One of the reasons why I've never been able to really get into a MMO is because I've yet to encounter one where the world has been interesting enough. It's actually quite rare that I encounter a game where the world doesn't feel like a necessity instead of a vital part of the experience.
Despite that Hilly is so far removed from the center of the galaxy that most people have forgotten that it even exists, it's one of the most captivating worlds I've ever set my virtual feet on. Even if the planet is being invaded and the story filled with conspiracies, rescue missions and tons of secrets, it's often the planet itself that grabs my attention. With it flora and fauna, all its beautiful colours and its many surprises, Hilly is simply gorgeous and I want to do nothing except explore it as soon as I get to ride around in my little hover boat.
Hilly's beauty is mirrored in Jade, which in her role as the game's protagonist is the most original and realistic heroine ever seen in a game - even if she first saw the light of day eight years ago. Jade can of course protect herself with her magic Daï-jo staff, but more than anything else she's a journalist and adventurer that openly speculates about her planet's faith, and the government's incompetence in its hunt for the alien DomZ.
Despite her many talent, Jade doesn't go very far without the company of Pey'j, the talking pig-man that has taken on the role of her uncle and wants to protect her from anything that might be out to hurt her. Their relationship is established at the very start of the adventure, where you see how they run an orphanage for the children that have lost their parents to the DomZ. It's very rare to see a bond between two digital characters look this strong and real.
Your free to roam Hilly early on in the game, and there's always a lot to do and see. Since Jade is a journalist she always carries her camera around, which can be used to take photograph of the wildlife that you then can turn in for money. A fun detail is that the better the picture, the more money you get and if you're good with the camera you can even use it in boss fights. To capture the best photos quickly becomes a mini-game in itself and you'll beat yourself up every time you manage to miss the perfect shot.
It's also fun to hunt the scattered pearls that are used to upgrade your hover boat. At the start, Pey'j will complain about how the boat is only staying together thanks to his creative use of strong tape, the more adventurous among you will be able to upgrade it will everything from rocket engines to extra weapons that makes the exploration of Hillys easier and more entertaining.
But the big highlight of Beyond Good & Evil HD is the story, and even though I've played through the original game it doesn't take it many minutes to grab me again. It's not only the concepts of potential state secrets, the mysterious DomZ and the amazing characters that makes it feel original - the way it's told is incredibly well-done and captivating. All through the game it feels as if the story was always the most important element, and the playable content was shaped accordingly, which if nothing else is impressive considering how much variation there is throughout the game.
That Ubisoft has worked hard to polish the graphics becomes obvious fast, and especially Jade and Pey'j look better than ever. In other places the edges have been made smoother, and the sound has always seen an upgrade. The biggest reason that Beyond Good & Evil HD is one of the best downloadable titles ever is not found in technical terms like polygon counts or texture resolutions, instead it's the incredible graphical design. Hillys is simply more inviting and interesting than 99% of all the gaming worlds I've ever visited, and almost all the characters are a pure joy to get to know.
Beyond Good & Evil has been celebrated since it was released back in 2003, and it's one of the best examples of a game that never was able to sell as many copies as it deserved. For 800 points and some loss of bandwidth for the download, there is no way you won't be able to enjoy this as long as you like a good adventure. Beyond Good & Evil HD is simply one of the best digital purchases you can make.