‘Beyond Good and Evil 2’ Is a Technical Marvel, but Not Much Else Yet

Before you read any further, it’s best to get this out of the way: No, you won’t be playing “Beyond Good and Evil 2” anytime soon. The prequel to the 2003 cult hit from legendary game designer Michel Ancel has made tremendous progress since its announcement last summer. But one year later, developer Ubisoft Montpellier is only now starting to reveal how you’ll actually play the game.

In a private meeting at E3 2018, the studio gave an overview of the ambitious action-adventure RPG with the help of evocative concept art that hung on a wall. “Beyond Good and Evil 2” takes place at the end of the 24th century, in a universe where space pirates are one of the few factions brave enough to rebel against the oppressive rule of the corporations. You play as a space pirate (who you can customize in different ways), and it’s your job to find Dakini, a pirate captain who disappeared while searching for a sacred relic.

You’ll explore numerous worlds and cities as you try to unravel the mystery, but Ubisoft couldn’t reveal exact numbers yet. Senior producer Guillaume Brunier told Variety that it was too soon to nail down such finer details about “Beyond Good and Evil 2,” and that they still had a lot of work left ahead of them. Instead, the presentation focused on outlining some of the core features of the game, and how easily you can travel from the surface of a planet and into space.

“We want to make a game where you have the freedom to go wherever your want and do whatever you want, with or without your friends,” said Brunier.

The pre-alpha demo began in Ganesha, a futuristic city filled with images and references to Hindu mythology. Two developers were exploring a temple with their personalized characters, using hi-tech spyglasses to scan enemies (to see their weapons and abilities) and objects in the environment (to reveal pertinent info or lore about the world).

Their adventure eventually led them out into the streets — or as close as you can get to the streets. Ganesha is made up of towering structures, so flying is the preferred way to travel (think of New York City from “The Fifth Element”). After a brief chase with the local police around an impressively large elephant statue, the players summoned their fighter ships and flew into space, where their pirate mothership resided.

From this vantage point, you can scan Ganesha City and other points of interest with your spyglass, or go into the galaxy viewer for a more comprehensive look at the entirety of the planet. You can zoom back even further to see the galaxy and the different solar systems within it.

It looked stunning. The demo seamlessly transitioned from one perspective to the next without any framerate drops or glitches. The team explained that all this was possible because of “Beyond Good and Evil 2’s” state-of-the-art game engine, which they specifically designed to support what they call a limitless universe, one filled with intricate details on a micro and macro level.

“Thanks to the hard work of the tech team at Montpellier, we’ve achieved this breakthrough. Last year, we showed this from a planet-to-universe [perspective]. But this year, we’re showing it from an inside space to the end of the universe. … We’re really happy with the results it’s giving us,” said Brunier.

It’s impossible to say whether or not a full game’s worth of content would work just as well or smoothly as the demo. But the early results were promising, especially when you consider that the developers are trying to use this massive sandbox to tell a compelling story. And they’re enlisting a few familiar faces to help them. The “Beyond Good and Evil 2” E3 trailer revealed that the heroes from the first game (Jade and her pig-like partner Pey’j) will appear in the prequel, albeit in much different roles.

At this point in the timeline, Pey’j is the chief cook on Dakini’s ship, while Jade is a teenager who works for the corporations, helping them hunt down space pirates throughout the galaxy. Brunier hinted that teamwork will be an important element of the story, not just in terms of working with the remnants of Dakini’s crew, but also in assembling your own staff to run your ship.

“In BGE1, it was all about being a team: Jade is with Pey’j and her friends. The reason why they managed to overcome their obstacles is because they’re together. We want that to be conveyed in this game as well,” he said.

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