BioWare’s Jade Empire Is Free On Origin

BioWare may be all about dragons and space-robots nowadays, but a decade ago they’d set aside their wizard hats and pulse rifles to binge hard on martial arts movies. The result was Jade Empire, from that interesting phase when BioWare shifted from, y’know, RPG-y RPGs, to their more action-focused modern ways. It’s a mess in a lot of ways, but it may be interesting to you. It won’t cost you much to find out, as EA have set Jade Empire free on Origin for a while.

Jade Empire’s interesting for BioWare trying their hand at beat ’em up-ish fighting like Devil May Cry or something, all in real time with different equippable stances that have different moves. Figuring out which styles to invest in and which to combo together, along with which companions to bring along to, was pretty interesting. I found it pretty bad compared to actual fighting games, though, and too easy to cheese.

If you dig BioWare RPGs, hey, Jade Empire is a BioWare RPG! You’ll travel a world, chat, help people, make world-changing moral decisions, and maybe even do some kissing. It’s wonky, but interesting – especially for free.

Head on over to Origin to grab it for free. Claim it now and you’ll have it for keepsies. Yes, you’ll need an Electronic Arts account and yes you’ll need the Origin client, but if you consider either of those to be deal-breakers when it comes to free games, perhaps rather than going on about it – as you do every gosh darn time – perhaps try saying “You got me again, Ian Arts! You scamp you!” then shake your fist and make a grumpy growling noise and I’m sure you’ll feel a lot better.

44 Comments

  1. SMGreer says:

    I adore this game. Brimming with colour and imagination, a must for Bioware/RPG fans.

    And for free, definitely worth anybody’s time.

  2. deiseach says:

    Got it, Because I Can. It’s not a brilliant game, set on rails as it is. But the story! It is a rattling good yarn, and the third-way ending is absolute genius.

  3. Troubletcat says:

    I played through this on Xbox back in the day… I’ve been looking for an excuse to get the PC version and play through it again.

    I guess this is it!

  4. Laurentius says:

    It’s absolute classic for me. Probably my favourite Bioware game. (kotor2 being Obsydian ). Combat is fluid and setting is interesting. Story comes actuall from time when Bioware has a respect in this department. It has well constructed plot. Graphics still holds up great, only problem is 30 FPS lock.

  5. Yachmenev says:

    I tried to play it on the original XBOX, but the enemies with missile attacks just made me angry. Is it worth a new try, or is it just for nostalgia now?

  6. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Love this. Jade Empire was a lot of fun. Lots of issues, but it didn’t matter. I’m glad to have it in a format that works easily on Win 10 and doesn’t require me to have all the disks.

    Also:

    “Yes, you’ll need an Electronic Arts account and yes you’ll need Origin, but if you consider either of those are deal-breakers when it comes to free games, perhaps rather than going on about it – as you do ever gosh darn time – perhaps try saying “You’ve got me again, Ian Arts! You scamp you!” then shake your fist and make a grumpy growling noise and I’m sure you’ll feel a lot better.”

    This is why I will always love you, RPS.

  7. dkfgo says:

    You’ve got me again, Ian Arts! You scamp you!

    • Czrly says:

      Sigh… I guess I’ll go about installing Origin again…

      Have you noticed? Not only is this FREE, it also comes with a money-back guarantee. Nice to know.

    • Czrly says:

      Does anyone know if you have to actually complete the installation to keep it for the future or is it sufficient to log in and click the orange Install button and then cancel it while it is still downloading? I’d rather skip the install+uninstall flick-flacks.

      • Czrly says:

        (I started the download, agreed with the cruft and clicked through all the dialogs and then right-clicked on the thing in “My Games” and hit cancel. It appears to still be in my library but will it remain?)

        • egattocs says:

          I just clicked the download button on a PC at work that doesn’t even have origin installed. I then received an email from EA confirming my “purchase” (at £0 of course), so I suspect it treats just clicking the button on the site as a complete purchase and will probably stay in your library now. That’s my guess at least.

        • Devan says:

          I’ve done the same thing for previous “On the house” games and they’ve all stayed in my library.

