Jade Empire

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Jade Empire
North American Xbox cover art of the video game Jade Empire
North American Xbox cover art
Developer(s) BioWare[a]
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios[b]
Director(s) Jim Bishop (Xbox)
Diarmid Clarke (PC)
Producer(s) Jim Bishop
Designer(s) Kevin Martens
Programmer(s) Mark Darrah
Artist(s) Matt Goldman
Writer(s) Luke Kristjanson
Mike Laidlaw
Composer(s) Jack Wall
Platform(s) Xbox, Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Release
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Jade Empire is an action role-playing game developed by BioWare, originally published by Microsoft Game Studios in 2005 as an Xbox exclusive. It was later ported to Microsoft Windows personal computers (PC) and published by 2K Games in 2007. Later ports to macOS (2008) and mobile platforms (2016) were handled respectively by TransGaming and Aspyr. Set in a world based on Chinese mythology, players control the last surviving Spirit Monk on a quest to save their tutor Master Li and defeat the forces of corrupt emperor Sun Hai. The Spirit Monk is guided through a linear narrative, completing quests and engaging in action-based combat. With morality-based dialogue choices during conversations, the player can impact both story and gameplay progression in various ways.

Development of Jade Empire began in 2001 as a dream project for company co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, who acted as the game's executive producers. Their first original role-playing intellectual property, the game reused the morality system from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but switched to a real-time combat system. The game's many elements such as its combat system, the world and script, the constructed language created for the game, and the musical score by Jack Wall drew influence from Chinese history, culture and folklore. Upon release, it received widespread critical acclaim. Its success led to the creation of the PC version, which provided the basis for future ports and itself met with positive reviews.

Gameplay[edit]

The protagonist faces enemies during an early portion of the game.

Jade Empire is an action role-playing game (RPG) in which players take control of a character most frequently dubbed the "Spirit Monk"; the Spirit Monk has six available pre-set character archetypes with different statistics: these statistics are split into health, magic energy (chi) and Focus, used to slow down time during combat. The characters are divided into three male and three female characters, with a fourth male character being available in later versions.[1][2] Exploration is carried out from a third-person perspective through mainly linear or hub-based environments, where quests can be accepted from non-playable characters (NPCs). Completing quests grants rewards of experience points, in-game currency and occasionally fighting techniques.[2][3] In addition to standard gameplay, players can engage in a shoot 'em up mini-game with a flying machine, earning items and additional experience.[2]

Combat takes place in real-time, with the protagonist and a chosen Follower fighting enemies either individually or in groups. Enemies range in type from normal humans to monsters and spirits. Attacks are divided into normal, heavy attacks which longer to execute while dealing higher damage, and area attacks which damage multiple surrounding enemies. In addition to blocking, the protagonist and enemies can dodge attacks. The protagonist has access to different techniques, which range from purely offensive or guard-breaking techniques to healing and buffing techniques. Some fighting styles are hand-to-hand, while others are tied to a weapon type. In the console version, techniques are assigned to four face buttons, while the PC version has techniques assigned to number buttons. Magic-based attacks and techniques require Chi to function. Activating Focus during combat slows down time, allowing the protagonist to attack more freely as long as their Focus lasts. Defeated enemies can drop health and Chi.[1][2][3]

Dialogue choices are tied into the game's moral alignments, called "Open Palm" and "Closed Fist". Neither path is meant to be based around good and evil, with their morality being based on a character's intent. The Open Palm primarily revolves around altruism, while the Closed Fist believes in self-reliance and can consequently be a more violent path. Selecting dialogue choices aligned to either the Open Palm or Close Fist paths alter how party members and NPCs respond to the protagonist, with a major choice during the final part of the game impacting the protagonist's alignment and the story's ending.[4] Related to this is the ability to romance certain party members; out of two female and one male follower, one female and one male can be romanced by either male or female protagonists, while the second female can be romanced by a male. There is also an option to romance both females by a male protagonist, resulting in a love triangle situation.[1][3]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

