Back in 2005 BioWare released Jade Empire, its first video game not tied to a pre-existing license since its debut game, Shattered Steel. The martial arts action/RPG was unlike any other RPG at the time, and garnered strong critical praise. Game Informer's Matthew Kato scored it a 9.5, saying "this game proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the company is more than capable of standing on its own two feet." But instead of receiving a direct sequel, the franchise stayed frozen as if it were hit with a vicious blow from a master of the Paralyzing Palm style. 

That's not to say BioWare didn't try to make a sequel. A small team tried several different approaches to improve the combat and take the franchise in a new direction. But by the time they landed on a workable idea, studio heads Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk made the tough call to shut down the project to focus resources on its upcoming fantasy and sci-fi offerings, which became the successful Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises. More than 11 years later, the desire return to Jade Empire still burns brightly in some of those who worked on the original.  

"Jade as a sequel is never dead," said BioWare creative director Mike Laidlaw, who worked as a lead writer on the original.

"There are a lot of people still at the studio who worked on that game and want to get back to it," said BioWare GM Aaryn Flynn. "I think one of the advantages to getting back to it after a long time is not only nostalgia is a very powerful feeling in people, but skipping a generation of hardware is actually really exciting because it feels like it's not an evolution. It's a revolution of what you can do, and I think that's the kind of thing that brings people. What if we were to revolutionize Jade Empire and brought it back in that regard? That's the kind of talk that still happens around the studio."

To read more about Jade Empire and the rest of BioWare's rich past, check out the 16-page "Dungeons & Doctors" oral history in the latest issue of Game InformerPrint subscribers should see their issues arriving in the next week or two, but it will be available later today if you subscribe digitally (available on PC/MaciPadAndroid, and Google Play). You can also get the latest issue through third-party apps on NookKindle, and Zinio starting tomorrow. To switch your print subscription to digital, click here. To create a new subscription to the digital edition, click here.

Our Take 
Jade Empire may not have met the financial goals BioWare set for the project, but the vibrant world begged for a sequel. Here's to hoping one day the studio returns to the martial arts setting.