E3 2006: The RPGs

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After taking a year off from E3 for the birth of my son, I was back on the show floor fighting my way through an army of fellow gamers. My appointments this year included private demos of Dungeon Siege II: Broken World, Gothic III, Hellgate: London, Jade Empire PC, Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights 2, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, The Witcher, Titan Quest, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I'll be writing about each of these games in the order that I saw them at the show, starting with...

Jade Empire PC

Following on the success of Jade Empire on the Xbox, BioWare has teamed up with LTI Gray Matter to port the RPG over to the PC. LTI is actually handling the entire conversion process, while BioWare will be doing all of the new content and QA. Aside from the obviously different control scheme, the new version will feature major graphical enhancements and all-new content.

BioWare explained that they are focusing on making the PC controls very natural by using the standard W, A, S, and D keys and a mouse-driven interface, though the game will also support a gamepad if you'd rather retain a console feel. As far as graphical enhancements go, the ported version will support a much higher resolution, as well as enhanced textures and special effects. And, learning from their mistake with the PC port of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare is also making sure the interface will scale to whatever resolution you're playing the game at.

We won't be seeing any new areas added to the game for the ported version. Instead, BioWare has decided to add new styles and weapons, and allow all players to choose Monk Zeng as their starting character (the character previously only available on the Limited Edition Xbox version). Two styles we were told will be included were Iron Palm and Viper, the latter of which strikes an opponent at five critical points on their body and unleashes poison with each successful hit.

Additionally, the game's AI has been revamped, therefore making the game more challenging. The game's (easy) setting will actually be comparable to the normal difficulty on the Xbox, therefore making the (normal) and (hard) settings that much more challenging for veteran players. If you're playing the game on a PC equipped with hardware well above the minimum requirements, you'll also notice that all of the game's areas load much faster from that of the Xbox version. Speaking of minimum requirements, we were also told that they're shooting for a minimum of 256MB of RAM, a GeForce3 or higher video card, and a DirectX 9-compatible sound card.

Though they have yet to choose a publisher, BioWare is currently planning to release Jade Empire for the PC by the end of this year. Barring any unforeseen issues, we should be playing the martial arts RPG over the holidays.