          I loved this game when I first played it (back when I had the time to actually finish RPGs). This really makes me want to start another playthrough.

      • Bluerps says:

        All the games in my Origin library that I got for free through this promotion are still there. I never installed several of them.

  8. DrMcCoy says:

    Shameless self-promotion: I have a reimplementation project that targets the BioWare 3D games, including Jade Empire, called xoreos: link to xoreos.org

    In the current state, Jade Empire is far from playable, though. It can show basic ingame areas, with area geometry and object models, and lets you fly around them with WASD.

    So while xoreos is not yet fit for user consumption yet, so to speak, we are looking for more developers to join the cause. :)

  9. int says:

    John Cleese was great in it.

  10. suibhne says:

    The overall setting was done quite nicely. People familiar with Barry Hughart’s books might find JE a bit generic, but Bioware did a fine job of transplanting their RPG focus to a magical grab-bag of the Western imagination of the Far East.

    I was also pleasantly surprised by the combat. Despite this marking Bio’s first turn to twitch-oriented combat, it works very nicely. The combat styles and animations are particularly great fun for any fans of martial arts cinema. And it’s worth noting that, even tho the game debuted on XBox, Bioware did a stellar job of implementing mouse-and-keyboard controls.

    It’s worth playing for an action-RPG fan.

  11. Darth Gangrel says:

    I’d rather get it from GoG, but it’s great that it’s free for people who can be arsed to install/already have Origin. I have too much on Steam and GoG to even consider getting a third digital retailer account.

    • waltC says:

      Only time I use Origin is to get titles that are unavailable on Steam/Gog.

  12. anHorse says:

    My favourite Bioware game

    Also it’s the only one that at least tried to make the morality more than good/evil which was interesting (although about half of the closed fist choices were still cartoony evil)

    • magogjack says:

      Which puts it about a million years ahead of Kotor’s “morality system.”

      I would rather see a sequel to this then another lifeless (or any) Dragon Age installment.

  13. Solidstate89 says:

    I loved Jade Empire. If you go by the number of completed playthroughs, it’s easily my most played Bioware RPG to date. I probably finished 9 or 10 times. I’ve wanted a sequel for this game since I beat it the first time.

    I loved the lore, I loved the setting and how completely different it was to not only the other Bioware RPGs up until that point, but basically any RPG that was on the market at the time. Also, the combat was damn fun.

    I already have this game as a purchase on Steam, but for free, I’ll add it to my Origin catalog. Why not?

  14. DOHrps2015 says:

    I have downloaded this and, unlike the majority of games Origin does this with, it works absolutely fine on my modern PC. Scales right up to 2560/1600 and looks just fine.

  15. mavrik says:

    So, the heretical question (since my computer is permanetly mated to the TV): Does it support Xbox 360 controllers? :/

    • SomeDuder says:

      I want to say yes, because I honestly cannot remember playing it with the ol’ M+KB, but Steam’s Store does show it only has partial controller support. I THINK it’s talking about the menus which you need a mouse to navigate, but I can’t recall. You might wanna do some research if 100% gamepad support is what you need to achieve maximum climax tho, since it’s been a small ice age since I played this.

      I do recall that it’s a wonderful little game. It won’t take obscene amounts of time to complete and offers some fresh combat (kung fu will never not be cool, especially with elemental magics/styles) backed by soothing pling-plong music (standard Chinese fair).

    • suibhne says:

      As long as you have it working with your computer as a controller, yes. JE was an XBox original, and it moved to PC with full controller support (as well as good m+k support).

    • suibhne says:

      This may be relevant to your needs: link to forums.steampowered.com

  16. Michael Fogg says:

    Wait, no comments about the harmful Orientalism of JE, did all the liberal arts students head home for xmas already?

