The original Evil Genius launched all the way back in 2004 and became something of a cult classic. In Evil Genius, you assume the role of a diabolical mastermind hellbent on taking over the world, filled with fun 1960s James Bond stereotypes and humor. The studio that built the original sadly closed before a sequel could launch, but 17 years later, Rebellion of Sniper Elite fame has picked up the franchise to bring it back from the archives of gaming history.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination draws on its past and injects some much-needed modernity, culminating in what is ultimately a satisfying strategy sandbox with a relentlessly rewarding gameplay loop and light-hearted comedy. Evil Genius 2 is not without its flaws, but they fade into the background, shoved aside by a parade of great design and honest-to-goodness fun. Well, dishonest-to-evil fun, anyway.
Bottom line: UI anomalies and enemy pathing issues aside, Evil Genius 2 is a deep and addictive simulation strategy game that will satisfy your inner desire to, you know, take over the world.
- Vibrant art with great character design
- Great blend of tower defense and sandbox simulation
- Beefy campaign with dozens of hours of playability
- Tutorials and UI lack clarity on certain features
- Enemy pathing is quirky and feels inconsistent
Evil Genius 2: What I love
Evil Genius 2 is a game with a storied history, originally owned by Vivendi Universal Games and Elixir Studios, founded by Lionhead alumni. The IP passed through to Rebellion in 2006 and has remained dormant, until now. Evil Genius 2 is back, and honestly, I think it might be my favorite Rebellion game yet.
|Category||Evil Genius 2|
|Title||Evil Genius 2|
|Genre||Strategy / Simulation|
|Minimum Requirements||OS: Windows 10, Processor: Intel Core i3-8100, Memory: 8 GB RAM, Graphics: GeForce GT 1030 2GB, Radeon RX 550 2GB|
|Launch Date||March 30, 2021|
Evil Genius 2 is a strategy and simulation sandbox at its core, set in a 1960s-inspired world that invokes memories of classic James Bond movies, Thunderbirds, and perhaps more recently Austin Powers. To that end, Evil Genius 2 knows its inspirations well and plays them up for laughs relentlessly at every level.
Evil Genius 2 is split between a quite lengthy campaign mode and a deeper sandbox mode, which lets you build a massive sprawling lair without as much progression gating. The campaign mode also acts as a tutorial, running you through the game's systems and mechanics piece by piece. It's ideal to start off this way because there are a ton of systems to learn in The Evil Genius 2, and the way they intersect contributes to the game's complexity and thus, its rewarding gameplay loop.
Starting off, you'll select one of three diabolical island lairs and one of four evil geniuses with different abilities. Who you select doesn't hugely affect the story campaign in any way, but their unique abilities and modifiers can speed up and improve resource management of different types, affecting your playstyle. It's mostly for the aesthetic, though. Each villain has a unique "sanctum" lair design, each plucked from a range of villainous inspirations across movies and comic books.
The lair starts with a few basic segments, and you're tasked to grow and develop it into a multi-story mountain base filled with all sorts of evil henchmen.
Each base has a casino cover operation, which serves as the first point of entry for secret agent infiltrators who want to discover what you're up to. From there, you'll construct a rabbit warren of tunnels, barracks, and other facilities necessary to run a facility all of your workers can live in.
You'll need to tend to their needs, from hunger to morale, and train them into specialist roles from the basic "worker" state in order to gain a bonus for various specific activities. Some activities require those specialists, too. Scientists research all sorts of contraptions and upgrades for your operation, while guards patrol and do battle with the various do-gooders and rival crime bosses who seek to destroy you.
Minion management forms a large part of the game's maintenance layer, as you'll need to closely monitor your population to ensure workers don't feel overstretched. An unhappy minion may eventually seek to betray you, deserting your base, and perhaps even stealing resources and gold before doing so. Keeping everything running smoothly is a delicate and satisfying balancing act that requires a fairly large amount of input from yourself, especially as your base grows in complexity. Although, you will unlock features higher up in the research tree that can help automate some of these processes.
Where Evil Genius 2 goes from being merely satisfying to exciting, is when things go wrong. And boy, a LOT can go wrong. It turns out running a criminal empire carries a lot of risks, who'd have thought?
The primary risks in Evil Genius 2 come from the Forces of Justice, alongside rival crime lords who don't like you muscling in on their turf. There's a wide range of antagonist characters, alongside unique henchmen you can recruit into your fold. You can control your hero characters manually, directing them into battle with a variety of powerful abilities. Similarly, antagonist characters come with powerful abilities of their own, which can very rapidly break down your defenses, and worse, in some cases. See above for an example of what I mean.
To fend off attacking enemies, Evil Genius 2 actually becomes something of a tower defense game hybrid. As you perform actions on the world stage overview screen, sending minions to steal and scam gold from the world's law-abiding populace, you generate "heat," which can trigger a variety of attack events.
Saboteurs and guerillas try to sneak into your base and target your power plants with explosives, causing huge amounts of chaos and wiping out your power grid in the process. Secret agents can disable your traps and bamboozle your minions by disguising themselves as one of your workers. There are also evil robots, soldiers, and all sorts of other hazards that can make your life of evil tougher. But you have plenty of tools to respond.
