Released in 2005, Jade Empire pretty much followed the approach of most BioWare 2000s RPGs. There was a morality wheel, love interests, the player’s customized character, a combat system you either liked or could do without, and a “solid at the minimum” storyline.
The graphics for this time were pretty good given everything that was going on in the game. The special effects for things such as projectile blasts were nothing special and at the times Jade Empire could look and play like a better crafted version of the PlayStation 2 series Evergrace if you’ve played better done BioWare games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, or Dragon Age.
So why does Jade Empire warrant a reboot or remake?
Potential. Jade Empire is a wuxia game when there are very, very few. One would think the concept of mystical kung fu and the associated journey of a young master looking to combat evil and become the ultimate master would be a concept various studios would jump on. It’s an easy concept that requires little in the way of crafting a story, actually. Writers could watch any early-mid 1970s Golden Harvest or Shaw Brothers feature and be able to pull enough stories and plots for three games.
Jade Empire delivered mostly in innovated mechanics than in depth plots. It was all about the player character finding out about himself/herself, mastering martial arts, and befriending other martial artists while balancing between a closed hand/open hand approach to dealing with issues. There was typical plot devices of old school kung fu films and folklore: a bandit attack, the supernatural, a disgraced student, a child taken from a monastery, monks attacked by an evil ruler. There wouldn’t have been much work required in crafting the story.
If the series had continued into the later 2000s and into the 2010s, the main things would’ve been better graphics and a much better combat system. The storyline would’ve had some tweaking since BioWare is terrific at writing a deep story that players can really get into, but this is where Jade Empire would’ve benefited from just a full on reboot.
With a reboot, BioWare could put in a plot device that would keep the player coming back from game to game in the series. Some scrolls that the main character and his/her party has to retrieve or an artifact shattered into pieces—all the while, an antagonist and their minions are hunting the same thing. At different parts in the game the character’s piece or pieces of the artifact might be taken.
Is this a simple concept?
Of course, but it’s worked for several major series in media. In the Square developed Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, and several Mario games there’s retrieving seven stars, in Sonic the Hedgehog there’s hunting down the chaos emeralds, the original DragonBall had Goku, Bulma and company hunting down the dragonballs. It’s an overdone idea, but it works and its not complex. If a company writes a strong enough story and likable characters around this concept players will overlook it.
BioWare have said there were no actual plans to bring back Jade Empire, but the founders said they wanted to do something with the series, but were trying to see where to go with it. Since then those founders have retired from BioWare and the company is focused on their big two franchises (Mass Effect and Dragon Age) and two newer ones. For now we’ll just have to hope that a new Jade Empire is announced out of nowhere at a future E3.