We're at E3 2017 covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2017 hub!
We're done with the Ubisoft press conference, and still reeling from an unlikely surprise. Beyond Good & Evil 2 is indeed still happening, and has a delightful fancy cinematic trailer to prove it.
But do you even remember Beyond Good & Evil? Maybe. It's nearly fifteen years old. So it can nearly drive a car.
Beyond Good & Evil was an unlikely surprise when it released. It was directed by Michel Ancel, a part of Ubisoft Montpellier, who was once known for the Rayman series. The 2003 action-adventure game was different from Rayman in nearly every way: it wasn't a platformer, it starred a takes-no-bullshit woman and her talking pig companion. In an era where nearly every woman in video games was an overtly busty, sexualized object, Jade stood out. She was a fully realized character, with her own story and ambitions.
The world wasn't ready for Beyond Good & Evil, it seemed. It sold extremely poorly, marked as a commercial failure despite its immense critical success. It was even nominated as Game of the Year at the Game Developer's Choice Awards. The game went on to be a cult classic of sorts. Beyond Good & Evil was loved and praised for its unique world, colorful crew of characters, and its exciting story. The action was secondary to everything else, but honestly, that wasn't too shabby either.
Beyond Good & Evil, despite its dreadful sales, ended up being greenlit for a sequel. The game itself, from the start, was initially intended to be a trilogy. It was 2008—already five years after the original's release—when an official announcement was made. Director Michel Ancel had noted to French magazine JeuxVideo even before its official announcement that he had been working on the sequel for a year and a half, though without Ubisoft's direct greenlight. That greenlight shined onto the game in 2008, when Ubisoft officially unveiled a brief teaser on Ubidays press event in France.
The original teaser looks very much like a direct sequel: we see Pey'j, Jade's pig-like guardian and mentor, facing the camera. In the background is assumedly Jade, sitting cross-legged on a vehicle with a parasol over head, though her back facing us. Pey'j inhales a bee, the camera pans out to a desert, and that's all we see.
Then, for years, it was crickets. There was doubt in the air—reports that Ancel was leaving Ubisoft (these ended up being false), among just casual silence surrounding the game. In 2012, screenshots were shown off. A video reportedly leaked on NeoGAF, showing an Assassin's Creed-like version of Beyond Good & Evil 2 of Jade parkouring her way around. The footage was met with controversy, some wondering how far along the game even was—and if this was what they even wanted in a sequel.
In 2012 also, Ubisoft confirmed the game was in active development. But 2016 is when more rumors began to cement about the long-awaited sequel's inevitable comeback into the public eye. The title Beyond Good & Evil was filed for a trademark on the IP. Ancel himself posted a few pieces of concept art onto his Instagram, even thanking Ubisoft for making it possible between hashtags. Maybe the game wasn't dead in the water after all.
Last year was the first time we really knew that Beyond Good & Evil 2 was actually still alive after all these years. Before that were just doubts, as if it were alive once and then snuffed out quietly, as some games are. Talk arose again this year, when Ancel was asked if the game would be at E3 this year. He said it wouldn't, urged we might see it later in the year though.
Well, so much for that.
But the new trailer is markedly different from what we've seen before. What may or may not have been Jade was only seen through the context of a close-up narrowed on her eyes. And then with Ancel on Ubisoft's E3 2017 stage, buzzwords like "multiplayer" and hints of a prequel fell upon ears. It seems at one point—possibly around 2014, or even 2016 when concept art was shared—Beyond Good & Evil 2 shifted its focus entirely. The game we see today hardly looks like the game before it (and not just graphically, obviously).
The hardcore fans seem pleased though, as evidenced by a Twitter-wide freak out. Given Ubisoft's recent offerings being majority open-world, unlike the original Beyond Good & Evil, I wonder if its sequel-prequel-whatever-it-is will adopt this design philosophy. Maybe it can be successful by bringing a crew to a new fully-realized world to explore. But sometimes, I just want that ever-linear, single-player experience, like the one that made the original so special.