The setting of the game is its titular Jade Empire, a land based on Ancient China and infused with Chinese mythology; while humans live side by side in the mortal realm with mystical creatures and monsters, the heavens are ruled by the August Personage of Jade through a Celestial bureaucracy. Human sorcerers are able to harness the Five Elements in their magic.[5] The two languages spoken in the Jade Empire are English and the ancient Thou Fan tongue; once common, its speakers have become scarcer in the Empire.[6] In the Jade Empire's recent past, a devastating drought threatened to destroy everything, but the drought came to an end through the actions of Sun Hai, current ruling emperor of the Sun dynasty, leading to him being worshiped as the Empire's savior.[2]:2 Key locations include the isolated village of Two Rivers, where the story begins; Tien's Landing, a former major port now shunned due to its dark past; the Imperial Capital, seat of Sun Hi and center of the Jade Empire; and Dirge, a ruined temple haunted by the spirits of its inhabitants.[7][8]

The protagonist, whose gender and name can be selected by the player, is a Spirit Monk rescued as a baby when the forces of Sun Li destroyed their tribe. Raised in the isolated village of Two Rivers, the protagonist has been trained in martial arts by "Master Li", who is in fact Sun Hai's disgraced brother Sun Li the Glorious Strategist. During the course of their adventure, the protagonist is accompanied by and gains multiple followers. These include Dawn Star, another student from Two Rivers who can communicate with the dead; Sagacious Zu, a former Lotus Assassin who abandoned their order due to their merciless tactics; the Black Whirlwind, a dim yet quick-witted mercenary infamous for his drinking and his fighting; Henpecked Hou, a former arena fighter-turned-bunmaker on the run from his domineering wife; Wild Flower, a girl who died during a flood at Tien's Landing and shared her body with two spirits—the benevolent Chai Ka and the wicked Ya Zhen; Sky, a former thief with a grudge against the Lotus Assassins and their slaver allies who killed his daughter; Kang the Mad, a genius inventor with an unpredictable personality who is in fact the banished deity Lord Lao; and Princess Sun Lian, the daughter of Sun Hi who goes on covert missions using the alias "Silk Fox".[1][3][9] The main antagonists in Jade Empire are led by Sun Hai, current ruler of the Jade Empire. He is represented across the Jade Empire by Death's Hand, a black-armoured figure who leads the Lotus Assassins, a formerly monastic group who have turned to terror tactics to maintain order. Other characters include Gao the Greater and his son Gao the Lesser, key characters during the early narrative; and the Water Dragon, shepherd of the dead and a key guide to the protagonist.[1][3]

Plot[edit]

Chapter 1: Two Rivers

The game begins with the player cast as a martial arts student under the tutelage of Master Li, head of the Two Rivers martial arts school, based in the Golden Delta.[10]

The player's training is interrupted as the town of Two Rivers comes under attack from an aggressor in a strange ship, who summons ghosts to attack the student. The attacker is defeated by Master Li, who comes to the student's rescue and reveals that the attacker was a member of the Lotus Assassins, a mysterious force serving the Emperor of the Jade Empire. Gao the Lesser, a rival of the student, issues a challenge for a duel and loses. He is expelled from the school after he attempts to use explicitly forbidden magic on the student. Master Li explains that the student is the last of the order of Spirit Monks. He, a brother of the Emperor and leader of the Empire's army, had ordered an attack on Dirge, where the Spirit Monks' temple existed, in order to end the Long Drought. He claims to have opposed the act and to have saved the student and the Dragon's Amulet.

He sends the student to a cave beneath the school, where the student finds part of a Spirit Monk amulet and has a vision of the Water Dragon—the entity whose death at the hands of the Emperor ended the decade-long Long Drought, but left spirits roaming the land. Dawn Star, one of the students at the school and a friend of the player, is kidnapped by Gao The Lesser. The student rescues her but returns to find the village in flames and Master Li kidnapped. The student, Dawn Star, and Sagacious Zu, a man whom they met in the swamps around the village, head off in a borrowed flying machine towards the Imperial City, where Master Li has been taken.

