Jade Empire is an action role-playing game developed by Canadian developer BioWare and first published in 2005 by Microsoft Game Studios as a worldwide release for the Xbox. The later, two-disc Limited Edition contained extra content. On May 10, 2006 BioWare announced a version for Microsoft Windows, to be published by 2K Games and developed by LTI Gray Matter, which was subsequently released in North America on February 26, 2007 as a Special Edition. The Special Edition was also released through the Steam delivery system on February 27, 2007 published by Valve Corporation. Jade Empire was released as an Xbox Original on Microsoft's Xbox 360 on July 21, 2008. TransGaming Technologies announced immediate availability of the Special Edition for Intel-based Macs on August 18, 2008.
Jade Empire follows the style of the Wuxia genre within a mythical setting inspired by ancient China. The player, who can be either male or female, progresses through an adventure based on traditional martial arts and can discover and develop new fighting styles: martial arts, weapon styles, magic styles, support styles, or transformation styles. Combat is not turn-based, but is in real time, granting players control over how and when characters dodge or attack.
The role playing statistic system in Jade Empire uses a tri-stat system Body, Mind, and Spirit. These primary stats control the secondary stats of Health, Focus, and Chi (respectively), and the conversation skills of Charm, Intuition, and Intimidation. Focus is used by fighting with weapon styles (such as a longsword or a staff) or by choosing "focus mode", which slows the movements of other characters, allowing the player to attack at high speeds. Chi is a character's spirit energy. The player can use it to heal themself, to charge up a powerful "chi strike" to deal large damage, or to use it as "mana" when casting spells or transformations. Health, focus, and chi can be replenished by collecting power-ups left by defeated enemies in combat or by using Focus Shrines and Spirit Fonts found in the game world. Additionally, certain party members have the ability to add their power to yours—refilling your stats while they remain out of harm's way.
Certain aspects of Jade Empire's gameplay engine, dialogue and quest systems are handled in a way that is very similar to BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games for the Xbox and PC. Players can speak to NPCs in the game's towns and other areas, asking questions for information to learn more about the world, the storyline, and other characters. Many of these NPCs will offer the player side quests that can be completed for experience points and items. These quests often have more than one method of completion depending on whether the player chooses to follow the "High path" (in the game referred to as The Way of the Open Palm) or the "Low path" (The Way of the Closed Fist). The player can respond to questions or take courses of action that are consistent with the philosophy he or she follows; different actions will affect a character's alignment and his or her ability to cast certain spells or equip certain items.
There is also a vertical-scrolling airplane shooter included in Jade Empire as a mini-game, which is triggered by certain events in the storyline. In the mini-game, only the health and chi bars are active. Chi is replenished by shooting enemies, and is used for special attacks specific to the mini-game. The yellow focus spheres will upgrade your primary cannon up to three times. Red health spheres refill your health bar as in the main game.
Jade Empire also features the constructed language Tho Fan developed by Wolf Wikeley, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at the University of Alberta.
The Windows version of Jade Empire is known as the 'Special Edition'. It is based on the Xbox 'Limited Edition', and also includes the Monk Zeng character but not the Tien's Justice weapon style (both of which are available in the Limited Edition described above). Changes from the Xbox version includes increased resolutions up to 1600x1200 (1920x1200 in Widescreen), new special effects and redrawn textures, two new martial styles (Iron Palm and Viper), a new rhino demon transformation, new monsters, new high level weapons, an improved AI with enemies able to take cover more often; a new "Jade Master" difficulty level, with ability to import save games; a new world map interface; and keyboard and hotkey support. It also contains a bonus art book and poster.