Beyond Good & Evil 2 devs lay out the game's timeline, mysteries, and who (or what) you'll play as

The original Beyond Good & Evil is a bit like Star Wars: sure there were hints and references to a larger universe, but mostly it was a focused story about an orphan with mysterious origins fighting back against an oppressive empire. Beyond Good & Evil 2, however, is going whole hog on the fantasy of interstellar adventure.

Today during a livestream update on the long-awaited follow-up to 2003's cult favorite, creative director Michel Ancel, associate creative director Emile Morel, and senior producer Guillaume Brunier took time to explain how the game will expand on the original, some ways in which it will diverge, and just who (or what) you're going to play as. You can watch the whole thing below, or read on for our summary.

First up was a clarification on the timeline; although numbered as a sequel, Beyond Good & Evil 2 is actually a prequel, at least chronologically speaking. While the story won't tie directly into the adventures heroine Jade experienced in the first BG&E, it does take place in the same galaxy (just one solar system down the cosmic lane) and sometime after her birth.

Morel said that the studio has a much longer history of the BG&E universe though, stretching from 2040 to 2360 and beyond. This helps keep the team grounded and cognizant of the events that lead up to the game. It's filled with scientific advancements that make interplanetary colonization feasible, technology crises that cause humanity to shy away from artificial intelligence and robotics, the creation of human-animal hybrids, the evolution of extraterrestrial civilizations from simple basecamps to full-fledged metropoli, a few unsolved mysteries, and a golden age of space piracy.

If that sounds like a lot of setup, well, it is. But as Ancel explained, "When you're working on a big world, you need big foundations." This history also helps explain much of the BG&E universe's unique aesthetic, which lies somewhere between The Fifth Element and the furry section of DeviantArt.

For example: the world is sufficiently advanced to the point of starships, but because humanity already suffered through a digital uprising (it's not clear if this was a full-blown, Matrix-style machine uprising or something less bloody), much of the tech you see is analog, or at least disconnected from a large-scale network like the internet. To make up for the lost productivity provided by a robotic workforce, humanity developed hybrids - creatures genetically molded from human and animal DNA.

So now you know why there are pig-people and monkey-people and so on in a world where space pirates make their getaways on a beat-up hover scooter.

Although quite large in scale, with multiple planets to visit, BG&E2 won't be infinite or galaxy-sized. Ancel said that he wants the content to be hand-crafted, and not rely on procedural generation. If you visit a city, there should be a reason why that city is there. Likewise, there will be mysteries to solve and goals to reach, placed there by the developers. 

"Everything needs to be tied together through the story. ... The world is the story," Ancel said, explaining that players will start as a would-be space pirate who works their way up to captain. This player avatar will be customizable (a departure from the first game's set protagonist) and can be human or hybrid. The team didn't reveal what species players will be able to pick from should they choose the latter, but concept art included a chameleon, tiger, monkey, elephant, and panda.

Regardless of what they look like / what DNA they possess, your captain will have to assemble a ragtag crew in order to reach the deepest, most dangerous corner of the stars, where an alien artifact of unknown power waits. Ancel didn't get into specifics, but mentioned classifications like "medic" and "spy," suggesting crew members will be class or role-based, and that you'll have a "main crew" consisting of a handful of characters, plus the support crew to help you on your mission and keep the engines running smoothly. And if you don't want to rely on NPCs, you can call on real-life friends for help.

And that's... pretty much everything the team was willing to talk about for now, though more info (and I suspect a trailer) will be coming at E3. Which is fine. I may need that much time to process all this.

Personally, I get a bit of a Mass Effect 2 vibe when Ancel talks about recruiting crew members to undertake a dangerous, possibly suicidal, mission to an unknown part of space. And with how good the first game's story and characters were, I'm glad to hear that will still be a focus for Beyond Good & Evil 2. Space piracy is fun and all, but I tend to burn out on sandboxes that don't hook me with narrative.

But what do you think? Does this sound like the Beyond Good & Evil sequel you wanted? We've got a new comments system so sound off below and make your thoughts known.

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Sam Prell

Sam is a former News Editor here at GamesRadar. His expert words have appeared on many of the web's well-known gaming sites, including Joystiq, Penny Arcade, Destructoid, and G4 Media, among others. Sam has a serious soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and emo music. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.