If you've ever wanted to take over the world - and I think we can all say that we have, even if it's only gone so far as writing 'clone president?' in the margins of a notebook - then Evil Genius 2 is made for you.
Starting from humble beginnings, with only a tropical island volcano and a vault full of gold to your name, you must build a lair, recruit a force of minions, set up villainous operations around the globe and construct a doomsday device with which to hold the world to ransom. Look, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
The first step, building your lair, is surprisingly straightforward. Evil Genius 2 doesn't stray far from its 2004 predecessor: it's a traditional management game with you viewing the action from a near bird's eye perspective. From the build menu you can sketch out the dimensions of a room and drop in all the items it needs to function before hitting the confirm button and watching all your minions rush to carry out your orders. First excavating the volcanic rock and then fetching equipment such as bunk beds, control panels, and power generators from the helipad, placing them where you dictated.
It may seem a small thing but the perfectionist in me appreciates being able to pencil out a room and its items completely before construction starts. Often in older management games it was a two-step process - first building a room, and secondly populating it with items - and it was only when you started placing those items that you found the room wasn't quite large enough to hold everything. You'd end up hopping between room building and item placement in a fiddly dance to get everything placed. Hardly the behaviour of an evil mastermind.
For your lair to act as a foundation for your evil plots, it needs to perform many functions. You need barracks and canteens to house and feed your staff, control rooms to direct your operations around the globe, and research labs to develop new technology. There's also a whole side-hustle of maintaining a casino that acts as a cover for your base's activity. Making sure there's enough capacity for the minions you need to run everything, enough generators to power all the equipment, and picking through the research tree to work out your next steps for base expansion is completely absorbing.
On my first evening with Evil Genius 2, I played for five hours straight, forgetting about dinner and a Zoom catch up. There's a joy that comes from watching the solid volcano you start with in a new campaign become a hive of action. Scientists in lab coats carrying clipboards walk the halls, heavies in orange uniforms stand to attention at guard posts, goons in yellow jumpsuits sprint between jobs as though their lives depend upon it - which, considering you can execute anyone you think is slacking, they do. So much of Evil Genius 2's look is taken from the sillier Bond films - You Only Live Twice, Dr No, Moonraker - but it's not mocking them. It's in love with the moment before things start exploding, where you see the mechanisms of a large villainous operation whirring.
As you send goons out into the world, establishing outposts in different regions on the map and receiving a steady stream of illicit funds, you'll gain the attention of the Forces of Justice. These do-gooders will send investigators to your island, trying to find evidence of your plans. You can distract them in the casino, capture them for a light beating and interrogation, or simply kill them and throw their bodies in your lair's incinerator. But, as your evil plot thickens, you won't be able to avoid the eyes of Justice forever.
A rich vein of Evil Genius 2, as in the original, is the traps you can litter your base with. Sure, when an agent of justice sneaks through your casino and breaks through the locked door into your lair, you could send them on their way with a battering from your guards, or you could line the walls with automated boxing gloves. Better still is placing a Venus Spy Trap, a giant plant that will eat any agent that gets within its reach. You can combine traps, such as hooking up a fan that will blow an interloper down a corridor into a waiting shark tank.
There's a heap of traps to research and unlock and a huge variety of combinations to play around with. Base invasions stop being a worry, where you might see your precious lair sabotaged and your vault raided, and become a hand-rubbing joy where you can watch unsuspecting heavies blown into the waiting mouths of sharks.
While the demo I'm playing only grants access to the early stages of the tech tree and minion recruitment page, it's enough to provide a taste of the delectable management game that's coming. The major component that's missing - and that I'm most keen to see - is the doomsday device. The original Evil Genius' campaign is built around these devices. They're not just the end goal, the structures that will win you the game, they're devices you build in stages and can use to influence the world map. Building each stage also generates a huge amount of heat, attracting more aggressive attacks from the outside. It's not been made clear in preview interviews or in this demo exactly what the doomsday devices do, but I really want to find out, because I suspect they're key to keeping the late-game of the Evil Genius 2 campaign interesting.
For the moment, from what I've seen and played, I can't wait to see more. Evil Genius 2 is a captivating management game full of humour and systems to play with. It's been a long wait for a sequel to the 2004 classic but, so far, it seems worth it.
Evil Genius 2 was played on PC with code provided by Rebellion Developments. The game releases for PC on March 30.
Featured Image Credit: Rebellion Developments
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