Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, and coming into Rebellion’s Evil Genius 2: World Domination, there were definitely worries of playing the game through rose-tinted glasses, 17 years after the highly enjoyable original dropped in 2004. However, after spending over 40 hours trying to dominate the world, one thing is clear – this management game is not made for those who give up or get frustrated easily, and even then, it might not be all worth it.
To be fair, Evil Genius 2 manages to balance out the day-to-day minutiae of being an evil mastermind quite well. There is a great base builder underneath it all, together with challenging scenarios that will require you to pay attention to your resources. Unfortunately, it is all covered up by some obtuse design and gameplay decisions that are antithetical to the fun and bright aesthetic the game projects.
Taking the role of one of four crazy megalomaniacs, Evil Genius 2 starts you off with constructing your own evil lair from a selection of islands. Each location offers its own benefits and unique quirks, such as having a chokepoint of an entrance, or gold deposits ready to be extracted.
The same goes for the masterminds, they each bring a unique story, abilities, and ultimately, a campaign of their own. Get the base in shape, build different rooms for myriad purposes, recruit the right specialists, lay down traps, sow your agents around the world, and in the end, put together a Doomsday Device to make the world your oyster.
This cycle does not really change much from villain to villain, and it is a fun process littered with annoyances here and there. Starting from your lair, Evil Genius 2 does not exactly keep things off-limits. Almost all of the rooms are available to build straight from the off.
Be it the Barracks where your minions take a nap, the Training Room where nincompoops become experts, or even the Inner Sanctum where your avatar resides, it is entirely up to you to plan out the layout of the base.
The base building is a definite highlight of the entire Evil Genius 2 experience. Everything has the same cartoony look to it, but polished to a high degree. Building rooms are as easy as dragging out the blueprint and watching your minions go to work.
It helps that the animations in which your people go through are always good for a laugh. The low-level Minions move as swift as they are timid, while the tougher Guards, Martial Artists, or Mercenaries all exude the necessary strength to protect your base. Scientists and the more academically inclined folk in your base, on the other hand, are stiff and stern.
Everything combines together to make Evil Genius 2 a joy to watch in motion. However, that can only last you that long before players fall into a waiting game.
Now that you have everything in place to enact your plans, you have but a few options to progress. If you need upgrades, your scientific team will have to do the research, unlocking new items and objects for you to use. The world needs a touch of evil as well, which is where the expansion of your global criminal network comes into play.
Sending minions around the world allows you to establish a relay station in that region. Aside from providing a small passive income, having a presence enables you to undertake Schemes. These nefarious plans reward you with more money, as well as other important benefits essential to progress in the game.
That said, it does not come without a cost. Those minions that go on such missions do not come back, and you will generate Heat as well. Let things get too hot, and the Forces of Justice will dispatch their agents against you. Clumsy detectives are easily handled, but when the big guns like Super Agents come knocking on the door, this is where things can get really bad for you.
As the Cover Operation of your base, you can utilise the Casino and your various Deception minions to handle the tourists and unsuspecting agents that visit your island. However, they most likely will make a beeline for your lair. Just like the first game, this is where cleverly laid traps can shine.
There are a variety of traps that you have at your disposal once the research is all done, and the satisfaction from seeing it go according to plan can be gratifying. A particular favourite combination is seeing an agent get caught in a bubble, blown across the room, get punched, and land in a shark tank all in one fell swoop. Of course, nothing is ever going smooth in Evil Genius 2.
Once the Super Agents come by, you can expect plenty of casualties. Putting the base on High Alert can help, but the pathing to the enemies can be hit or miss. Unless you have security cameras covering every square inch of your base, it is likely you will fall prey to an uninvited Super Agent that pops up and starts wrecking shop.
Losing a ton of specialised minions can be a major setback, and once the body bags pile up, morale will be at an all-time low. A bug that has been thankfully fixed previously caused a choke in body disposal, which fed into a vicious cycle where minions were deserting in droves. Now, you only need to worry about replacing them with time and money.
In such cases, your very own superpowered Henchmen can help in a pinch. Starting with just one, you can build out your own roster of powerful figures to battle the forces of good. However, it will be a long and arduous journey to get them on your side.
That applies to most of the mission chains in Evil Genius 2 as well. Things can get extremely long-winded and passive, as the important stuff takes place off-screen. In return, players are left twiddling their thumbs and watching research progress and numbers tick by.
Although you can get into some interesting scenarios, such as stealing the Declaration of Independence or the fabled Sands of Time, you are not exactly doing it. Sending minions in and watching a timer go down might not be fun to everyone, and that is something to note before you jump into Evil Genius 2.
Having to wait in a management game is nothing new, but having little of note to keep a player occupied is a whole other matter. Even as you continuously research more upgrades, build new rooms and establish new floors in the multi-level lairs introduced in this sequel, or deal with increasingly annoying agents, it can all start to feel one-note.
For a sequel to a game that first surprised many more than a decade ago, Evil Genius 2 definitely makes some much-needed upgrades. However, there is no denying that certain feedback loops need to be thoroughly reexamined. While the entire time is full of big moments that capture the fun and audacity of being an evil mastermind, it is just not enough to mask the deficiencies that make Evil Genius 2 an easy prey for the Forces of Justice.