deliver counterattacks with blinding speed. She wins battles by wielding powerful weapons and anticipating her foes' attacks. With her powers of concentration and her lightning-quick reflexes, Jen Zi is a master of the quick strike and the split-second dodge
- Character Type: Magic
- Default Stats: Body 2, Spirit 5, Mind 3, Health 120, Chi 150, Focus 130
Though not as physically strong as the others, Scholar Ling is the best at channeling her Chi to enhance her physical strikes and fuel powerful elemental magics. In battle, she often uses her mastery of Chi to triumph over opponents who would normally overpower her with brutish physical force. Her skills with magic will be invaluable in her quest to unlock the secrets of the Jade Empire.
- Character Type: Strong
- Default Stats: Body 5, Spirit 2, Mind 3, Health 150, Chi 120, Focus 130
- Starting Styles: White Demon (promotional and concept art has him using Leaping Tiger), Heavenly Wave
Tiger Shen is an example of the quintessential brawler. He has the strength to use the heaviest weapons available and the skill to bring them to bear against even the fastest opponents. He makes the best use of styles that bring his brawn into play, throwing his weight around to unbalance the enemy. Strong strikes and blocks make him both an unstoppable force and an immovable object.
Tiger Shen is best used on the battlefield as a bulwark against the enemy. He doesn't need to waste time getting into position if the fight comes to him. This may seem unsubtle to his detractors, but they cannot argue its effectiveness. Steady does not have to mean slow, however, and if his skills are modified to suit a faster suite of styles, he doesn't have to be shy about chasing the enemy down.
Wu the Lotus Blossom
Character Type: Balanced
Default Stats: Body 3, Spirit 4, Mind 3, Health 130, Chi 140, Focus 130
Wu the Lotus Blossom represents a balanced and sensible approach to combat. She is both fast and powerful, but is not exceptional in either category. The true strength of this choice is flexibility, and she excels equally in defense and offense, in melee and magic.
The starting combat style for Wu is similarly balanced, offering a mix of attacks, Chi-based abilities, and defensive moves that ensures she will never be caught off guard.
Character Type: Magic
Default Stats: Body 3, Spirit 5, Mind 2, Health 130, Chi 150, Focus 120
Monk Zeng is the perfect example of the spirit enhancing the body. His ability to channel his Chi, or spiritual energy, enables him to augment his physical strikes and fuel powerful magics that manipulate both elemental and spiritual forces. While he is a capable martial artist, foes who draw Monk Zeng's ire face a powerful combatant with a command of forces most warriors cannot even comprehend.