Rumored for years but finally confirmed at E3 2017, Ubisoft’s space pirate opera Beyond Good & Evil 2 has long been atop gamer wish lists. And for good reason: the 2003 original was an instant cult classic, earning several Game of the Year awards on the strength of its incredible storytelling and memorable characters. Players patiently waited for news of its follow-up – Beyond Good & Evil was initially planned as a trilogy – but for well over a decade, a sequel existed only in the minds of passionate fans.
Based on a guided demo at E3 2018, however, we can confirm that Beyond Good & Evil 2 is not only real, it’s one of the most ambitious video games ever conceived. Directed by design guru Michel Ancel, the massive action-adventure gives players a virtual universe to explore, blending together several game genres to create something wholly new.
The game is set in System 3, a galaxy populated by humans and human-animal hybrids. Dominant megacorporations have a vested interest in using the hybrids as slave labor. As a pirate, your character chooses to fight back against this oppressive regime by tracking down a mysterious artifact called the Moksha Gate, which, according to legend, will help the hybrids attain freedom.
Starting out in the bustling Ganesha City on the planet Soma, the demo highlighted Beyond Good & Evil 2’s co-operative play (it can also be played solo) as two space pirates infiltrated a temple to stop a crew of evil mercenaries experimenting on a hybrid monkey. Every player will wield a gun, sword, shield, and jetpack to zip around the battlefield, using special abilities to slow down time, repulse, or outright paralyze opponents. Players can also use a spyglass to gather intel about enemy augments, class, and even their job proficiency. Need a mechanic to help repair your pirate spaceship? Use your spyglass to hunt for potential recruits.
A short battle later and our heroes had freed the hybrid monkey, hopped onto vehicles – a spaceship and a flying motorcycle – and zoomed away to explore the wide-open space of Ganesha City. The enormous metropolis is a vertical playground, buildings soaring to the sky as spaceships, hoverbikes, and jetpacking citizens go about their daily business.
We fly by some people painting a huge mural of Ganesh, but that art may change based on the community’s contributions. Through a partnership with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRecord crowdsourcing platform, Ubisoft will let players help build out the world by submitting art and music ideas.
As one character admired the mural, the other was off dogfighting with the local police. Players can customize every aspect of their ships, tinkering with gear, modules, cosmetics, cabins, wings, energy, weapons, decals and more. We quickly learned that the slick, nimble fighters were just appetizers, however, when the heroes flew up and out of Ganesha City entirely, breaking through its atmosphere to enter orbit and rendezvous with the player’s substantially larger pirate mothership.
Donning a spacesuit, one character exited his ship to float around in space. Scanning Soma with the spyglass at this distance yielded more generalized information about the planet’s resources and politics. Looking away from Ganesha City, we spotted a giant, mysterious geoglyph on a different continent. Zooming out further hammered home the sheer size of Soma – all of it explorable – but it gets even bigger. System 3 contains several planets, each with its own cities and glyphs and mountains and deserts.
And astoundingly, it’s all one seamless world. From the bowels of the temple to the outer reaches out of the galaxy, Beyond Good & Evil 2’s world is an unbroken, connected play space. We never saw a load screen during our demo.
Of course, incomprehensible size only matters if it contains meaning, and Ubisoft is slyly keeping Beyond Good & Evil 2’s more granular details under wraps. How do we recruit crewmembers? How much is there to do on each planet? What exactly happened to former protagonist Jade? How big is it, really? We’ll doubtlessly learn more about this enthralling, interstellar adventure in the coming months.