Chapter 2: Tien's Landing

The party crash-lands their machine in Tien's Landing and sets out to find a new flier and a wind map that will show them the way to the Imperial City. The new flyer, called the Marvelous Dragonfly, is taken from the base of Gao the Greater, the father of the dead student of the first chapter. Gao the Greater is working with Grand Inquisitor Jia's elite subordinate, Inquisitor Lim, and is distressed to hear of his son's death. The player tracks down and kills him, and recruits Sky, a rogue, and Kang The Mad, Gao's personal engineer.

The party goes to a recently drained area near Tien's Landing, which flooded when the dam was first constructed. The Lotus Assassins opened the dam in order to search the ruins of old Tien's Landing. The student fights Chai Ka, a demon bound in the body of a little girl, and learns that Chai Ka was sent to protect the student and that the Lotus Assassins already have the amulet. The player can then close the dam or destroy the controls, keeping it open forever.

The student then heads to the Great Southern Forest, which is owned by Lord Yun. The player then has the option of helping the Forest Shadow defeat a demon known as the Mother, or helping the Mother's cannibalistic demons destroy the Forest Shadow. In either event, the player can convince Lord Yun that the forest is recovering and get his wind map. Inquisitor Lim will ambush the player at this point; the player kills him and recovers a piece of the amulet.

Chapter 3: Imperial City

The party lands in the Imperial City and meets Silk Fox, who is revealed to be Princess Lian the Heavenly Lily, daughter of the Emperor. She is unconvinced that her father is behind the sickness and plagues of the land, and believes that Death's Hand, the black armor-clad head of the Lotus Assassins, is responsible. After joining either the Executioners or the Inquisitors, the student's party infiltrates the Lotus Assassins' training ground to recover the last part of the Spirit Monk amulet. Sagacious Zu reveals that he was one of the Lotus Assassins who killed Master Li's family. During their quest, the party helps Master Gang assassinate his superior, Master Shin, making the deed look like an accident, and puts a corrupted Spirit Shard into a Jade Golem, causing it to malfunction. The golems go out of control, damaging the underground complex. The party battles two Jade Golems and a handful of Lotus Assassins, killing Master Gang in the process. They also find Grand Inquisitor Jia, who reveals that the Emperor knew about what Death's Hand and the Lotus Assassins were doing and had, in fact, ordered them to do it. The player kills her, but Death's Hand arrives. Sagacious Zu sacrifices himself to save the student, burying Death's Hand in rubble.

Chapter 4: Imperial Palace

The party fights their way to the Emperor's throne room where Silk Fox learns of what her father has done. He is aware that the Water Dragon's death is stopping the dead from reaching the underworld but is mad with power. The Emperor knocks down everyone in the throne room with a blast of magic and summons guards to attack the student, who defeats them. The student battles the Emperor, who is able to alternate fighting styles and damage immunities. The student kills the Emperor, but Master Li gets up, takes the Jade Heart for himself, and kills the student.

Chapter 5: Spirit Monk Temple

The student wakes up in the underworld as a spirit. The Water Dragon reveals that Sun Li had planned this all along; he wished for the Water Dragon's power and needed to obtain the amulet and defeat Emperor Sun Hai. The student meets up with the spirit of Abbot Song, who reveals what truly happened at Dirge. He explains that Sun Li wore the armor of Death's Hand and killed the abbot when he tried to stop Sun Li and his brothers. The brothers arranged for Dirge's fountains to be tainted with human blood, weakening the Water Dragon, and Emperor Sun Hai killed Sun Kin (later Death's Hand) when he and Sun Li attempted to oppose him. Abbot Song then reveals that one of his order attempted to escape with the student, but Sun Li, who had escaped from Sun Hai, killed the student's guardian and assumed his identity. The player and Abbot Song make their way through Dirge and learn that an evil being has taken control after the fall of the temple. The student reaches the place where the Water Dragon was slain, and defeats aspects of the student's darker emotions. The student then returns to life, and the rest of the party, who learns about this through Dawn Star, flies to Dirge to reunite with their friend.

