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Evil Genius 2: World Domination review - Bad boys for life

Launching schemes and crushing dreams are the name of the game in Rebellion's revival of the cult secret lair simulation-strategy franchise. Our review.

3

Gamers get to play out the hero fantasy in so many different video games that even the thought of seeing or doing things from the opposing perspective inspires intrigue. Evil Genius 2: World Domination sees players operating on the other side of the coin from the perspective of upper management, much in the vein of Ernst Blofeld and similar campy supervillains. It doesn’t cover new territory, but a slick presentation, commitment to style, and life-wrecking addictiveness help it rise to the top of 2021’s game release pile — just like a nuclear missile emerging from the false roof of a secret mountain lair.

Throw me a frickin’ bone here!

Evil Genius 2 works as a simulation-strategy game where you design and build your evil hideaway on a remote island and use it as the base of operations for world domination schemes. It features four unique campaigns, each centered around a specific mastermind. The available supervillains are Red Ivan, a former soldier who prefers to use muscle, Emma, a former super spy with an inclination towards stealth, Zalika, a former scientist who opts to dominate with research, and finally Maximillian, the bald, Blofeldian narcissist who starred in the original Evil Genius. 

Your choice of mastermind has some determination on how the quest for world domination is achieved, as well as what kind of strengths and weaknesses your base will have. They each have special abilities that can increase productivity within your base or expedite the process of expanding your criminal enterprise around the globe. For the most part, the masterminds remain hands-off in regards to confrontations with infiltrators but can be micromanaged for those who need total control.

Your base is carved out of the mountain that occupies your island. Minions carry out most tasks like construction and operate various types of equipment necessary for smooth base operation. They are fully autonomous and will fill in anywhere work needs to be done. They can also act as a type of human currency to cover manpower costs associated with your various worldwide schemes.

Schemes are the primary generator of income for your operation. Once you establish a criminal enterprise in a section of the world, you have the option of running schemes that can return gold (which funds most endeavors), reduce heat with the local authorities, or acquire targets of interest. Schemes that generate income or research benefits will in turn increase heat with local authorities. Once the heat reaches a certain level, the region will go into lockdown, preventing all scheming for a fixed amount of time. Generally, it is a good idea to keep heat low so that you have more gold incoming and so that investigators aren’t sent to your base to gather evidence of your nefarious activities.

Every continent across the globe (save for Antarctica) is available for scheming. There are overreaching justice organizations that oversee specific parts of the world. Each is identified by simple acronyms such as A.N.V.I.L. or H.A.M.M.E.R. You may run multiple operations within the oversight of a single organization and the amount of heat generated from each is cumulative. Your operations can also be upgraded further into the campaigns to offer schemes of higher quality (and matching heat generation). 

Some territories also play home to special crime lords. You can run schemes to recruit these special characters to become henchmen in your base. Like masterminds, they offer special abilities that can be deployed, though these abilities are geared towards the detection, distraction, detention, or death of investigators, saboteurs, or other ne'er do wells intent on foiling your plans for world domination. I tended to employ the skills of Eli Barracuda Jr., son of Eli Barracuda from the first game. His best trait is known as Silver Tongue and it allows him to sweet talk intruders to the island. In an event where that approach wasn’t enough, he also carries a big pistol to end conflict permanently.

Evil Genius 2 really succeeds on the back of its personality and cohesive presentation. The art style perfectly captures the Atomic Age design aesthetic. The delightful soundtrack is full of brass and mid-60s surf guitar licks that help put you into the proper mindset for concocting mindless schemes. The occasional cutscenes are well animated and voice acted, each giving the masterminds some personality that helps to keep things engaging as you spend 50 hours staring at the same overhead views of your base layout. 

Evil Genius 2 also makes an outstanding first impression the first time you boot it up as it provides a host of options and aides to help you dial in options, screen calibration, and other settings before you are dumped into the game. This is such a welcome feature as opposed to most games that force you through prologues or tutorials before you can even get the chance to adjust graphics or set volume levels. It even has perfect HDR support, a rarity for this genre.

Even the times when the game was annoying me didn’t feel too bad. There can be loads of micromanagement when it comes to dealing with investigators, saboteurs, and other intruders. Yet, I still found it amusing watching minions collect all the dead bodies from a shootout for incineration. Once your base begins to span across multiple vertical levels (one of the best additions to the original game formula), managing all of it can start to feel like busywork, especially while you still have to tend to multiple worldwide schemes (and the consequences of the resulting heat generated). 

I would have liked to see some sort of visual indicators of regional or organizational heat levels from the base view screen so I didn’t have to constantly pause the simulation and swap back and forth to the global overview. I loved being able to capture intruders and interrogate them but disliked that the process had to be done manually when virtually all other base operations are handled autonomously by the minions. The included campaigns are great, but I would have like to have seen some more to do, as much of the differences between the masterminds came down to flavor text or scheme naming.

It’s not easy being sleazy 

When I felt myself growing weary of the complication, I would march Maximillian into the mess hall and execute one of the stupider minions in front of his coworkers. This sent all the witnesses into a panic, resulting in improved productivity. I might be mentally damaged, but I’m having a great time and accomplishing my goals of world domination. Ultimately, Evil Genius 2 is a Dungeon Keeper clone in a different coat of paint. The surface has been well-prepped and the paint was applied with great expertise, though. If you consider yourself a fan of simulation-strategy games, this has to go on your must-play list for 2021. 9/10 secret boxing glove traps hidden in corridor walls


This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Evil Genius 2: World Domination launches on March 30, 2021, on Steam for $39.99.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

Pros
  • Outstanding presentation
  • Slick HDR visuals, audio, and animations
  • Humor and style break up the monotony
  • Addictive game design
  • You can murder your minions on a whim
Cons
  • Excessive micromanagement required
  • Only four campaigns
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