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FRONTBURNR | July 22, 2014

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Bring it Back – Jade Empire

| On 19, Jun 2013

Jade Empire was an Xbox (original) exclusive (for a limited time) released in April 2005 and was an action/RPG featuring various characters trained in multiple forms of the martial arts. Players were able to further develop advanced forms of martial arts, transformations, magic, and other deep, intriguing fighting tactics. It was developed by Bioware, published by Microsoft, Valve, and 2K Games and currently holds a score just under 90 on Metacritic and for good reason: it was a great game.

The dialogue system is seen as the groundwork for Bioware’s MMORPG, Star Wars the Old Republic, a game that has built its foundation on story and narrative. In Jade Empire, players could experiment with different romance options as well, perhaps providing a precursor to the Mass Effect series we know and love. Truly, Jade Empire was a unique blend of story and gameplay, which is why it’s so surprising that we’ve waited this long to Bring it Back!

It’s difficult to take a storied franchise and resurrect it. Fans will certainly clamor over it, but there are some who may have forgotten it even exists or worse, never played it to begin with. After all, it was released eight years ago.

Jade_Empire_CoverartThe first focus should be combat. The original installment wasn’t turn based, so players were constantly in real-time action sequences. Very few games have pulled off the wonderful, hand-to-hand (or weapon based) combat that Rocksteady did with the Batman Arkham Series. Incorporating that slick, fluid movement into Jade Empire would upgrade it to a level that we’re familiar with today. Jade Empire focuses as much on combat as it does on story, so it’s important that the combat systems, as there are many, are as fleshed out and easy to use as possible.

A key component to any RPG, and it’s no different here, is the story. Set in ancient China for its duration, the inital Jade Empire featured multiple NPC’s, quests, romances, and various endings dependent on the characters choices throughout each of the chapters. We’ve seen games take up this mantle, Mass Effect to name just one. To ensure that the level of story depth remains, players need to be provided with options that make the experience feel unique to their individual tastes. In an imaginary world, regardless of its inspiration from the actual ancient China, developers could create just about anything for players to work towards (even giant crabs).

It’s not enough to simply ask Bioware to update the graphics though, no sir. Instead, there are some areas for improvement. For one, item drops. Players could use weapons throughout the game that were dependent on the selected combat focus. RPG fans adhere to a simple truth: we love loot. There’s something about getting higher damage, cooler skills, or just plain awesome looking ‘stuff’ to use intrigues us. It lets us feel as if we’re unique, so having a deep loot system featuring millions of various items would appeal to RPG fans, dungeon crawlers, and others.

Also, after seeing the success of games like World of Warcraft and to a lesser extent Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, giving players skill trees for each character is a necessity. Previously mentioned Mass Effect, KoA: Reckoning, and even The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have all focused on presenting players with branching stories and skill customization. It gives the player an even deeper feeling of “I’m unique and I’m awesome” — key in today’s RPG market.

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We’re entering a new console generation and with the last, no mention of Jade Empire ever crossed the lips of Bioware or publishers Valve, Microsoft, or 2K Games — yes, all three had a hand in the publishing for particular platforms. Bioware is still responsible for the IP though, so finding a new publisher wouldn’t be too difficult with EA holding the reins. A retail release that implements some of the new advancements we’ve seen in gaming, the mystical setting of ancient China and the story elements that this studio is capable of would most certainly cause a stir within the gaming community.

It’s high time we bring Jade Empire back.