Chapter 6: Defending the Temple

While the student was dead, Sun Li realized that action would have to be taken in case the student managed to return to the realm of the living, and he retrieved Death's Hand from the rubble of the Lotus Assassin headquarters. He then sends the Imperial Army against Dirge. Sky pretends to betray the group, and lures Death's Hand out so that the student can defeat him in single combat. However, this is not enough to defeat him; Death's Hand rises again, but the student uses the force of his will to expel Sun Li's influence. The player may then release Death's Hand, use him as a slave, or convince him to seek redemption.

Chapter 7: Back to the Palace

The party flies back to the palace to confront Master Li, now the Emperor. As they make their way through the palace they discover that Emperor Sun Hai had stopped the drought by cutting open the Water Dragon's corpse and letting the water that flowed from it feed the Empire. The student chooses either to destroy the Water Dragon's body, thus freeing her spirit and allowing the dead to find the underworld, or to defile the water, weakening the Dragon, and then claim her power after defeating the new Emperor.

The student reaches Emperor Sun Li, who first sends Constructs of Bull and Elephant demons, the most powerful in the game, after the player. Sun Li then encases the student in stone and attempts to defeat the player with the force of his own doubt. However, if the student's companions survived, they will reduce the number of enemies that must be fought in each of the two stages. Sagacious Zu appears and helps free the student from his mind.

Emperor Sun Li offers to help his student live in legend forever, if the student dies without fighting. If the player makes this decision, the student is remembered as a hero for knowing his or her place as Sun Li looks on and laughs. If the player does not, Sun Li attacks, and the student defeats him.

Endings[edit]

If the student follows the Open Hand and chooses to free the Water Dragon's spirit, then the end sequence shows the people of the Jade Empire cheering the student and their party. If the student follows the Closed Fist and chooses to enslave the Water Dragon, the end sequence shows the Lotus Assassins kneeling at the feet of the student. After this end sequence, there are short text summaries detailing the fate of any characters who survived the adventure. These vary depending on whether the student chose to enslave or free the Water Dragon, and also on what romance options the student pursued.

Dawn Star: If the student chooses the path of the Open Hand, then she either settles down with the student, settles down on her own, or rules the empire with the student. If the student talked her into a Closed Fist philosophy or abandoned her, then she wanders the Jade Empire alone.

Silk Fox: If the student does not romance Silk Fox, she will become Empress of the Jade Empire. If the student is male and romances Silk Fox, he and Silk Fox will rule the empire fairly, or with an iron fist. If the student is female and romances Silk Fox, Silk Fox will either rule the empire fairly with her 'companion,' or will rule with an iron fist, and both the student and Silk Fox will don the Silk Fox costume to silence dissenters.

Sky: Sky will use the Guild for good purposes, or serve as the student's consort or as the new Death's Hand. If the student romances Sky, they leave the imperial city and live on the outskirts of Tien's Landing, unless the student is male, in which case they continue on their adventures through the Jade Empire, not content to settle down in one place.

Black Whirlwind: Black Whirlwind initially takes a contract hunting demons for the Celestial Bureaucracy, but the red tape annoys him and he ultimately leaves. After leaving the Empire for some time—he is likely responsible for a sudden influx of outlanders with missing limbs—he returns, vowing to never leave the Jade Empire again. He gets bored a week later and heads north.

Henpecked Hou: After a series of mishaps, Hou starts a delivery business which he immediately uses as a method of escaping his overbearing wife.

Chai Ka: Chai Ka will either return to the heavens, freeing Wild Flower and giving her the gift of life, or remain trapped in Wild Flower's body causing her to wander the empire as a raving lunatic.

Ya Zhen: Ya Zhen will either serve the student until the student passes away, at which point Ya Zhen moves to bigger plans, or else will serve the student forever and loyally.

Death's Hand: Death's Hand will either become more evil, mutating so badly that his armor cannot hold his demonic form, or he will spend the rest of his days wandering the empire as a crusader for good in order to make up for his past misdeeds.

