Jade Empire is free on Origin
Oh my god it's 10 years old!
BioWare's kung fu role-playing game Jade Empire is free on Origin today. Apparently it's in celebration of the game turning 10 years old - 10 years old!
Jade Empire first came out on the original Xbox in 2005, and was BioWare's follow-up to the revered Knights of the Old Republic. But Jade Empire struggled to have the same effect. It had a lovely sunny disposition, all gentle flowers and ancient Chinese landscapes, and trod the well-worn BioWare path of story, companions, dialogue, good and evil, and saving the world, but its combat was thin.
Whereas Knights of the Old Republic used a deeper, albeit diluted Dungeons & Dragons approach with obvious rounds of combat, Jade Empire opted for a real-time combat system with abilities for use whenever they cooled down. It turned out to be a half-way house: slow for an action game but not deep enough (especially after many hours) for a role-playing game. Simply, it wore out before the end.
That's not to say Jade Empire was boring - I loved it, and it reviewed well on Eurogamer. The twists and turns of the story, however obvious they might have been, are still clearly imprinted on my addled brain. I enjoyed the final battles and I remember British actor, and national treasure, John Cleese popping up for an entertaining cameo.
The PC Special Edition brought all the beautifying benefits of more powerful machinery, as well as negligibly more advanced AI, but a lick of paint two years later couldn't distract from it feeling dated-on-arrival.
I've always thought Jade Empire would be a good fit for BioWare on PS4 and Xbox One, but BioWare doesn't seem particularly bothered. It has Mass Effect 4 and a new IP keeping it busy, as well as MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. The general appetite for martial arts isn't what it was in the post-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon era of the early 2000s, and perhaps the appetite for Jade Empire itself wasn't ever that high.