Put on your best jumpsuit, steeple your fingers, and polish your gun made of precious metals: Evil Genius is back with a sequel after nearly two decades.
Following in its the nefarious footsteps of its forebear, Evil Genius 2 is a base building game where you construct an wicked lair underneath an arcadian island resort. From there, you recruit minions, research technologies, and run ignoble schemes.
It all mostly works together, and where it does, Evil Genius 2 shines. We were able to go hands-on with the game ahead of its March 30 release on PC. Here’s what we think of it so far.
Once you’ve got a stable base of operation going in Evil Genius 2, the meat of the game revolves around performing schemes to take over portions of the game map. As you put your schemes to work, you build heat in a somewhat similar fashion to Grand Theft Auto. Once you meet a certain heat threshold, an attack on your base is triggered and waves of investigators, soldiers, and super agents begin to close in.
To deter these dastardly villains, you can outfit your base with a wide range of traps and security doors, and you run a casino as a front to hide your operations.
Functionally, not much has changed from the original game. You dig out corridors and nooks underneath the resort for your rooms to slot into and must ensure you leave plenty of space for generators and control nerve centers. The former gives you much-needed power for the various items you build, and the latter gives you network power, letting you set up outposts on the world map from which to run schemes.
Other buildings are fairly standard: the vault acts as a treasury for your gold, holding cells allow you to confine prisoners you have captured, and barracks, rest areas, and canteens let your minions refresh over time.
The main wrinkle in running your base is that you generally must commit minions to your schemes for them to work.
Workers are your basic variety, and they can be upgraded into specialist types: muscle, science, and valet all have their own functions, which are fairly self-explanatory, and some schemes require these specialists.
Beyond your regular minions, there are more specialist classes you can unlock, as well as henchmen with better stats and specific abilities. These are great in practice, but like your Genius abilities, such as removing suspicion from agents, they often feel a little too specialized and fiddly to deal with while managing everything else.
With the Genius Maximillian, I often ended up running between my training room and science room to deploy his “instant training” and “work harder” buffs, before sending him to recharge. This is similarly cumbersome as it’s very easy to misclick, or forget that your Genius needs to recharge.
As schemes constantly drain your manpower, it can feel a little hard to keep up with constant invasions by enemy spies, especially when more powerful agents come knocking. Minions and agents dying lowers your morale, and when they die, they litter your base with body bags, which also lowers morale. It’s an easy spiral to fall into and a hard one to escape.
Progress is slow after the game’s lengthy tutorial is over; most everything in the main game is contingent on fulfilling schemes on the world map, battling down heat, and then tackling tougher assignments. All of this is a drain on your minions, which you acquire in a slow trickle. They can be “purchased,” but that costs gold, which you can only get by sacrificing minions to schemes.
It’s yet another tough cycle to get on top of, but ultimately, that’s where the challenge is. Evil Genius 2 wants you to feel smart by balancing your minion requirements and making sure you have enough of each type (but not too many). It wants you to expand your facilities to make sure they are outfitted well enough to support your schemes, but not so sprawling that you can get caught out by agents sneaking through your defenses.
When you do get on top of managing everything, Evil Genius 2 is a great time.
The aesthetics are polished to a wonderful mirror-sheen that reflects your maniacal expression as you build and toil. In a nice touch, your personal sanctum matches your Genius of choice, so, for example, Maximillian has a gaudy gold finish to everything, including his huge conference table.
Elsewhere, the game is all chunky retro-future aesthetics that feel one part Austin Powers and two parts Saul Bass and John Kricfalusi. Animations are also wonderful, with minions educating each other in the Henchmen Training 101 apparatus, and valets and technicians running around doing all the work with their arms slumped to their sides.
Though it’s a little more taxing than something like Two-Point Hospital, Evil Genius 2 is shaping up well so far.
Guards seem sluggish to respond to threats at times, and despite putting mandatory guard posts in my corridors, they often abandon them to sit around in the armory. This is part and parcel of the genre, though; wrangling your minions is meant to feel like part of the challenge, even if I wish it were just a little more streamlined.
Overall, it’s a unique experience, with a wonderful retro-aesthetic, and plenty of comedic touches. Each main objective unlocks more of the game’s research tree, and there are clearly some interesting aspects I’ve yet to see. Be sure to check back soon for more.
Until then, stay evil.