Evil Genius 2 Review: Takes The Evil Genius Franchise To The Next Level – Of World Domination
If you’ve ever dreamt of constructing a secret lair filled with obedient minions, trained guards, ingenious traps, and skilled henchmen, Evil Genius 2 is the game for you. Choose from one of four dastardly antagonist-protagonists, each with their own unique set of skills, and head off to one of three tropical islands to set up your base of operations.
The game features an engaging, narrative-driven, and lengthy campaign for each genius, as well as a sandbox mode that allows you to build the evil lair of your dreams without restrictions. The world is yours for the taking as you plan your lair, lay some traps, and pull off an array of evil schemes, all while assembling your very own Doomsday Device.
Those who played the original Evil Genius will remember Max, the wealthy tyrant from the first game. He makes his return here as host of the tutorial level. Due to the way the story is told through the training objectives, it feels like you’re playing the game organically right from the start, despite the first chunk being an unlocking process. In fact, it’s hard to figure out exactly when the tutorial ends. It flows so naturally.
There are four Geniuses in total and you can also select from three islands before choosing from easy, normal, or hard difficulty. The campaign mode features a main storyline, unique to each Genius, which is complemented by a range of side quests. The storylines in each of these inject more spy-based humor and puns into the game without feeling intrusive. The main objective’s storyline also offers glimpses into each Genius’ personality and how they view their plans, the world, and their minions. Getting to find out more about them as you progress adds an extra dimension to the game. You want them to succeed as you discover their history and ambitions.
Some of these quests unlock specific types of minions via kidnapping, while others allow you to recruit henchmen, pull off heists, or grab some unique loot. The loot quests are particularly varied and full of spy movie tropes that I love. For example, you can plan to steal the Statue of Liberty or discover that flying pigs do, in fact, exist… and now you have one. Reading the zany schemes is as much fun as undertaking them.
As you go through the main story, you’re also able to choose different side quests to achieve your objectives, grow your lair, and increase your dominance over the world. There are often several to choose from and the order you complete them determines your main focus. This helps you to be more in control of the storyline and the decisions of your Genius, making it feel like you’re making active choices in how things are run, rather than just playing out a formulaic narrative. For example, if you focus heavily on pushing into enemy territory on the world map but don’t defend your base properly, then things will go wrong quickly when enemy agents come knocking. There’s an art to balancing your priorities and this is where the game’s challenge lies. It doesn’t hand-hold when it comes to decisions.
The sandbox mode functions almost exactly the same as the regular game, except your gold reserves never run out and all the building options are available from the start, meaning there are no side quests in this mode – everything else is the same. You’re still able to interact with the world map, pull off heists and schemes, and run a casino to scam tourists. There are also still threats present in the form of agents, which require careful planning and research to defeat. Essentially, sandbox mode is a way of getting deeper into the game more quickly by sacrificing the narrative.
Each Genius has their own unique skills and storyline based on their personality. They can all inspire minions to work harder in their presence, but each one also has other talents that affect gameplay and mean that each Genius’ campaign plays out differently. Another difference you’ll notice is that their inner sanctum is designed with their personality in mind, from Max’s gilded walls to Zalika’s tech dungeon.
Max, with his love of gold and previous experience of world domination, starts with more minions and earns gold faster. He can also instantly complete training, which is very useful for replacing guards who are killed in battle. Meanwhile, the newly promoted Red Ivan persuades muscle minions to take a pay cut, and all his minions to perform better in combat. He also has a rocket launcher, but do you really want to fire rockets inside your secret base?
If you prefer a woman to be in charge, you’ll find tech-focused Zalika gives a boost to science minions so they’ll research faster. She can also instantly repair items and extinguish fires, which is useful for when schemes go wrong. The final Genius, Emma, has the most efficient deception minions and excels on the world map strategy layer due to her connections. She can also reset henchmen’s cooldowns.
Having four different options allows you to choose skills that benefit your primary aim as a player. Want to hoard gold? Max is your man. Prefer to dominate by force? Choose Red Ivan and his rockets. If you’d rather construct elaborate labyrinths of traps then Zalika is for you. For those who want to dominate using stealth and trickery, Emma will see you right. Whatever your playstyle, you’ll find a Genius and storyline that plays to this strength.
