The vast majority of media depicts things from the perspective of the hero. Be it video games, movies, or books we only ever hear the story from the “good side”. But Evil Genius is a franchise that sets out to break that mold. The first installment was released back in 2004, 16 years later, the franchise has seen its second installment. Evil Genius 2 takes the recipe from the first game and supposedly builds upon it. But as someone new to the franchise, how well does it land?
In regards to the story, there isn’t a set story to Evil Genius 2. Not per se at least. There are four campaigns to the game. Each campaign follows a different villain; Maximilian, Red Ivan, Emma, and Zalika. Each villain has their own doomsday weapon, which they plan to use to take over the world. You know, normal villainy things. During the campaign, the villain must complete different main missions, such as hiring a henchman or researching the doomsday weapon.
The story acts more as a way to guide the player through the campaign to take over the world, rather than a trip through deep lore. Which necessarily isn’t a bad thing. The campaign is deep enough that it serves its purpose of guiding the player through the game. But if you are looking for a deep villain-based story then unfortunately you won’t find it here.
The gameplay of Evil Genius 2 is split into two sections; the lair of your genius and “The World Stage”. While these sections are somewhat separate, they do overlap. The lair of your genius is yours to design as you see fit. The lair consists of two sections; your actual lair, and your cover operation. No sane evil genius would be an evil genius in the open, and so you must run a cover for your evil business.
This cover involves distracting tourists and agents from entering the lair and providing some funds for your evil deeds. But the majority of your money will come from the World Stage. The lair itself will be home to your workers as well as other types of minions such as guards, technicians, and scientists. Even though you are evil, you must still make sure your lair has the facilities to accommodate your minions. They will need places to sleep, train and heal as well as carry out research. You will also need a vault for storing your gold, as well as a jail to keep those you wish to interrogate. As you research new things, you will gain the ability to expand your lair and even spread it across multiple floors. You can even research new minion types and traps and other things to help your evil plans.
There are some options for decoration, however, they are somewhat limited. Various plants and chairs can be placed in the room to decorate them. And items such can be placed in each room to allow the minions to recover things such as morale. Traps will allow you to detect pesky investigators or super agents trying to infiltrate your lair. Waves of investigators will come to your lair, which will in turn lead the forces of justice to your doorstep if not dealt with. These investigators can be killed, however, I found it was better to capture them and torture them for intel.
The reason for this was simple; intel is essential to the World Stage. The World Stage of Evil Genius 2 consists of regions in which you can conduct schemes. But to conduct a scheme in a region you must have an operating criminal network in that region. Setting up this network requires intel, as well as some schemes requiring intel. You must also manage your broadcast strength, which is measured by the number of broadcast devices in your lair. Loss of broadcast strength can lead to you being unable to conduct schemes, so make sure you always have enough.
Once you do have your criminal network established, you can begin making a name for yourself on the World Stage. Some schemes can be conducted to earn you gold and some offer minions for your cause. But each criminal network will slowly gain heat. This is a measure of how much attention you are drawing to the region. While this naturally increases, each scheme will also increase the heat by a set amount shown before beginning the scheme. Some schemes allow you to reduce the heat in a region. Some take a set time, whereas others take 10 seconds or so but require gold.
Which is fine, if you have the gold to spare. Go crazy building that lair, or hiring minions, and you could find yourself unable to reduce the heat of the region. Should the heat meter in a region become full, the region will enter a lockdown. For a set amount of time, you will be unable to conduct schemes in that region and find that any schemes you were conducting are now canceled. As you expand and gain more networks, having multiple networks in lockdown can attract “the forces of justice” as the game tells you. Waves of investigators, or worse, will enter the lair and must be stopped. I learned the hard way that expanding too quickly, while great for gold, can leave you feeling slightly overwhelmed.
I had several regions on the go at once. Between juggling that, investigators at my base, areas in lockdown it all became too much. This is by no means a fault of the game. I entirely blame myself. But it was kind of nice to see that the game allows you to expand as much as you want whenever you want to. I eventually got into a rhythm and managed to stay on top of things, but I felt as if I was sinking in the forces of justice for a while.
And the Super Agents don’t help matters. Each region will have its own, and sometimes they will watch the schemes you are running in their region. If you carry out the scheme they are watching, they essentially track down your lair and invade you. You must fight them off, but they are no easy prey. They will take down many a minion, and so traps and ranged weapons are a must for defending your lair.
Henchmen do also help. These are powerful sidekicks that can be recruited to help your cause. They boast powerful abilities and can easily defeat invaders. However, they do struggle against Super Agents. And you must be careful, as Super Agents are capable of defeating your henchmen. If this happens they are permanently gone, and you must hire another. Things like hiring henchmen and researching new minion types all fall under side missions.
These are missions that can be conducted alongside the campaign missions, and offer rewards upon completion. You can only carry out one side mission at a time though, so choose carefully. There are also side missions that will help you identify the Super Agents’ weaknesses, making them easier to defeat. Ultimately it is fully down to the player how they conduct their evil plan, and I always felt that I had full control over what was happening both in my lair on the World Stage.
Graphics, Audio and Replayability
Graphically the game takes on the appearance of realistic animation, while also appearing cartoonish almost in its art art-style. It’s a style that suits the tone of comedy in Evil Genius 2, and something that the music of the game also matches well. I’m not sure if a photo-realistic art-style would have matched traps that trap enemies in a bubble. But the combination of the art-style and the music made me feel that I was a villain hell-bent on world domination.
With regards to replayability, the game does have a fair amount to it. There are four campaigns you could carry out, with another planned as a part of DLC. Even with these five campaigns, they are a magnitude of ways each can be carried out. I personally don’t feel that I would play the same campaign twice. However, there is definitely the option to should you wish to. You can always carry out different side missions to obtain different henchmen, and go about your world domination in a new way.
Overall, I feel that Evil Genius 2 is a refreshing take on the RTS genre. The game nails how I imagined it would feel to be a villain determined to take over the world. Evil Genius 2 allows player freedom in their bid for world domination and forces them to deal with the consequences of any actions they take. Expand too early and you may feel yourself being overrun with those who wish to stop your plans.
That being said Evil Genius 2 is not without its issues. The predominant issue being the overall pacing of the game. I understand that world domination is a marathon and not a sprint, but I felt that the campaign missions were tedious and repetitive after some time. The campaign feels too long, which may sound like a strange complaint. However, as the game progressed I began to feel that I wasn’t actually making any headway. I was completing the missions, but they just kept coming. There was always some reason that we had hit a hurdle in our plan. It felt that the game was being unnecessarily stretched. However, I did thoroughly enjoy my time with the game. Fans of the RTS genre, or those who really want to experience being a Bond-esque villain, should definitely grab this game.