Evil Genius 2: World Domination

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Rebellion
Release Date: March 30, 2021


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PC Review - 'Evil Genius 2: World Domination'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 29, 2021 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a real-time, lair-management and world-domination simulation.

I love Sim City and all of the games that spawned from them. There's something utterly relaxing about creating and maintaining your own city and making sure it's optimized. As any Sim City fan knows, sometimes you just want to hit a button and send Godzilla rampaging through town.

Evil Genius is the game for those folks.

Rather than building a peaceful civilization, you play as a James Bond-inspired evil villain who seeks world domination. The original 2004 game was a cult classic and beloved, but it wasn't successful enough to spawn a franchise. Almost 15 years later, it gets a second chance. Evil Genius 2: World Domination sticks to the heart of the original and brings more traps, schemes, and meddling superspies into the mix.

The basic idea of Evil Genius is that you have a deserted island where you can build a supervillain lair, train minions, and invent new doomsday technologies — basically what every James Bond villain failed to do. There are four playable villains, but more seem to be coming in DLC. Returning genius Maximillian is the classic evil Blofeld type and is an all-around villain who starts with more money. The other three — Emma, Red Ivan, and Zalika — effectively correspond to "focuses on deception," "focuses on muscle," and "focuses on science" respectively, and they're even colored coded to match. A nice change from the original game is that each villain has their own evil scheme, rather than being part of a generic story. Max wants to become president of the world, while Zalika plans to achieve forced peace via world domination and super science. It gives each character more personality, so the player has more of a reason to play as them.

The core gameplay is similar to the original title, but there are some notable differences. It's easy to build your base. You start with one of three configurations, and you can click and drag to create areas that serve as specific zones: bunkers, corridors, laboratories, security stations, and so on. Once minions have carved out the areas, you can place items to unlock new features, such as training more minions, improving your science output, or putting traps to counter super-spies that slip inside. As you advance in the game, you'll unlock more items to make it even easier to be an evil genius. This includes the ability to dig through harder stone to give your base more expansion room or build multi-floor evil bases for maximum efficiency.

The core of the workforce is minions and cash. Minions are the disposable jumpsuit-wearing lifeblood of any secret lair. They build things, fix things, can be sent on evil schemes, and are essential to your survival. Minions can also be upgraded to higher forms such as guards, scientists, technicians, etc. They can be upgraded further, such as a generic guard becoming a talented martial artist or a distraction-focused valet becoming a propaganda master. However, minions are not robots and need to be kept healthy. Each minion has a health, morale, and smarts meter that can be drained by various actions, including enemy attacks, so your base needs to have beds, entertainment and good food to make sure your minions do what you want. If things ever get too bad, you can shoot one in the head to remind the rest what happens if they slack off, but that's obviously not the ideal situation. Individual minions have special traits. Some may be better at punching, some are greedy, some are lazy, and some are pacifists. This is relatively minor, but it helps to know what your minions can do.

More advanced than minions are henchmen, who are the Oddjobs and Jawses of the world: talented, super-powerful minions who function under the same rules as the geniuses. They have unique skills and attributes and can be individually ordered around. Henchmen are your most reliable agents, but they take effort to unlock. Aside from your first henchman, you'll have to complete special missions to get the others, and they may consider you a dangerous rival until you earn their trust. It's a neat change that gives them additional personality.

Speaking of missions, they are your primary focus in Evil Genius 2. Each genius has to complete evil schemes, which come in the form of personalized objectives and shared objectives among all geniuses. You generally complete the missions by creating a satellite base on the world map and unleashing evil schemes. Such schemes generate heat, which risks attracting attention, so you need to balance how much attention you've drawn versus how much money you want. You can also complete optional objectives, which are semi-randomized smaller tasks like building a generator or completing a scheme to receive small but useful injections of cold, hard cash.

Of course, the biggest danger to your evil schemes is justice. There are multiple organizations across the world dedicated to stopping your evil plans, and they'll frequently send agents to investigate the weird island casino that suddenly popped up. Agents start off as mere investigators but evolve over time to saboteurs and even super agents. Your goal is to minimize the danger from these heroes until you're capable of defeating them. It's wise to not take them lightly, since they can utterly wreck your carefully built base; unless you know you're tough enough, it's best to keep your evil schemes on the down-low.

A big chunk of time in Evil Genius 2 is spent perfecting your base, which the game makes incredibly easy to do. As long as you have the resources, it takes relatively little time to adjust and move around the pieces of your base. When you're starting off, you have relatively little flexibility and space, and you need to make everything cramped and messy. After you unlock the ability to dig through harder rock and add extra floors, you can quickly transform your base from messy shack to efficiently evil lair.

This is also by far the most satisfying part of the game. There are lots of interactions that reward you for figuring out when and where to place things. Where can you put traps so they're most likely to catch enemy agents without risking backfiring on your innocent minions? Where should the guards be stationed to most effectively respond to invaders? How much money can you make with your casino fronts? It depends a lot on what you enjoy doing, which is a big boon. Since my first playthrough was with the deception-focused Emma, I spent a lot of time optimizing my casino so it was almost as profitable and effective as my actual evil schemes.

That said, Evil Genius 2 isn't a particularly punishing game. Optimization is a good idea, especially on higher difficulty levels, but this isn't a hardcore sim. You can screw up a lot and recover, and a big part of the fun is living out your evil supervillain fantasy as opposed to desperately trying to min-max everything. The sequel has is actually more friendly about this. A lot of the basic elements are simpler, so you don't need trainers to train, and there are fewer overall stats. I hesitate to call this "dumbed down," though; the original game had overdone things, and EG2 gets it right.

If I had one serious complaint about Evil Genius 2, it is that the user interface is a little lacking. The text size is small, which makes it difficult to play on larger screens, and that really can get frustrating in such a text-heavy game. The UI also feels a little messy and needlessly convoluted, with relatively useless information being front and center but important stuff taking more effort to find. It isn't anything that ruins the experience, but it is a mild source of aggravation since you run into it so often. A better UI would go a long way toward making it more fun to play. There are also some annoying oddities, such as the fact that "Quit to Title" seems to close the game in the same way as the "Exit to Windows" button, but it's possible those will be patched out quickly.

Aside from the UI, Evil Genius is a charming-looking game. The bright, cartoony art style lends it a sense of personality, and if you take the time to watch what people are doing in the lairs, you can see a lot of amusing interactions. I wish there were more options than "island lair" for your base, but the evil tropical island is innately connected with the image of a supervillain. The voice acting is also amusing, with lots of boisterous personalities that fit the silly tone of the game.

All in all, Evil Genius 2 is a perfectly solid update-slash-sequel to the original title. It doesn't break the mold but focuses on streamlining the core gameplay while adding more enemies, features and traps. It's similar enough that it probably won't change your mind if you didn't like the original, but by the same token, if you liked Evil Genius, you'll most likely enjoy Evil Genius 2. It's also a good starting point, as you don't need knowledge of the original to jump into evil scheming. It's not perfect, but it's probably the best supervillain simulator out there.

Score: 8.0/10

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