In terms of the basics, the lair-building process is smooth and user-friendly. Rooms are self-explanatory and items are easy to place and edit. Decor items are also separated onto a different tab, making it easier to get the basics down and add details later.
New items and equipment are researched as you venture through the storyline and new options are given at a reasonable pace. The most difficult thing is prioritizing since scientists can only research one thing at a time. This means that you need to decide between extra traps, lair upgrades, minion buffs, or enhancements to your criminal networks. Your Genius choice and aims will likely determine your path here and there are plenty of options so you can try different combinations.
As you build up your lair and undertake story quests and side missions, more of the narrative will unlock. The campaigns themselves are very long and each one is unique. Expect your playtime to run into double figures before you even begin to research your doomsday device, which will then stay relevant for a good while longer as you seek to test it. The length of the campaign means that taking over the world is, quite rightly, not a quick process. If you want to just research new traps and conduct elaborate and dangerous mazes then you can do that reasonably easily – however, researching, creating, testing, and using your Doomsday Device will take a serious time investment. This makes every step feel more rewarding as you really earn the right to dominate. Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll need to work in order to succeed and that’s exactly how it should be.
In terms of style, Evil Genius 2 manages to retain the heart of the first game while giving its graphics a huge boost. The modern cartoon style works perfectly with the tongue-in-cheek spy cliches spread liberally throughout the game. It also matches well with the new array of traps that combines some old favorites with some brand new inventions.
Traps are essential for helping ensure the survival of your minions when agents infiltrate your base, ranging from the classic freeze trap to the more elaborate killer bees and shark pools. You can even set up huge strings of traps using items like pinball bumpers and giant fans, so agents never even get close to your lair. The trap range is flexible and you can really make a mark with it. This is especially true now we can build on multiple levels early on. Setting up a staircase and establishing your main lair on a different level to the cover operation and entrance offers a new way to play with your enemies, which feels like a game in and of itself. Just make sure your own minions can still get to the helicopters.
All this is backed up by a soundtrack that takes the musical soul of Evil Genius and rearranges aspects of it in order to make the perfect accompaniment to any evil plan. Playing with the sound off definitely makes you feel less evil somehow, as James Hannigan’s composing brings new depth to the franchise.
Evil Genius 2 also has a good range of accessibility options. You can adjust the scale of the UI, change the camera angles and mouse sensitivity, and there’s also a color-blind setting. There are even settings to adjust the length of different alerts as well as a few other minor aspects of the game. Tweaking the difficulty and allowing tooltips in all campaigns means it’s well suited to different skill levels and abilities.
For me, one of the most useful settings is being able to auto-pause when certain things happen, such as the alarm being raised or your genius being under attack. I find it difficult to process when things change quickly, so having an auto-pause that gives me time to react made a huge difference.
Evil Genius 2 is a labor of love from a team who obviously wanted to pay homage to the original game, all while adding extra value and enhancements to the format. Every aspect of it, from the minions to the map, displays great care and attention to detail. It’s easy to play, yet difficult to complete while also being funny and rewarding. It offers an impressively lengthy campaign that runs well into double figures, even when you know exactly what you’re doing.
The balance of needing to manage your lair and check your world map is particularly well done. As your network grows it can get harder to avoid lockdowns, but upgrades bring it back in line. My only minor gripe is that you can’t properly micromanage minions. They have auto-assigned tasks and if you need things prioritizing – for instance, the removal of dead agents blocking the corridor – you need to get your Genius to step in, which can be dangerous.
If you love building games, creating elaborate strings of traps, playing the bad guy, and generally living your best island life scamming tourists, Evil Genius 2 is for you.
A PC copy of Evil Genius 2 was provided to TheGamer for this review. Evil Genius 2 will be released on March 30 for PC.
Next: Evil Genius 2: World Domination Interview: Venus Spy Traps, Shark Tanks And Bond Villains
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