Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, break away from the endless churn of everyday life, perhaps find isolation in a remote part of the the world, a tropical island for instance, where you can relax and plan for the future. A future, that is, where you bend the world to your will and rule under the threat of your doomsday device.
As with the original, Evil Genius 2 riffs off the template set out by Dungeon Keeper, dressing it up in a spastiched classic Bond film theme. It’s a perfect fit, leaning into tropes of evil lairs being hidden behind luxurious casinos, on tropical islands, in dormant (you hope!) volcanoes, and beyond. Naturally that means that, instead of building a base from the ground up, you’re mining into rocks and underground to create corridors and rooms, building out a covert installation from where you can plan and put into action your nefarious schemes.
There’s a dozen or so different room types that you’ll gradually need as you expand deep into the ground. At the most basic, you need a vault for your hoard of gold, a canteen and barracks for your willing minions to get fed and rest up. It’s not long before you’re building radio rooms to control your global scheming, training facilities to add scientists, engineers and guards to your cohort, security rooms, science labs, and more.
It’s nice and simple: you carve our a space for a particular type of room, and then fill it with the various items you have access to and need. The one minor annoyance I found while playing Evil Genius 2 is, unlike Two Point Hospital, you’re not given a suggested minimum dimensions for a room, meaning that you can mark out a space, switch over to the Items tab and start trying to fill it with the various necessary objects, only to discover that the room is too small and having you switch back to the mining tool. It’s a minor faff as you get used to the game, but thankfully work doesn’t start until you’re happy with the room and its layout and you click to get your workers on the job with their rubble reducing mining cannon things.
Then it’s time to sit back and relax and watch your underlings get to work – until you build them an inner sanctum, they’ll just menacingly stand around in the middle of corridors. Then again, maybe you want them to be milling around? Each of the four geniuses in Evil Genius 2 has specific perks, where the Blofeld-esque Maximillian is an all rounder who can spur on nearby workers to try harder or trigger those in training to immediately gain their new role, and the other three are geared towards a specific side of the game’s tech tree. Zalika has a science focus, Emma, the former spymaster, is an expert at deception, and Red Ivan comes toting a rocket launcher to enforce his (explosive) security focus. They’re backed up by a gallery of recruitable henchmen as well.
Security’s a pretty big deal in Evil Genius 2, because of those pesky do-gooders who will regularly turn up and try to infiltrate your base. You have multiple layers to your defence, starting with the deception possible in your cover operation, the valets in a casino attempting to misdirect their attention with blackjack and booze until they give up and go away. Once they breach your base, it’s then down to your minions and guards to fight, who can be equipped with non-lethal and lethal weapons, or for a devious maze of traps to automatically take them out. Kill them and the bodies go to the incinerator, but capture them and you can torture them in slapstick fashion to gain information, or even brainwash them to join your ranks.
As time goes by, you’ll start to attract more serious attention from the regional spy agencies around the world, sending stronger operatives your way to try and stall whatever plans you’re cooking up. Some of that attention will probably be warranted thanks to the bases you can set up around the world and schemes you can cook up on the world stage. These tend to boil down to money making operations that send your minions on a one-way trip to earn you thousands of dollars worth of gold, operations to lower the suspicion of spy agencies about you, and a smattering of story-based missions. Through the tutorial mission, this had me recruiting (kidnapping) each type of minion in turn and then learning how to train them up.
Through it all, Evil Genius 2 tries to balance the ability to pick up and play with depth for those that want it. After building my base with strict corridors and rooms with doors and defined entryways, I happened upon the idea that I could actually just attach a small dining area onto my science lab, and pop in a brain power-enhancing sushi bar for my eggheads to nip on over to when they need a break instead of schlepping their way across my whole lair. Seeing some of the more open plan designs in Rebellion’s screenshots told me just how conservative my layout had been thus far, and I look forward to experimenting with more optimum ways to set out a base, geared toward keeping my minions’ core statistics looking healthy instead of having them cooped up like battery hens.
One thing that’s great to see is that Rebellion has taken accessibility into consideration. There’s colourblind options in Evil Genius 2 for those that need them, and options for the game to auto-pause on various actions and events, modify camera controls, and more. Evil lairs and empires are renowned for ignoring workplace safety regulations, but thankfully that doesn’t extend to putting the player in harm’s way!
After building up in near secret over the last few years, Evil Genius 2 aims to pull off its plan for world domination on 30th March this year. Brought bang up to date with a wonderful visual style, and with its familiar form of Machiavellian strategy management gameplay, it looks set to bring back the charm of the kitschy evil lair builder with aplomb.