While superheroes and their villainous counterparts have been dominating pop culture on the silver screen for many years, the same cannot be said for video games. Yet, after 17 years, Rebellion’s Evil Genius franchise makes a welcome return to fill the void. Who knew that supervillains would come to the rescue?
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a mix of lair management and defence game where players will assume the role of one four Geniuses to take over the world. Right off the bat, the game oozes with character. The cartoony graphical style reminiscent of Despicable Me and the mustache-twirling absurd James Bond-style villainy of constructing world-ending Doomsday Devices helps the game stand out in its setting and presentation, making the game seem bigger budget than it actually is.
Going hand-in-hand with the exemplary graphical design is the excellent audio design and writing. The voice cast for the villains, Henchmen, Super Agents, and minions is all top notch, supported by hilarious and flavorful dialogue topped off with tone-appropriate dynamic music. There are some limitations here though, with the music getting slightly repetitive after a while and bit too much dialogue shared between Geniuses in side quests. It’s a bit odd hearing Red Ivan speak lines that were clearly meant for one of the other Geniuses.
The biggest strengths of Evil Genius reside in the sheer amount of content available and how its systems fit and play off each other. Budding supervillains can scheme away in the game’s two modes: Campaign and Sandbox. The Campaign mode is the highlight here as each villain gets story-specific quests, which adds a level of light role-playing to the game and a measure of replayability as each Genius has their own main narrative quests. There are three difficulty levels, which can be customized to fit the player’s needs and the campaigns themselves are quite lengthy, giving plenty of room for experimentation.
The presence of the Sandbox mode is also welcome as it gives even more opportunity for players to dominate the world the way they see fit. While the overall objective stays the same (the world is all you need), the absence of the campaign’s narrative increases the opportunity for emergent storytelling as it’s up to the players to forge their villainous path. There is a missed opportunity to enhance emergent storytelling by allowing for Genius customization, but the game is so fleshed out already that this isn’t a major let down.
Each of the four Geniuses are distinct enough, especially in Campaign, which warrants multiple playthroughs. There’s a large number of Henchmen, essentially specialist super minions, to recruit from the world, each with their own abilities and visuals. Though there’s a missed opportunity to make Geniuses and Henchmen affect construction and scheming on a larger scale to give players yet more options in their playthroughs.
On top of the four distinct narratives, players can choose from three islands to act as their lair. Each island has its own layout with unique challenges, such as having more diggable areas, multiple floors, or defensible chokepoints. Replayability goes through the roof with the islands present at launch.
The core loop will find players digging out rooms and corridors, placing down items and traps, and fending off the pesky Forces of Justice. Rooms range from operational essentials like power rooms, bank vaults, control rooms, armouries, and prisons, to minion amenities such as mess halls, staff rooms, and barracks. Though none of the present rooms are extraordinary on their own, altogether they provide the player with plenty of options on how they want to layout their lair. That said, the room construction interface could certainly do with some improvements to make planning and moving rooms less fiddly.
Corridor layout is just as important as the rooms as this is where traps, cameras, and other dastardly devices will go in the defence of the lair. The role of corridors de facto make the game into a kind tower defence game and players can be endlessly creative with how they place traps and guard posts.
The lair’s defences are there to repulse the everpresent agents of the Forces of Justice. The world is split into five regions owned by one of the five agencies and they will periodically send missions to the lair to snoop around, sabotage, or storm it. There is a decent range of agent types that demands a flexible response from players as they challenge the lair’s fortifications. Things will only get even more challenging when Super Agents, essentially suped up normal agents, will come knocking.
The Genius can’t operate a lair all by themselves and that is why players will have an army of minions to command and dispose of. This is where Evil Genius 2 also shines as there are three distinct classes (on top of the standard Worker minion): Muscle, Deception, and Science, each with four subclasses. Each type has an important role to play and one of the many fun challenges of the game is allocating minions to training programmes to ensure their lair works like a well-oiled machine.
Science minions are needed to research technologies and this is where the game expands even further. Research is split into five trees, one of which is limited to quest-specific or miscellaneous tech, while the other four cover Traps, the Lair, Minions, and Global Operations. There are so many technologies, some better or more relevant than others, there will be no shortage of new and fun items and gadgets to discover.
But wait, research isn’t the only way to get cool and clever items. Players will also get the chance to engage in side quests to steal loot from the world by performing a series of schemes and achieving specific objectives. There is a huge variety of loot items with all sorts of wacky and crazy effects all adding to the game’s fun charm. Who knew the flying pig was real?
Above all, the greatest positive of EG 2 is its refreshingly deliberate pace. All features, mechanics, and the pacing of the game allows players time to breathe, think, and enjoy their efforts, savouring the experience and making the game that much more remarkable. There are of course moments of crisis, especially when Super Agents pop up, but it never feels like crisis management takes over from the big picture management focus of the game.
Even the most genius of villains have blind spots and Evil Genius 2 certainly has its share of nagging issues. Players will not only be focused on building up their secluded island fortress, but also sending their minions out across the world to set up criminal networks and perform dastardly schemes. This system works perfectly fine, but is uninvolved, unexciting, and quickly becomes repetitive.
In addition, the Global Schemes feature does fit into the deliberate pace of the game, but the way it’s implemented doesn’t show much evolution or excitement throughout any given playthrough. The basic structure of performing schemes is the following: obtain resources, click the launch button, wait. In effect, all schemes are timers with various passive effects, such as gaining money, completing objectives, or gaining some kind of resource. The Global Schemes don’t deviate from this structure and can become more of a chore than an engaging component of World Domination.
Some of the game’s pitfalls also extend to the lair management. One of the main rooms of the lair will be the Cover Operation room where agents can be distracted and tourists can be scammed out of their disposable cash. It just so happens to be a casino. Unfortunately, the cover operation can only be a casino. Given how expansive the game already is and how much there is to discover or steal, the lack of choice or flexibility of options to the Cover Operation makes it feel like an afterthought. One of the Geniuses, Emma, is actually specialized in Deception but doesn’t seem like she practically enhances or contributes much to the Deception part of the lair.
Probably the biggest issue of Evil Genius 2 is the user interface. While perfectly functional, it’s still pretty clunky and fiddly and will take some time getting used to. The UI also doesn’t do the best job of providing vital information clearly and efficiently. For example, all the rooms have symbols, some of which can be confusing or too complicated to know the function and type of the room right away.
Aside from these bigger issues, there are a number of minor graphical glitches and oddities, none of which are game-breaking, though. The game crashed once or twice, but luckily Evil Genius 2 has a customizable autosave system, which served to avoid any frustration. The most annoying technical issue is in some of the minion AI decision-making. It’s quite the hilarious but frustrating sight to see that there is a brawl in full view outside an armoury full of guards, but they’re sitting around without a care in the world.
Performance-wise, the game ran quite well, which is especially impressive as it can get quite busy with lots of entities and items operating all at once. Any system that fits recommended specs should run the game without much issue. It also helps that Evil Genius 2 has a really solid options menu with plenty of elements to tweak and change.
Ultimately, Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a solid, fun, and flavorful game with a lot of character and tons of content to experience. Though Evil Genius doesn’t necessarily innovate in mechanics and features, the game definitely carves out a place for itself in strategy gaming with its setting and overall quality. A wholehearted recommendation to go and conquer the world in glorious, cartoony, and silly fashion.
A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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