Beyond Good and Evil 2 made a big splash at E3 last week when a spectacular cinematic teaser made a surprise appearance at the end of Ubisoft's press event. But there was no actual gameplay on display, and creator Michel Ansel later said that the project was on "day zero of development," despite many prior years of promises that it was "still in development." But based on the "in-engine demo" video released today, I'd say his characterization of the current state of the game is pretty much on the money.
Technologically, the demo looks fantastic. The player's home base is a 400-meter mothership that can deploy a smaller shuttlecraft, from which characters can depart and fly around—like "Russian dolls," as Ancel put it. It promises full planetary simulation with different biomes, and even details like atmospheric friction that causes a halo effect around ships when they depart or reenter the atmosphere.
Ancel also demonstrates planetary-scale deformation with "real-time giant meteorites, asteroids, falling and modifying the planet's ground." And this isn't just a mechanical feature, but also central to the game's story: Once meteors start to strike the planet, the corporations send in slaves to harvest the minerals they deposit—an extremely dangerous job. "There are a lot of slaves dying [while] trying to gather the meteorite's goods ... They are taking those rare materials, risking their life," Ancel says in the video. "So it's not just about the planet on one side and the story on the other one. The planet and the story are connected. That's a very important thing for us."
It all sounds extremely ambitious. The trouble is that there's not much more here than the promises of what Ubisoft wants to do. The scale and technology on display in the demo are impressive, but where's the game? The monkey (who also headlined the E3 cinematic) apparently doesn't even have a name. It's exciting up to a point that Ubisoft is finally willing to show something about BG&E2 publicly, but watching Ansel fly in and out of the atmosphere while talking about planetary surfaces changing in real-time made me immediately think of another heavily-hyped game (you know which one I'm talking about) that very dramatically failed to deliver the goods. I don't necessarily think that Beyond Good and Evil 2 is destined for the same fate, but I do wish that Ubisoft had taken a more substantive approach to this "demo."