Evil Genius 2: World Domination Review

Evil Genius 2 releases to PC on March 30th. I reviewed the game playing on the hardest difficulty most of the time.

You can find a video version of this review here: Evil Genius 2 Review (Spy Fi Simulation Game) – YouTube

Overview

Evil Genius 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the cult classic that released all the way back in 2004. It’s a sequel I always wanted but never imagined I would get. At least without it being a butchered mobile cash grab with its soul ripped out.

The thought of it is the type of evil irony that would fly right above the heads of dollar sign seeing suits at a make the most money meeting. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with Evil Genius 2. It’s a very faithful successor to the original game, capturing, and improving on its addicting gameplay and devilish cheesy charm. It’s never felt so good to be bad while running your own secret lair.

Evil Genius 2 retains the same charm the original had.

Keeping the formula so close to the original has its downsides. A few of the original games’ flaws stubbornly managed to tag along and be a thorn in the side like a cryogenically frozen Austin Powers.

At its dark and mustache-twirling heart, it’s still a base management game about running an evil lair full of hapless minions, loyal henchmen, and clever traps. All of which you will need to stop the forces of justice from interfering in your plans for world domination.

Safe House

Evil Genius 2 presents you with a choice of four different geniuses. Each of which have unique powers, specialties, doomsday devices, and paths to world domination. Certain aspects of any campaign will always be the same. But main objectives, and most importantly doomsday devices differ, and those differences matter.

A Genius that can hold their own against agents has a different feel from puny little Maximillian. But his late-game gold-digging via his unique doomsday device might leave you jealous of his Gold Finger if you chose another.

You also get to choose between one of three island lairs. Each with various pros and cons. To top it off the game has difficulty settings. As a hard mode player, the inclusion of difficulty settings is a massive point in my favor, but Evil Genius 2 takes it even further by including a modular system. That way you can tweak individual aspects to your liking, and it’s a fantastic and thoughtful feature.

You can choose from four different evil masterminds.

In a contrast to most other simulation games, the entire campaign takes place in a single lair. You don’t move on and start from scratch after every mission.

That fact really lets you pour love and attention into your lair since it’s doesn’t feel like a waste of time that’s gonna be tossed aside in a few hours. You will instead always be expanding, redesigning, and tweaking the same lair all game, eventually even on multiple floors.

And tweak you will. As your empire grows, so will your needs, and attempting to keep a force of hundreds of minions of various types running smoothly makes up a good chunk of the game.

Modular difficulty is a cut above difficulty settings found in most games.

Thankfully moving objects around and redesigning rooms is painless. Thanks to smooth, modern, and intuitive controls as well as a crisp and clean user interface. Having a Goldeneye for efficient design is the key to making sure world domination isn’t Mission Impossible. The controls very nicely aid you in that regard.

Of course, Evil Genius wouldn’t be Evil Genius without a selection of traps to litter your lair with. Various traps serve different functions, and while you could just slap some down, that can be a Clear and Present Danger.

Your designs have to not only ensure that minions can attend to their own needs such as sleep and hunger, but that they also don’t fall prey to your own trap set up. If an agent triggers a trap in a high traffic hallway, your minions will also suffer.

You really learn to love your lair in each campaign since you stick with the same one.

Most traps can be combined in some way. For example, using a fan to blow gas from a knock-out trap into a do-gooders face, or a punching glove can bop a Person of Interest right into a tank of hungry sharks. There is a massive amount of clever combinations you can come up with once you research most of the traps.

Research is another important facet of any campaign. The research tree is split between several categories, with traps being one of them. You can unlock the whole tree eventually, but that takes a very long time. The research choices really impressed me, because each one feels very important.

Every research item feels important.

I had to deliberate over every single choice. As much as I wanted that new fancy trap, the allure of guns or super serum for my muscle minions was equally enticing. The whole system is well designed.

The Lives of Others

A variety of minions make up your workforce from simple workers to big burly guards or charming spin doctors. Managing them is the key to your success, which is problematic because your minions are complete idiots.

Now, for the most part, that’s sort of the point. You’re the genius, they are The Men Who Stare At Goats. You never control minions directly, they act based on their profession, your base designs, and various tags you place. Tag an agent to be distracted, and they will do their best to do just that. Lowering the agent’s skill and resolve in the process, and escorting them out of your lair.

You can place cameras to grant your guards more visibility, because your tags mean nothing if they can’t actually see what you tagged. Your minion’s inability to Get Smart is part of what contributes to you needing to go big-brained with your base design. Efficient flows of traffic keeping minions and agents in the right places at the right times is important.

You can choose between three lairs, each one has advantages.

That goes for your cover operation too, your evil lair needs a nice Casino Royal as a cover. Your casino can help distract tourists and agents before they ever get to your lair. An agent who runs out of resolve will simply leave, while lowered skills mean they are more likely to trigger your traps.

At times, however, the pure stupidity of your minions can be frustrating. Non-combat minions flee, but do so poorly and get murdered all too easily in combat situations. Worker minions are terrible fighters but will Leroy Jenkins into every battle, and there’s no real way of stopping them.

Building a base with guided traffic in mind can help, but your social minions always need a way to your cover operation. Which means in the event of an attack, they usually need a Funeral In Berlin.

Setting up trap combinations is incredibly satisfying.

Death from stupidity can be frustrating because you gain worker minions over time. But anything higher needs to be trained, which also takes time. It’s easy to fall into loops where you’re just waiting on numbers to replenish, especially, since minions are also spent as a resource on the world map.

Henchmen on the other hand can be controlled directly, and you can only have a limited number of them per campaign. So, you have to choose wisely based on your playstyle. Each one has various stats and abilities. Eli Barracuda can charm agents and lower their resolve, while Jubei is a pure offensive powerhouse. Incendio can distract agents with a magic show, while Iris can function as a mobile camera.

