As an RPG fan, it’s hard enough knowing that a good title is released only with the solar eclipse and even then you can’t be sure it will be what you expected. It’s humiliating enough seeing that modern day games are being ripped of their complexity so every 10 year old can play them because, as we all know, complex games don’t sell very well these days and even game developers have to eat. But when a developer such as Bioware announces that it’s going to dedicate its efforts mainly towards consoles, you start asking some serious questions about the future of the RPG genre on the PC. Jade Empire was released on the Xbox over two years ago and it was a first for the company for two reasons. For one, the game wasn’t based on a popular license, like Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic before it, and two, the battles were more action oriented, moving away from the complicated background calculations a la AD&D.
Just like with other Bioware titles, Jade Empire was praised by the gaming press, while we, the PC gamers, had no choice but to either buy an Xbox or sit and contemplate on how we were treated like second-class citizens. Fast-forward to 2007, when Bioware, with the help of Gray Matter studios, have finally ported Jade Empire to the PC, adding a very pompous Special Edition to the game’s title.
Being built upon a new intellectual property, Bioware had free reign on how the game universe would shape up and the rules that govern it, managing in the end to create an empire which although fictional, could have very well existed a long, long time ago. Asian influences can be seen everywhere, from the martial arts styles, the way the story begins and the building architecture to the soundtrack and the look of the characters. The Jade Empire is subtly different but at the same time similar to ancient China, since the producers left hints for the players to find, such as reverences to the Great Wall, the Huns – which are called Horselords – as well as the barbarians from the Far East… who just happen to be 100% British. And if regarding the technical side Jade Empire clearly shows its age, the art direction, dialogues and soundtrack are still as impressive as they were on the original launch day, sometimes creating a truly mesmerizing atmosphere.
The musical score composed by Jack Wall is simply superb. From the first time you hear it, you can feel in every sound, every tune the love and work that was put into its creation… and if you add to this the fact that it perfectly reflects the action on screen, you’re left with one the best game atmospheres ever. And it’s not just the music. All the dialogs are voiced by an impressive list of actors, who manage to deliver their lines extremely convincing throughout the game, no matter the character.