Kang the Mad: Kang will continue to invent machines until an explosion appears to take his life, although strange machines will continue to appear on the student's doorstep every year on the anniversary of their victory. As Lord Lao, Kang's lack of danger affects his imagination in building machines, so as a radical solution Kang starts arming the mobs that chase after him. If the player chose the Closed Fist ending, Kang works for the emperor (the player), worrying his use will eventually be worn out and he will be disposed of. Eventually, he crafts a portal to another dimension and disappears in a huge explosion, taking an entire lake with him.

Yet another ending is available if the Student agrees to the terms of surrender presented by Sun Li in the final confrontation. The ending sequence features a statue of the student being praised years later by a class of children with a skin condition similar to that of the Lotus Assassins. One child asks what life was like before the protagonist's honored sacrifice and is quickly shushed by his teacher as a Jade Golem readies an axe to quell such questioning. The sequence ends with Sun Li laughing evilly; the decision to surrender has ultimately led to misery and corruption in the Jade Empire.

Production[edit]

Development and release[edit]

Jade Empire was developed by BioWare, a Canada-based video game studio which had earned critical and commercial success with Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, RPGs based on pre-existing Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars fictional universes.[11][12] The game, which began development in May 2001, was the company's first original RPG intellectual property.[12][13] The concept of Jade Empire had existed with company founders co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk since they started BioWare alongside the plan which would lead to Baldur's Gate; called a "dream project", their aim was to fulfill player fantasies of becoming a powerful martial arts master.[12][14] The game was first developed and released for the Xbox. Zeschuk later felt they should have held the game back and developed it for the console's successor the Xbox 360.[15]

First hinted at in 2002 when BioWare announced a further partnership with Microsoft Game Studios following Knights of the Old Republic, the game was officially announced in September 2003, with further information being revealed at that year's Tokyo Game Show.[16] Originally scheduled for release in March 2005, the game was pushed forward to April of that year.[17] Along with the standard edition, a limited edition was produced which included an additional male playable character with unique combat abilities, and a special DVD detailing the production of multiple Xbox titles including Jade Empire.[18][19] The limited edition was designed as a gift for those who pre-ordered the game, and was developed in parallel to the standard game. By February, the game had entered the final stages of production, with staff focusing on polishing work.[19] The game released on April 12, 2005, two days prior to its announced release date.[17][20] The game was later released in Europe on April 22, and in Australia on June 30. The limited edition, exclusive to North America and Europe, released alongside the standard edition.[20] In Japan, the game was released on June 16 under the title Jade Empire: Hisui no Teikoku.[c][21]

Writing[edit]

While their previous work on other licenses had been fun, BioWare were excited to create a new world and storyline without any restrictions.[11] The team quickly decided not to set the game in historical China, wanting the freedom to include fantasy elements, leading to them creating a world based on Chinese mythology. According to lead writers Luke Kristjanson and Mike Laidlaw, they used its inspiration to create a world that felt alive, with a variety of locals and social norms coexisting. Like BioWare's previous RPGs, its main focus was on telling a story, but a lot of the additional lore and finer detail was made optional so players would feel a degree of freedom in how they explored the story.[14] Dialogue was intended to blend BioWare's established writing style with the game's Eastern influences.[6] The game's morality system was designed to be an evolution and refinement of that used in Knights of the Old Republic.[22] The menu-based dialogue choice system was carried over directly from Knights of the Old Republic.[9]

The inspirations for the game's plot included the Classic Chinese Novels Outlaws of the Marsh, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West, in addition to Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio and more recent works such as The Deer and the Cauldron, Lone Wolf and Cub and Bridge of Birds.[6][5] They also drew inspiration from Wuxia and samurai movies including Seven Samurai, Fist of Legend, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, Shaolin Dolemite and The Five Fingers of Death.[11][6][5] The character Black Whirlwind was a homage by Laidlaw to Li Kui, a main character from Outlaws of the Marsh.[23] Henpecked Hou followed a tradition in BioWare titles of including a character for comic relief, in addition to playing on Chinese narrative stereotypes. A notable side character is Sir Roderick Ponce Von Fontlebottom, an explorer from a foreign land used for comic relief. The character was generally influenced by the explorers of Medieval Europe who had historically been to China.[11]

