We spend our days adhering to the laws of society, but when we play video games, there’s no denying that it’s fun to play the bad guy. Most RPGs give you the freedom to be as good or as bad as you want to be with varying effects on the overall gameplay. A prime example of this is the Mass Effect trilogy’s Paragon and Renegade morality mechanism. Punching that reporter in the first Mass Effect might not be the noblest action we can take, but it’s damn satisfying.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is one of those games where being bad is a requirement. 18 years after the release of the first game and under the helm of a new developer, Rebellion, players once again get to jump into the role of an evil genius and build their criminal empire from the ground up under the guise of a casino business. The perfect coverup, right?
Visually, Evil Genius 2 looks great. The design remains true to the cartoony 1960s Bond aesthetic that the original had going for it, but the animations are sharper and much more defined. The game also boasts an impressive cast of voice actors, with the likes of Brian Blessed and Samantha Bond headlining as two of the four playable characters. You might recognise the latter as Miss Moneypenny from the Brosnan run of James Bond movies, making her a superb choice for the game’s former spymaster.
To begin your journey towards world domination, you pick the location of your base and then one of four evil masterminds. I chose Emma, the aforementioned spymaster, but you can also opt for Red Ivan, the ex-henchman, Zalika, the scientist zealot and Max, the narcissistic despot. Each of these masterminds has specific skills, focuses, campaigns and doomsday weapons. I chose Emma, for example, who has a focus on deception and goes around killing people with her mechanical spider chair – if that’s not a power move, I don’t know what is.
As you might expect, the majority of the game is centred around building your lair. You’ll find yourself building a control room to monitor and expand your criminal network, a training room to train your minions to become specialists and a laboratory to research upgrades. These are vital for the growth of your criminal organisation, but staff rooms, mess halls and barracks are equally important – you can’t keep your organisation running smoothly if your minions are overtired and low on morale, after all. I enjoyed the animation of the lair construction. Rather than construction being instant like in a game like The Sims or having to wait a set period of time before returning to a completed construction, you get to watch your minions carve out rooms and lay down furniture step-by-step.
The game is initially relatively linear. You’re limited by what you can do as most room types and activities are locked. As you progress through the game and conduct research, you’ll be able to do more and more. This can be a little overwhelming if, like me, you’re new to this sort of simulator game. I found the lair construction relatively straightforward, but there are also a number of other elements you need to consider.
The first is enemy agents. These will show up at regular intervals to wreak havoc on your operation. You can counter them by setting traps to slow them down and security cameras to monitor their movements. You can also go into high alert mode, which when activated, has your regular minions retreat to safety while minions geared for combat will focus on dealing with the intruder. This mode is especially useful as I found that when I wasn’t using it, my minions were painfully slow at dealing with them.
It’s up to you what you do with these intruders once you catch them. In a typical evil fashion, you can either execute or interrogate them. Execution might seem like the more ruthless option, but interrogation yields intel that can be used to further your goals.
Outside of your lair, you also have the world map to juggle. The world map shows the location of your lair alongside several islands that you can send your minions out to scout out in order to increase your criminal network. Once you’ve established a network in any particular area, you’ll then be able to undertake schemes to do things like earn money or reduce the amount of attention you’ve drawn to any of your bases. You’ll also be able to undertake special side quests, like kidnapping specialists to learn their secrets.
There’s a lot to get your head around, but the game mostly walks you through it, breaking things down into main objectives, optional objectives and side quests that are easily achieved and rewarded. There is also a sandbox mode that allows you to take things completely at your own pace, with everything being unlocked from the get-go.
I’ve seen some fans complain that it falls short of the original, but as a newcomer to the franchise, I can’t comment on how it compares, and considering the original was released 18 years ago, a good number of people eyeing up the sequel might well be in the same position. With that in mind, Evil Genius 2: World Domination brings the essence of the franchise to new and old fans alike. It’s a solid simulation game with quirky graphics and pretty awesome voice acting, but it can feel a little overwhelming at times. There are so many things to keep your eye on, but hey, nobody said being an evil genius was easy. Evil Genius 2 won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of simulation games, it’s worth giving it a try.
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: 30 March 2021