E3 06: Jade Empire PC Impressions

We take an up-close look at the PC version of BioWare's martial arts-inspired action role-playing game at E3 2006.

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LOS ANGELES--If there's anything that embodies the spirit of the Electronic Entertainment Expo more than a private press demonstration of the PC version of BioWare's Jade Empire, we don't want to hear about it. No, seriously. Save it. The PC version of the game will not be published by Microsoft Game Studios (in fact, BioWare is currently seeking a publishing partner now)--a development that, according to designer Kevin Martens, gives the studio much more freedom (and adequate time) to polish the PC game until it shines. The Xbox game is being ported to the PC by LTI Gray Matter, a development house that has handled several console ports for Activision.

The primary differences between the PC version of Jade Empire and the Xbox version will be in the control scheme, new fighting styles and weapons, and graphical enhancements that will take advantage of new PC hardware, such as enhanced bloom effects and more use of dynamic lighting. We saw a few different environments, such as the village at the beginning of the game, as well as several of the temple areas later on, and noticed a marked improvement in lighting and texture detail over the Xbox version.

The control scheme apparently uses the standard PC first-person shooter setup, using the W, A, S, and D keys to move (and the Q and E keys to activate mystical "ki" powers and healing options) and the mouse to swap between different fighting styles and to deliver attacks to your enemies.

The PC version of the game will include several new fighting styles, such as Iron Palm (a fighting style inspired by Sumo wrestling) and Viper Style (a fighting style inspired by the 1978 cinematic classic The Five Venoms). The game will also feature several high-end exclusive weapons that advanced players will probably make good use of in the game's enhanced higher-difficulty modes. Apparently, the game's "easy" setting will remain about the same as in the Xbox version, while "normal" difficulty will be slightly tougher and "hard" difficulty will be much tougher. According to Martens, this is more or less what BioWare's fan community requested.

BioWare hopes to complete development on Jade Empire for the PC later this year, though again, no publisher has been announced at this time.

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