The Resurfacing of Beyond Good and Evil 2
Chris O’Connell rounds off Pause Resume’s E3 recap with a look at possibly the biggest surprise: the resurfacing of Beyond Good and Evil 2
In 2003 Ubisoft released Beyond Good & Evil and unknowingly launched a fourteen-yearlong tease with its rabid, cult-like fanbase.
The theme of every E3 since has been ‘will they show something’, ‘why aren’t they showing anything again’, and ‘are they going to ever going to show even a production still?’ Had Ubisoft known back then the long meandering history of the franchise, they might have pushed the sequel out the door in eighteen months and moved on to other IPs.
Remember, Beyond Good & Evil was an initial commercial failure, which caused a lot of doubt inside the publisher. That fact is cited as a reason for some of the early delays in this fourteen-year cycle. Even though, Ubisoft touts it as one of its classics and even gave it away for free during their anniversary celebration last year. The overly cautious approach Ubisoft and its creator have taken towards the would-be franchise have left a lot of players giving up hope.
This year at E3 we were treated to a peek at the prequel to Beyond Good & Evil. Creator Michel Ancel also remarked that the game is at “day zero” in development. These two announcements are perplexing, to say the least.
Everyone’s first reaction was, “Finally! What the hell have they been doing for fourteen years?” After that initial outburst, we all began to realize that the game is barely ready to show more than a mere tease in a development diary video. That is never a good sign.
The overall sense I had after watching the reveal and reading Ancel’s interviews after, was that everyone is generally happy something is being created. I can’t shake the realization that they can’t bring back the joy from 2008 when the first demo for the sequel was unveiled. Too much time has passed and there is too little progress to show for it.
Gamers have been burned way too many times by large gaps in a franchise’s release schedule. It usually means the game will suffer under the weight of its own hype or ambition. There dozens of examples of this fatigue causing games and fans to suffer needlessly.
What Ubisoft showed off to reporters at Kotaku was the system that they built, which in theory sound impressive. They have built a system that allows the player to jump on and off worlds seamlessly in an entire solar system. Ancel pointed out that the day and night cycles are more authentic because the planet was rotating around a sun. We also know that for the past three years, Ancel and team have been working on this system. If it makes it into the final game and works great without loading screens then longtime fans will be elated.
“After that initial outburst, we all began to realize that the game is barely ready to show more than a mere tease …”
You are probably wondering about the fate of that 2008 demo they first teased us all with back in the day. That game came to a full stop and transitioned into what is now the prequel. That shift from sequel to prequel is something to be worried about. Forget the fact that many prequels never, ever live up to the original. Making this change could signal a whole host of narrative issues the team encountered over the years that are not usually solved by making the story happen a tad bit earlier in the timeline. However, the Star Wars Prequels didn’t suffer because of the time and place the occurred.
Game development is monumentally difficult for a whole host of reasons. I cannot begin to understand why these changes happened over the last fourteen years. The main concern on every player’s mind should be the possibility that it has been rebooted and delayed too many times in development to be a game worthy of the Beyond Good and Evil brand. Nostalgia for the original game is incredibly potent and could be damaging to any game that follows it. Time has only weakened Ancel’s chance at lightening striking twice.
Since little is known about the story or how the game will feel once it is in the hands of overly patient fans, we must wait more years to find out. The thought of waiting more years sounds just cruel at this point. By announcing they were only at “day zero” signals to the gaming community that the developers want to keep this tease going on their terms. They are content with letting us know when they are good and ready for this game to come out. They are right. They do not owe us anything. Just like we don’t owe them to keep holding our breath for a game to ship. This saga has taught me one thing about teasing sequels for almost two decades, the routine gets old really fast.
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