Earlier installments: the one and only
Last seen in: 2006
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Jade Empire

Jade Empire

You may call him Scott Wachter, and he says... The dozen of you who read my column know that among the many things I hate about the state of modern RPGs is the never-ending stream of cookie-cutter Tolkein-esque settings in videogames compared to the immense variety of their tabletop counterparts. I’m not usually the type to beat a dead horse, but this particular topic has proved itself to a be stubborn zombie horse that deserves a sound beatingm that I find myself more than happy to administer. This brings us to the topic of my slice of this feature: Jade Empire, the only wuxia rpg to be released outside mainland Asia. This game is not BioWare’s best for its console generation, but it is the one I praise the highest.

After a string of excellent licensed games, BioWare’s 2005 offering was something created entirely from scratch. We got a setting inspired by mythic China, which was beautifully portrayed in the visuals and soundtrack. It also featured a new newbie-friendly game system, which showed a lot of potential, and I’m sure a second game's worth of development would have tuned it to perfection. Also new to the game was a morality system that tried to balance altruism against social Darwinism, sure the less than moral options still sometimes leave you feeling like a heel, but it’s for their own good.

In the face of all this newness, the boys from Edmonton managed to hold true to what made their previous games so great. The cast of characters is as richly written, entertaining and memorable as that of any other game in the company’s catalogue. To this day I still quote The Black Whirlwind and Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard. The game’s plot is as good as its characters, it’s well paced and has twists that hits like a gut punch, but on the second playthrough you can see it being set up from the first minutes of the game and that makes for an immensely satisfying story.

One game may not make up much of a franchise, but the game’s combination of good aspects and aspects in need of improvement leaves Jade Empire begging for a sequel. A sequel that we have been teased with once or twice in between BioWare's new ventures. Come on Dr Ray and Dr Greg, I have a fever and the only prescription is more kung-fu fighting!

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights

Someday maybe. After they're done making sequels for the rest of their franchises

Anything Kang the Mad says

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