While much of the script is in English, many characters in the game speak Thou Fan, a 2,500-word Asian-style constructed language translated for players using English subtitles.[24][25] Similar to the development of the Klingon language for Star Trek and the Elvish languages for The Lord of the Rings, Thou Fan was developed to add to the personality, realism and immersion of to the setting of Jade Empire. The team chose not to use a real-world Asian language as Jade Empire was set in a fantasy world despite its Asian influence, with Thou Fan being used to add a level of exoticism for players.[6] To create Thou Fan, BioWare contacted the linguistics department of the nearby University of Alberta; one of those who responded was Wolf Wikeley, then a student at the University with a master's degree in psycholinguistics and a candidate for a PhD in phonology. When Wikeley—a fan of Japanese anime and video games—was interviewed, he spoke several sentences in fluent Klingon, impressing the BioWare staff and earning him the job.[24][25] The language, according to Wikeley, relies on soft sounds and most closely resembles Mongolian.[25] When planning the new language, Wikeley asked the developers who temperament the people of the Jade Empire had, as it would impact the sound and delivery of the words. After this is worked on creating a basic dictionary based on word substitution, although some words were inside jokes such as "wankaawayi" (director) which referenced Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. Once the dictionary was complete, Wikeley set about creating unique grammar and language rules, such as the verb "to be" not existing, so it would not make the typical mistake of fictional languages of following the rules of a real language. Initially intended to be a lower class language denoting humility, a late change to the plot made Thou Fan a language of the Jade Empire's elite, turning its "deferential softness" into a mark of elegance.[24]

Design[edit]

Art director Matt Goldman took inspiration from multiple eras of China's history when designing various aspects of the world, focusing between the Han and Ming dynasties. The environments were modeled on landscape artwork from the Song dynasty, while the color palette drew from the green-hued art of the Tang dynasty. For ancient artifacts based in an ancient civilization, Goldman drew inspiration from bronze artifacts dating from the Shang and Zhou periods. The wild areas were directly inspired by the Huangshan region. Different regions of the game were designed to reflect the differing social classes present in the Jade Empire. In addition to its Chinese inspiration, Goldman drew styling elements for both clothing and scenery from Japan, Thailand, Tibet, the Khmer Empire, and unspecified areas of South and West Asia. The monsters, while taking inspiration from brief descriptions in Asian literature, were mostly original creations for the game's world.[26] Speaking of his experience on the game years later, Goldman described "fond memories" of the Canada-based development team working to create an Asian epic.[27]

Creating the new combat system was the one of the biggest challenges when developing the gameplay systems. Rather than the rule and turn-based combat of their earlier titles, the team wanted combat in Jade Empire to be in real-time, as the slower turn-based combat of their earlier works did not fit into its planned setting. The game's martial arts were based on a variety of real-life styles, including karate, aikido and capoeira.[13] Implementing the combat system required creating a number of systems to handle combat without relying on pre-programmed fight choreography.[22] A key element of the design was that managing character statistics was kept low-key so as not to interfere with the player's experience.[9] The Dragonfly mini-game was designed by assistant producer Sheldon Carter. Carter based the mini-game on classic arcade top-down shooters such as Xevious and 1942.[13]

Based on their experience with Knights of the Old Republic, the team developed Jade Empire using a new graphics engine.[22] As part of the lighting system, the team used rim lighting to pick out the edges of characters and illuminate them using a local light source, creating a dynamic lighting effect to make characters look alive. A form of pixel flare, in which pixels reflect more light in bright conditions, was used to the same effect for areas in bright sunlight or the unrealistic lighting of parts of Heaven.[9] The user interface, map and journal systems were all improved based on those used in Knights of the Old Republic to promote player comfort.[22] The game was the first BioWare game to use motion capture for all human elements, contrasting with their work on Knights of the Old Republic which was done using hand animation.[12][13] The use motion capture was intended to promote a sense of realism.[11] The decision to use motion capture was influenced by the large number of animations required for combat actions. For several enemy characters, the staff used hand animation.[13] When creating the prototype "Deo" fighting style, lead animator Deo Perez drew inspiration from a number of martial arts masters from movies including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Further refinement was done by the motion capture actors.[13] Each style was based on a single real-life martial arts style.[9]

Audio[edit]

The music, composed and arranged by Jack Wall (pictured 2009), was written to emulate Eastern musical styles while blending it with Western elements.

