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March 30, 2021
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is the long-awaited sequel to the original ‘maniacal laughing’ real-time strategy game. After the original creators at Elixir Studios shut their doors in 2005, work on the follow-up to the triumphant Evil Genius was sadly cancelled. The criminal network base-builder with a goofy spy-thriller theme became a relic of time. Ignoring the unsuccessful Facebook game, the team at Rebellion Developments has finally given fans what they want after nearly 17 years. Evil Genius 2: World Domination captures what we love about the first game and makes it better than ever.
The goal here is to achieve absolute power by building a comprehensive base while managing minions, gold, and power levels. A consistent barrage of investigators and secret agents will invade the lair and try to put a stop to your evil schemes. Using various facilities and devices, the horrible bosses can defend against invaders and realise global control by specialising minions, installing traps, abducting scientists, and bribing governments. Many schemes and stories to gain more gold arise throughout the journey to the ultimate end, but that’s all a day in the life of an Evil Genius.
Players can select one of four Evil Geniuses to realise their dreams of world domination. Each Genius has a unique skill focus; Max the narcissistic and classic mastermind, Ivan the ex-minion military leader, Emma the sociopathic spymaster, or Zalika the calculated scientist. With their respective play styles leaning towards different bonuses, special abilities and passive effects, the leaders supposedly provide many ways to win. While they do have their specialisations, the end-game will generally be the same. Whether you get there with a flawless crime syndicate or a complete pigsty of an evil company is solely up to you. Either way, it’s a delight.
One of the most significant additions to Evil Genius 2: World Domination are narrative-driven campaigns for each of the bosses. From rags to riches, each operation begins with objectives with short pop-up cutscenes in between. Minions will walk you through simple tasks like installing your first control room and abducting expert scientists from world fairs. These quests modernise the gameplay loop of Evil Genius 2 and bring so much more flair and comedy to an already charming game. Alternatively, the sandbox mode lets players develop and dominate without the objectives.
New rooms, henchmen, agents, and traps will expand your wicked possibilities. There are certainly very familiar minions and devices fans of the original will love to see returning, but the new additions give so much more to play with. New recruitable henchmen like pyromaniac Full Metal Jackie join the classics like the old and wise Jubei. Each has its own hilarious personality that complements the bosses and the entire tone of this comical strategy experience.
There are some dastardly dumb AI roaming these criminal organisations. Investigators are often a nuisance and need to be tagged for distraction, capture, or elimination when spotted. However, minions are slow to action and often take awkward routes to reach investigators. High Alert mode can be activated to supposedly speed things up and move guards to their stations, though it doesn’t make too much of a difference to their efficiency.
Minions will gather in large groups in tight corridors surrounding invaders, allowing only the closest to attack while the others just linger around. It may be funny, but the incompetence on show can also a little frustrating. There are also some glitchy moments where AI won’t respond or get stuck which adds to the mild frustration.
The lairs in Evil Genius 2 are considerably larger than what would be found in the original. I think many Evil Genius players know far too well the pain of running out of room for power and vaults, with lairs being quite limited from mid to end game. Now, bases can spread up to five storeys with upgrades unlocked through supervillain research. It allows for more room and strategic options to prevent invasions from rival agents stealing intel. With three different island lairs to start with, there is plenty of replayability and hundreds of hours of mischievous action to be had.
“…there is plenty of replayability and hundreds of hours of mischievous action to be had.”
Luckily, it is now much easier to construct lairs, with Evil Genius 2 offering design controls the original is sorely lacking. It is certainly much faster and smoother to build rooms, flesh them out with machines, and decorate them to your heart’s content with hundreds of evil lava lamps and spiky plants. Each room also has a specific colour to help distinguish them in wide view.
Despite being an absolute classic, the developers are well aware that the original game is certainly dated. Modern accessibility and visuals bring Evil Genius 2 into the current-age and more approachable to all players. The game features an extensive range of accessibility options, helping cater to different kinds of play. Fixed cameras, panning speeds, UI opacity, scroll margins, and of course, colourblind mode. Unfortunately, it is missing options for reading impaired players who may have difficulty with the game’s stylised text, which can often be very small on high-resolution screens.
While the building is undoubtedly much better, the user interface itself feels clumsy. Unfortunately, the colour coordination of rooms doesn’t translate to the UI build menu, where all the icons are yellow. The build menu itself is awkward, displaying rooms and objects on one single line across multiple tabs, requiring lots of clicking in and out of menus. Other strategy-building games like Dungeon Keeper or Prison Architect have much smoother user experiences with many more objects in their arsenal. Additionally, with all the colourful bits and bobs popping up across the lair, much of the display can be cumbersome and get lost within the chaos. These feel like design oversights that may have vastly improved accessibility otherwise.
Evil Genius 2 leans so heavily into the cartoony spy theme and it’s an absolute audible and visual treat. The refurbished theme music and a cohort of other tracks mimic classic spy movie music excellently. Islands are full of luscious greenery and beautiful beaches with tourists of all shapes and sizes traversing your cover operation’s casino. All the placeable furniture resonates so much character, and it’s hard not to spend hours just decorating rooms like a Sims house. The game also now has a photo mode; while it is average at best, it does enable crafty shots of some fantastic interior design efforts. Even the world domination map has had a much-needed makeover.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination proves that exciting strategy games aren’t always super complex and difficult to learn. This base-builder is an outright joy to play for both hardcore players and those who just want to dip their toes in. Compared to the original, the gameplay is much more engaging and appropriately paced across the early to end game lairs. The often underutilised spy theme is used so well and feels fresh, with Rebellion Developments presenting it superbly in both style and substance. While it does suffer from some finicky menus and AI, it’s easy to be charmed by the rest of the package. You know, I have one simple request, and that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads! Evil Genius 2 is a fun and accessible strategy game for the supervillain in all of us.