Beyond Good & Evil 2 was officially announced in May 2008 by Michel Ancel, with a trailer running in-engine, showing off two characters from the original game, Jade and Peyj. A year later, another trailer was leaked showing Jade dashing down a crowded street, and while Ancel confirmed the trailer was the real deal, Ubisoft denied releasing the footage intentionally.
It's now been nine years since the game was confirmed to be in development, and we've pretty much heard nothing since. Ancel and Ubisoft explained time and time again that the game was still in development, but with no announcements being made, people assumed the game had gone the way of, at the time, The Last Guardian and Half-Life 3.
Then in 2016, Ancel said Ubisoft Montpellier had halted work on BG&E2 to develop Rayman Legends, but the work they did on Legends would assist them in developing BG&E2. Toward the end of the year, Ancel took to social media to post images from the game, showing off a younger looking Pey. Ubisoft confirmed the game's existence shortly afterward, then during Ubisoft's E3 2017 presentation, we saw the first trailer for the game in nearly 10 years.
The trailer kicks off by showing an anthropomorphic pig in a restaurant, sat opposite a monkey, partaking in some form of trade where the monkey exchanges a statue for a disc. Turns out the pig and monkey are named Zhou and Knox respectively, and when Zhou realises Knox has traded him a fake, Knox uses his grappling hook to escape through a window in the roof before using his jetpack to scamper across the rooftops and meet a human named Shani, who's waiting on a hoverbike. The rest of the trailer is spent showing the pair avoiding missiles before they hijack a ship and escape to what appears to be their home base; an enormous ship, inhabited by various species of hybrid creatures and humans.
Ubisoft released a trailer breakdown video where Ancel goes into detail about every aspect of the trailer. For example, in the Beyond Good & Evil universe, pigs are considered to be superior to monkeys, as Zhou alludes to slaves and masters, and laughs at Knox when he says he's in a rush because he has a "hot date". Ancel goes on to explain that there is a social system in place between the hybrid creatures and they've even developed culture and religion. The idol that Knox produces portrays a pig deity called 'Peyjin', which is apparently where the name for our pig friend from the first game, Peyj, comes from, similar to the name Mohammed in Islam or Peter in Christianity.
In an exclusive interview with our E3 team, Ancel explained that diversity and culture is one of the main points they want to explore with Beyond Good & Evil 2:
"Beyond Good & Evil has always been close to reality somehow, it was about an investigation, about propaganda, media control and all these things. When we released BG&E1 it was close to the September 11 period, it was very close to the real world, even if it is a fantasy world," Ancel said. "I think it's the same with BG&E2, we want to showcase the diversity of the people on earth, the culture, and all these things. We believe that sometimes games are a bit too focused on accidental cultures, here we collaborate with people around the world, and we want to showcase that diversity and say that it's a power, an opportunity. We don't imagine a world where everybody would look at the same things, eat the same things, speak the same language; we imagine a world that would still be a mix of all these diversities and interesting connections."
One thing that is apparent in the world of Beyond Good & Evil is that religion is seemingly more prominent than it is in our world. When Shani and Knox make haste and zoom through the city, one of the very first landmarks shown is an enormous statue of what appears to be a religious idol, similar to Brahma, one of the gods worshiped in Hinduism. In the trailer breakdown, Ancel explains that the city shown in the trailer was originally more futuristic, but he wanted the theme to be much more spiritual. He refers to monks liking the peaceful nature of the rooftop gardens, and also explains that there are no advertisements whatsoever after a certain height in the city.
Knox uses a grappling hook to escape from the restaurant, and Ancel explains that's an example of the type of "dynamic move" players can do in-game. You can use a tool like the grapple to "extract yourself from a very dangerous situation and use the verticality of the city." The smashed glass from Knox's escape, that lodges in Zhou's forehead also symbolises the destructible environment in game. Not quite to the scale of Red Faction, but players can use glass and other materials to their advantage.
Despite the original releasing 14 years ago, Ancel explains in our interview how the series has evolved over that period into the game it's becoming today. One example is how they're introducing a similar online function to Dark Souls, where players can call for help if they're stuck and open their game up to friends. Not strictly co-op, but it gives the game a sense of community.
In response to being asked about Beyond Good & Evil 2 as a concept, Ancel explains how the team at Ubisoft Montpellier have retained the major aspects of the first game, but the gaming industry and what people want from a game has changed so much, so they've had to adapt also.
"I would say we take the pillars from Beyond Good & Evil 1, the strong characters, [...] and this feeling of freedom and evolution. But then we go to another level, because 15 years later, the technology has evolved, people are enjoying playing online, but some people remain happy just playing alone with a good story. The main focus is to concentrate on that experience, but we know there is that little door, that any player can open at any time," he said. "It's not an MMO, but you can say "okay friends, join, I'm stuck somewhere, help me." That's one big modification compared to BG&E1, you can open your game to friends which is very interesting. The other big thing is now it's real freedom, it's like planets, exploration, we've total freedom, you know, going from a real restaurant to the large scale of space with planets. That's this feeling of freedom and exploration, adventure and character, that's the main concept."
While at E3, we also had a quick chat with Gabrielle Shrager, the narrative director, during a tour of the artwork for the game, and she went into detail about the setting and history of the Beyond Good & Evil universe. She explains that the second instalment is a prequel and it takes place in the 24th century, approximately 300 years from our time. China and India became the two global superpowers around the 22nd century, and they're the ones that were at the forefront of developing technology, including gene splicing, which they use to create the hybrid animals.