I've been looking forward to Evil Genius 2 ever since I played the original more than a decade ago. What I've found is a game that may very well live up to the expectations of fans — and then some.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is the sequel to 2004's Evil Genius, a game that's all about being the most devious mastermind imaginable. All of the classic spy movie tropes are there: the lair in a volcano, planet-cracking superweapons, and a legion of barely competent minions.
Unfortunately, the original game had more than its fair share of technical problems; some of these issues have only popped up in recent years on newer operating systems. Between these issues and its generally outdated graphics, an Evil Genius sequel is most welcome. Happily, it also looks like this upcoming game is on the right track.
Dastardly Masterminding 101
The Evil Genius 2 preview build began with a mandatory tutorial. This isn't the most complex strategy game by far, but it's no Facebook clicker game, either. I spent well over one and a half hours learning the game's mechanics. Most of it was familiar to me as a player of the original game, and any returning fans can expect to see a lot of similarities with the original.
The tutorial teaches you all of the basics of the game — placing rooms, placing furniture in those rooms, and recruiting minions. These elements of your secret evil base are used to facilitate crimes in multiple countries with one goal in mind: you're going to try to take over the world.
Your various schemes come with a consequence, though! Pesky investigators will occasionally drop by your lair and search for incriminating evidence. If you don't deal with them the right way, you're soon going to find armed soldiers on your doorstep. It's all a balancing act, and angering one of the world's superpowers before you can competently defend your evil lair can prove disastrous.
Evil Genius 2 could have painted on some prettier graphics on the original game's mechanics and most fans would have probably been happy. The first game in the franchise was very solid in terms of gameplay, but Rebellion made an effort to build on the original.
Each of the game's potential islands is different and they all have different opportunities and challenges.
Improved graphics aside, one of the most obvious examples is the addition of multiple floors to your evil lair. The previous game had everything take place on a flat plane; now, you can separate your entire structure into multiple floors connected by staircases. Each of the game's potential islands is different and they all have different opportunities and challenges.
Another new addition is "Side Stories." These are the equivalent of quest chains that require you to complete multiple steps and they always resulted in a much bigger reward than the standard "Build X items" kind of objectives. The developers are promising that there will be "hundreds of potential objectives" in the finished product and the handful I've seen so far add a fair amount of variety and comedy to the game.
Evil Genius 2 Shows Promise
I played just over three hours of Evil Genius 2, completing the tutorial and experimenting with my base for a short time afterward. The opening moments of the game were compelling entertainment, and fans of stuff like Dungeon Keeper and the original Evil Genius will find a lot to love here.. I'll certainly be happy if the rest of the game can match the quality and variety of the beginning.
That's not to say there aren't some rough edges. I had a particular issue with rebinding the controls; I wanted to use Q and E to rotate the camera in build mode. Sadly, it seems that something was broken in this pre-release build and the new keybinding didn't quite work as I had expected. I also noticed the occasional pathfinding issue. Sometimes, NPCs would even get stuck in a piece of furniture! I'm hoping that these silly little issues will be ironed out before the game's release in a few months.
[...] fans of stuff like Dungeon Keeper and the original Evil Genius will find a lot to love here.
My largest concern, however, is how the mid-game and late-game plays out. I will fully admit that I'm not an expert in the original Evil Genius, but there are plenty of videos and forum posts out there that show you exploitable features in the game. One of the most egregious examples is trap setups that can effectively contain an enemy agent forever, eliminating any risk from the attack and generating a ridiculous amount of money.
I'm confident that Rebellion has made a serious effort in preventing this kind of stuff from happening in Evil Genius 2. The best-laid plans rarely survive contact with the real world, however, and Rebellion's post-game efforts will likely determine whether or not we get a truly fair and challenging experience.
TechRaptor played Evil Genius 2: World Domination on PC using a copy provided by the developer. The game is set to launch on March 30th, 2021.