The Wasted Opportunity of Jade Empire
Imagine, if you will, that you were a respected game developer fresh off the heels of releasing a game focused on one of the most recognisable franchises on the planet. Furthermore, it was a massive hit, and you’re close to releasing a new IP. This was the case with Bioware several years ago. They had just released Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic and had generated a significant amount of buzz among players and critics. Their upcoming title was Jade Empire.
Everything was poised for success; not only did the team have everything they had learned form KOTOR, but they had an amazing IP. Jade Empire is set in a mythological China in the distant past. On top of that, the developers had created a rich backstory, as well as a mythos similar to that of Star Wars‘ Light Side/Dark Side. Players were thrown deep into a rich world where choices mattered; whether someone lived or died, whether you gained or lost followers, who ruled the kingdom at the end of the game – everything came together based on player choices.
On top of this, NPCs were unique from each other, providing history, as well as opinions on current events. Coupled with how much mythology the game had, as well as a significant amount of side quests, this gave players a massive sense of grandeur. While the game had just enough of a playable world for the story, players were shown a glimpse of what lay beyond the borders. The game was a masterful lesson in world building. With the parts of the world that were mentioned but left untouched, Bioware had enough to build upon for a number of sequels. But first, they’d have to see what players thought of the game first.
When it was released, Jade Empire immediately became a sensation. Players fell in love with the world. Many loved the combat system, which was a much improved version of the one seen in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. In short, it proved to be everything that a developer would want. After releasing a massive hit with KotOR, Bioware managed to repeat their success.
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However, it looked like this history was going to repeat itself in more than one way; after the success of KOTOR, Bioware refused to work on the sequel, instead choosing to work on Mass Effect. A few years later a Special Edition was released still with no sign of a sequel. Other than that, there hasn’t been any work on anything related to Jade Empire. This was a wasted opportunity; many game developers would jump to create a hit that they love and have enough room to create sequels.
However, it looks as though – roughly 15 years after its original release – Jade Empire won’t see any kind of sequel, be it direct or indirect. It’s a shame. I’m sure that many players would love one.