    Seriously, probably my favourite Bioware game, so much better than the lurid mess of Dragon Age

    • ffordesoon says:

      I think most “liberal arts students” tend to take an “at least it was fucking trying” view of JE. There’s definitely some unavoidable Orientalism in there, but it’s also one of the few Western videogames ever to try a hand at non-Western European (read: nonwhite) fantasy, and one of even fewer to do so largely successfully. It stood out at the time for that, and it stands out even more now.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        What kind of wrongthink is that, good intentions are never an excuse :P

    • suibhne says:

      “Orientalism” isn’t generally used like you seem to think it’s used. JE is a pretty anodyne example, quite along the lines of the fantasy in Hughart or even Guy Gavriel Kay.

    • ShatteredAwe says:

      “Liberal Arts Students”

      I don’t get it. What’s so bad about studying liberal arts. You know, we can’t all be STEM majors, right?

      Also, nice bait.

  17. Ross Angus says:

    For those who don’t know: this game features a SHMUP section. No, really.

    On the version I played, because it was designed for 4:3 monitors, the sea ran out at the sides of the screen.

  18. maninahat says:

    I’ve had this from GOG for a long time, but have never got it to work on my PC. Might give it another try.

  19. Archangel says:

    What a magnificent game, filled to the brim with charm and heart. It is one of the few games that made me break down while playing it.(the Drowned Orphans quest)

  20. ffordesoon says:

    I have. Probably still my personal favorite Bioware game, for all its awkwardness.

  21. WJonathan says:

    It was one of Bioware’s weakest in terms of strategic combat, but a beautifully drawn game with memorable characters and an engaging story. And it was quite humorous, particularly Brian Doyle-Murray as the fight promoter. It may have been Bioware’s finest adventure game.

    • Rednecksith says:

      Agreed. Even then, combat could be fun, and you had a reasonable amount of freedom in terms of fighting style. Refine and balance the combat, open up the world a bit, and this would be one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Well, it still IS, but it would be right at the top with relatively little modification.

      Death’s Hand… he still gives me chills.

  22. Xander77 says:

    I don’t understand the highly qualified tone of this recommendation. KotoR 2 or VtM are “wonky but interesting”. Jade Empire is just a very good game, no more a mess than any other Bioware RPG, and certainly less so than quite a few of them.

    • Immobile Piper says:

      Yeah. The combat system isn’t great, but for a Bioware RPG it’s a nice distraction. Rest of it, yeah, it’s a bioware RPG. By the time I played it that was a bit tiresome, but it’s by no means a bad game.

  23. zaphod42 says:

    >Jade Empire’s interesting for BioWare trying their hand at beat ‘em up-ish fighting like Devil May Cry or something

    WHAT? I’m sorry, but WHAT? Alice where is this coming from? That isn’t remotely true. Jade Empire plays out exactly like KOTOR, very similar to Mass Effect or Dragon Age. It is literally nothing like Devil May Cry in any way, shape, or form.

    Like honestly, I don’t mean to be mean but have you ever even played Devil May Cry or have you only seen it? Because that statement makes no sense whatsoever.

    • Xander77 says:

      I’ve never played DMC, but Jade Empire doesn’t play “very similar” to Mass Effect or Dragon Age in any sense of the word.

  24. Scandalon says:

    The difference in setting is nice, and the graphics are quite nice for an XBOX 1 (not XBOne) game, I found it rather tedious. Voiceacting? Yuck. Trying to get to grips with the combat in the first tutorial, getting trounced whilst supposedly this greatly advanced student – not exactly smooth. I stopped after the second attempt at the first real combat encounter, I couldn’t stand to sit through that unskippable (stilted, not-in-any-way-entertaining the first time) cutscene again.

    Does it genuinely get better?

  25. Rednecksith says:

    One of Bioware’s absolute best games. Story and setting simply ARE the best they’ve ever done, hands down. It’s absolutely criminal that they never did any more games in the Jade Empire universe.

    Yes, it was fairly linear, and the combat could be iffy, but nowhere near bad enough to detract from the overall experience of the game. The ‘twist’ halfway through I honestly didn’t see coming (unlike Bioshock Infinite’s, which I figured out after about ten minutes) either, even though in retrospect there was a TON of foreshadowing. Kind of like KOTOR, you just want to smack yourself for not seeing it.

    It’s been a few years. Time for another play through, I think.