The musical score of Jade Empire was composed by Jack Wall, who had previously worked on Myst III: Exile and its sequel.[28] Wall was first approached by an audio manager at BioWare, with Wall later sending a demo tape, then later created a piece used in the game's first trailer. Wall decided to pursue the job because of his liking for BioWare's previous games, and accredited the trailer music with successfully getting the job of composer. Wall worked on the game from January 2004 to February 2005, coming in during the game's early development. From an early stage, Wall decided to create an orchestral rather than synthetic soundtrack, aiming for an "East meets West" aesthetic.[29] A key member of staff whom Wall hired early on was Zhiming Han, a Chinese music consultant who was instrumental in maintaining the authentic sound of the score. Zhiming brought in several native Chinese musicians to perform the score, and helped by translating Wall's score into Chinese musical notation for the performers.[28][29] The score was intended to feel generally Asian, incorporating traditional Chinese and Japanese percussion and wind instruments.[28] Wall estimated that he composed over 90 minutes of music, ranging from environmental to cutscene-specific tracks, not including additional arrangements for shorter cutscenes by BioWare staff.[29] A soundtrack album was released in 2005.[30]

Every line of dialogue in the game, both English and Thou Fan, was fully voiced; Zeschuk and Martens estimated in different interviews that the recorded script came to over 320,000 words.[6][31] The character of Dawn Star had 20,000 lines dedicated to her.[6] One of the notable cast members was Nathan Fillion, whose role in the game was one of his earliest video game acting jobs. According to him, the script was written in a style he compared to broken English. When he talked with other actors on the project after the game was completed, he realized that they had rewritten the script into conventional English. He stated in 2017 that he would enjoy redoing those lines so they were easier to understand.[32] Another notable cast member was British actor John Cleese, who voiced Sir Roderick Ponce Von Fontlebottom.[22][31] Cleese became involved due to him and his agent being in Canada at the time voice recording was taking place. Upon being approached, Cleese was willing, and recorded all the character's lines during a single afternoon.[11]

Jade Empire: Special Edition[edit]

A version for Microsoft Windows personal computers (PC) began development at BioWare due to demand from their strong PC-based community. While developing the port, BioWare upgraded hundreds of different textures by hand; additional content including new fighting styles, new enemies, and the seventh character previously available in the Limited Edition of the Xbox version; refined the enemy and followers' artificial intelligence and reworked the controls for a keyboard and mouse. While the team had the option of publishing the title through Microsoft Game Studio, Microsoft were focused on developing games for the Windows Vista alone, which clashed with BioWare's wishes to make the game available to a wide audience. For this reason, the team developed the PC version themselves and sought out a different publisher.[33][34]

The PC version was first announced at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo.[35] Unlike the Xbox version, the PC version was published by 2K Games.[36] The game went gold in February 2007, shortly before its North American release.[37] The game released on February 27, 2007 in North America. It later released on March 2 in Europe and Australia.[38] The downloadable version was released through Steam and BioWare's online store on February 28.[39] It later released through GOG.com on June 11, 2013.[40] A port of Special Edition for macOS was developed and published by TransGaming on August 18, 2008.[41] Later ports for iOS and Android were developed and published by Aspyr respectively on October 6 and November 15, 2016.[42][43]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
PC Xbox
CVG 8.9/10[46] 9/10[47]
Eurogamer 7/10[48] 8/10[49]
Famitsu N/A 29/40[50]
GameSpot 7.8/10[51] 8.4/10[52]
GameSpy 4/5 stars[4] 5/5 stars[53]
IGN 8.6[54] 9.9/10[55]
PALGN 7.5/10[56] 9/10[57]
Aggregate score
Metacritic 81/100 (29 reviews)[44] 89/100 (84 reviews)[45]

