Even among highly acclaimed titles like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire remains one of BioWare’s most beloved RPGs. The game was released in 2005 to a muted commercial reception, but now it’s been confirmed that the studio once had plans for a follow-up.
Jade Empire was released toward the end of original Xbox era, just a few months before the launch of the Xbox 360. When Microsoft’s sophomore console hit shelves, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka hinted that a sequel was in the works and set for release on the new hardware.
Apparently, the project was actually already in active development. However, production would soon be interrupted by concerns that the franchise wasn’t popular enough to make a sequel profitable — so some major changes were made, and the game started to be taken in a different direction.
The historical setting of the original Jade Empire was jettisoned in favor of a near-future locale, and the project took on the codename Revolver. The big idea was to combine the kind of open-world action players had seen in titles like Crackdown with the detailed narratives and memorable characters that fans expected from BioWare. Unfortunately, pulling off this delicate blend proved to be rather difficult.
Beta testing revealed that players could use their traversal abilities to skip over key moments in the narrative, or bypass quest-essential characters. While the team managed to come up with some novel solutions, it ultimately emerged that the project’s various influences didn’t mesh that well.
Revolver ended up being cancelled in 2009, just as the Mass Effect trilogy was really taking off. We haven’t heard too much about any kind of follow-up to Jade Empire since then — but as recently as nine months ago, senior BioWare staffer Mike Laidlaw confirmed that the idea of a sequel is never quite off the table.
Jade Empire is available now for PC, Xbox 360, and mobile devices.