Your scientists can research traps that can hinder enemy target's progress through your base. You can also position CCTV cameras strategically to trigger posted guards to intercept and engage encroaching do-gooders. Having a tower defense-like structure between your main base and your casino is a great way to prevent incoming agents from finding anything suspicious. If they're allowed to wander around in your base unimpeded, they will leave your base with reams of evidence that can increase your heat gauge, leading to more frequent and more dangerous incursions later.
Some of the traps you can research are plucked right out of the Dr. Evil playbook. Shark pits, laser halls, flame throwers, and much, much more. You can tag targets with specific orders too, ranging from swift execution, to distraction, to capture. Captured and interrogated agents provide intel resources which can then be spent on operations to earn currency, providing you have a suitable prison built of course.
Even the best-laid plans can (and most probably will) go awry, though. Agents and other infiltrators will use their abilities to try and circumvent your traps and leave waves of devastation in their wake. Having fire extinguishers to hand is well-advised, in addition to an incinerator to dispose of all the, erm, collateral damage that piles up after a nasty battle. Corpses appear on screen as body bags and generate a morale-damaging aura that spooks your minions into wanting to leave if they're not dealt with swiftly.
Managing all of this chaos and all of these systems can be a tall order, but watching your minions scurry around, performing their duties imparts a great sense of diabolical power. You can randomly execute minions too to scare nearby witnesses to work harder. Torture captured agents for their info. And later, build an apocalyptic doomsday weapon to scare the world's powers into doing your bidding — or die trying.
Out of the gate, Evil Genius 2 is a huge amount of fun, but there are a few things I am hoping the crew at Rebellion address in future updates.
Evil Genius 2: What I didn't like
Evil Genius 2 is a lot of fun, but there are a collection of smaller issues that hindered gameplay a bit here and there. Enemy pathing is perhaps among the bigger issues I had with the game, which can lead to some annoyances and inconsistencies with trap triggering.
The game has a wide variety of contraptions and mechanics you can use to create interesting deathtraps, including systems that push and pull enemies across the map. Sometimes it feels like these traps are inconsistent in their firing, and there's no on-screen display for cooldowns and things of this nature.
Some agents seem to be immune to traps, while others may simply walk around them. I've had a few instances where mobs and characters would get piled up and stuck in doorways too, which can affect some of the game's line-of-sight mechanics.
You can use doors to block cameras and prevent alerting enemies until specific times in your corridors. This is a useful trick to split up enemy groups and capture agents when they have had their line of sight blocked by a door. But, since agents sometimes randomly murder your valets, even if you've set them in distract mode, the corpses can get stuck in doorways and undo your systems. I'm not sure if it's by design that agents can randomly decide to murder valets and guards even if you've tagged them as a "distract" target. But therein lies some of my other gripes. The on-screen information and in-game tutorials are a bit lacking when it comes to the game's nuances.
Evil Genius 2 does have a large tutorial segment baked into the game, but it doesn't really go into much depth when it comes to best practices. There's also no glossary in-game that I could find, and mouse-over tooltips don't provide as much information as many other games in the genre often do. For example, despite dozens of hours of playtime, I'm not sure what the specific mechanics are that govern the "distraction" mechanics in the casino.
Most enemies initially enter through the casino, which is your cover operation. Typically, I tag a few agents for "distraction," and let others come through my warren of traps. Divide and conquer and all that. But the mechanics governing "distraction" seem to be incredibly inconsistent. My valets and socialites will talk to an agent for a few seconds, then let them go on by. It's unclear exactly how some of these systems work, forcing you to go by trial and error, fumbling around in the darkness.
In the end, I created a snaking tunnel through my casino using barriers to force agents to walk past as many gambling tables as possible — reducing their resolve and skill — before hitting my "restricted" areas.
There are many stats and features which just aren't explained very thoroughly to that end. CCTV "Spotting Power" has no description for what it actually does, when you mouse over the tooltip, for example. Still, it can be fun and rewarding to unlock a simulation game's nuances through play, but I think more clarity through the UI would go a long way.
Ultimately, none of the gripes I had with Evil Genius 2 stopped me from having fun. Dozens of hours in, I'm hopelessly addicted to my personal evil power fantasy and eager to wrap this review up so I can go and play some more.
Evil Genius 2: Should you play it?
Evil Genius 2 is a triumph for Rebellion, given that this is their first take as a publisher on the genre. In a busy market with lots of options in the space, Evil Genius 2 stands out with its awesome Pixar-grade characterizations, great writing, and vibrant visuals.
I don't have the best gaming laptop around, but even on my relatively modest RTX 2070 setup, Evil Genius 2 remained performant. Deep into the sim, I didn't see a single dropped frame despite hundreds upon hundreds of game objects swarming around the map.
Many similar strategic simulation games can be frustrating when things don't go to plan, but Evil Genius 2's catastrophes make the game all the more exciting, as you fight against the Forces of Justice to enact your diabolical schemes. Hitting the red alert button sends all of your minions scurrying around in a panic, as bullets fly and chaos reigns. Every action movie and supervillain trope is not only well-catered for, they're blended seamlessly into the fabric of Evil Genius 2 helping it ascend above the rank and file with confidence.
A few minor gripes aside, Evil Genius 2 is a truly tremendous sim that has a bright future ahead of it. Or rather an evil, scary future, perhaps.
The game has a few minor issues here and there, but nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of feedback and future updates. Evil Genius 2 is a deep and satisfying simulation sandbox that satisfies your inner urge to take over the world, and I'm excited to see how it will evolve in the future.
Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
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