Computer and Video Games spoke highly of the game, saying that the game's accessability would attract those introduced to BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic, calling Jade Empire "imaginative, accessible, beautiful to look at and incredibly immersive to play".[47] Rob Fahey of Eurogamer praised the aesthetics and replay value, but noted that the combat's lack of depth and limited customization options would be negatively viewed by some players.[49] Writing for GameSpot's Greg Kasavin was positive overall, his only complains being issues with combat balance and the game's short length.[52] Will Tuttle of GameSpy lauded every aspect of the game, calling it "the best [RPG] to ever hit the Xbox".[53] IGN's David Clayman was again highly positive, noting only camera difficulties that distracted from the flow of combat.[55] Luke van Leuveran of PALGN called Jade Empire "an amazing action RPG", praising its story and combat system.[57] Reviews of the Xbox version were positive overall, with the graphics and storyline coming in for the majority of praise. While the gameplay was seen as solid, its simplicity was frequently criticized.[d]

Suzy Wallace of Computer and Video Games felt that the Special Edition managed to reach beyond its roots on the Xbox to become a good-quality RPG for PCs, despite dated graphics and gameplay pacing issues.[46] Fahay, returning to review the PC port, was disappointed at the lack of graphical polish and technical upgrades over its console counterpart.[48] GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd shared points of praise and criticism with the Xbox review, while also noting that the PC version had few noticable enhancements over the Xbox version.[51] GameSpy's Allen Rausch enjoyed the storyline and gameplay, but noted the game's "grainy" cutscenes and some technical issues.[4] Steve Butts, writing for IGN, generally enjoyed the game but found the combat repetitive and noted a lack of new content.[54] Niel Booth, reviewing for PALGN, said that the game was enjoyable despite graphical and technical issues he raised.[56] While sentiments towards the story and gameplay remained unchanged for the PC version, people noted that the original gameplay faults were heightened by the PC controls and that the graphics looked dated by modern gaming standards.[e]

Later responses have continued to be positive. In 2010, the game was included in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[58] In a 2015 article, Mike Williams of USgamer said, "Jade Empire was such a unique game for BioWare, but it's one the studio never followed up on."[59]

Legacy[edit]

The decision to focus on both Jade Empire and their fantasy-themed Dragon Age: Origins resulted in BioWare passing over developing a sequel to Knights of the Old Republic. The sequel, titled Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, was given to Obsidian Entertainment.[9] Alongside his work on Jade Empire, Wikeley also created four different constructed languages for the Dragon Age series.[24] Wall would also work with BioWare again on Mass Effect and its sequel.[28]

In January 2007, BioWare staff announced there were no plans to develop Jade Empire 2.[60] However, BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk stated in September 2011: "It's an IP, it's a setting that we were really passionate about, and we still are. Both Greg and I were big believers in the IP... We're just looking for the right way to deploy it."[61] In 2009, GamesRadar included Jade Empire among the games "with untapped franchise potential", commenting: "The original game had all the trappings of franchise material with engrossing characters, magnificent settings, and a unique take on martial arts-fueled RPG combat. But until hard evidence of a sequel's existence materializes, we’ll continue yearning for BioWare's one-off hit to attain franchise status."[62]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ported to macOS by TransGaming, and iOS and Android by Aspyr.
  2. ^ PC port published by 2K Games, macOS version by TransGaming, and iOS and Android by Aspyr.
  3. ^ Jeido Enpaia ~ Hisui no Teikoku ~ (ジェイド エンパイア ~翡翠の帝国~, lit. Empire of Jade)
  4. ^ Computer and Video Games (for Xbox),[47] Eurogamer (for Xbox),[49] Famitsu (for Xbox),[50] GameSpot (for Xbox),[52] GameSpy (for Xbox),[53] IGN (for Xbox),[55] PALGN (for Xbox)[57]
  5. ^ Computer and Video Games (for PC),[46] Eurogamer (for PC),[48] GameSpot (for PC),[51] GameSpy (for PC),[4] IGN (for PC),[54] PALGN (for PC)[56]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]