The various Henchmen include a few returning or at least callbacks to ones from the original game, as well as brand new faces. All of them are interesting and useful.

The World Is Not Enough

The World Map is where you oversee global operations, spending minions like a resource on various schemes. You don’t get those minions back and have to replace them, so you have to carefully balance your literal human resources.

The world map affects nearly every aspect of the game, it’s where you earn gold, complete many objectives, and how the forces of justice generate heat. So it’s a shame that the Cloak and Dagger is actually really boring.

Be prepared to look at this screen a lot.

The world map needs constant micromanagement as it’s the main way you gain money and progress through the game. The more heat you generate, the stronger the agents knocking at your door become. 

Too much heat in anyone one region, and it locks down. So you’re always moving operations, starting schemes, lowering the heat, and otherwise micromanaging a map of icons. As necessary as it is, it’s simply not that interesting and constantly distracts from the fun parts of the game.

The pacing of the entire campaign feels a little off. Almost every aspect of the game uses the map screen. Side stories unlock new minions, loot, and henchmen. They can have interesting effects on your lair, such as an unexpected attack of killer robots. So you have to stay on your toes.

Your lair will always need tweaked, and you will never tire of tweaking it. Not until it’s perfect.

They do however, take a ton of time. Much of which is spent fussing with the map or waiting for the right resources you need, while tweaking, designing, and enjoying your lair in-between.

I was 8 hours into my first campaign before I got my second Henchmen. They are all governed by long elaborate side stories. And on one hand, they feel more meaningful because of that, on the other hand, 8 hours is a long time to play with only one henchman.

Half of the research tree remains locked until roughly halfway through a campaign. If you happen to exhaust your research options before then, it can really drag as you can’t unlock any new toys for a long time.

Henchmen have powerful abilities.

Each genius has its own campaign, but share the side stories. And since it’s all mostly governed through the map screen, it can feel far too similar. Though research, island choice, henchmen, and playstyle do help keep things fresh. Much like research, side stories are impactful and you need to choose them wisely since you can only work on one at a time, and I really enjoy the meaningful choice.

Kingsman

The Forces of Justice will constantly engage in a Spy Game against your operation. Investigators will show up searching for any evidence of your dirty deeds, and if they escape with it, soldiers come next. Now, only parts of your lair are actually considered evil. Bedrooms, food halls, and other innocent areas aren’t suspicious at all, unless there’s a dead body.

Agents that leave alive without evidence can take some heat off you, but only so many can go missing before people start to notice. That said, capturing or killing agents is oftentimes needed. The hallmark of a great villain is one that can balance the murder with the not murder.

If Agents get through your cover operation, they can still fall prey to your traps, and there are both lethal and non-lethal varieties. If all else fails, you will need to sick your goons or henchmen on them.

Ever wonder how a villain feels when a hero thwarts plans they spent tons of time on? You will know soon.

Finding different ways to protect your lair from agents is incredibly fun, and just as important as managing it. Watching minions bamboozle an agent or seeing your complex deathtraps work the way you imagined them is beautiful, and if it didn’t work making tweaks is super easy.

However, both of my prior complaints of stupidity and bad pacing can turn agents from fun challenges to an exercise in frustration. Soldiers can be a terrible pain in the rear. Unlike other agents, they will attack on sight once they are through the cover operation. This right away invalidates a couple of ideas I had.

I had made specific food and rest areas for all my social minions right outside of the cover op. Well, that counts as the lair, and these soldiers have a License to Kill. They have no problem shooting unarmed valets and celebrities as they are getting out of bed and running away. Evidently, the Forces of Justice do not take inspiration from Batman.

Ideally, you want to soften up dumb soldiers with traps before engaging. Well, you have no way of telling your brainless minions to stay away from the area, so they will wander in and get slaughtered.

Once super agents appear, things get interesting and messy. Your micromanagement on the world map increases tenfold as your actions there can draw them to you, and you have to start contending with them when they do show up.

Now each one is unique, with their own methods, statistics, and abilities. How they enter or appear in your lair is largely random. But once they appear in one campaign, each one will always appear there again so you can form a plan of how to handle them. They do a great job of feeling like plucky heroes to oppose you.

A good cover operation can tire agents out before they ever reach the lair.

Agent X is a master investigator that plants false evidence, Symmetry is an expert rogue who enters directly into your vault to steal your gold. John Steele can make your social minions desert you. Each of the six super agents is supposed to represent a unique threat, but they all have one thing in common. They have super stats.

The problem is, they start to appear before you’re really ready. It seems like each one wants you to form a plan specific to them. But it kind of falls flat.

They all have high enough skill and resolve that when they start appearing, you won’t be able to make them leave peacefully. They will disable every single complex trap that you painstakingly placed, leaving pure brute force to take them out.

Now, there does come a time when you can affect their skill and resolve enough that they aren’t immune to three-quarters of your options. But Super agents appear LONG before you have that ability. 

Since your only option is to pile on minions and henchmen to take them out…There’s little reason to switch it up later since you have already had to gather the muscle to deal with them in the meantime.

Sometimes a mission will throw a curve ball at you. It pays to be prepared.

It also causes a weird sort of paradoxical situation for Evil Genius 2. I came to a point fairly early in the campaign where my cover operation turned away almost every agent that came to my door. 

The only thing that could get into my lair was super agents, who were too strong for my traps. So, I sat there staring at my wonderfully devious trap designs that largely went unused for a large portion of the game. At the same time, it also wasn’t challenging even though I was playing on the hardest difficulty. I had basically solved the game for awhile.

Verdict

For better or worse. Evil Genius 2 is a fancied-up version of the original game with greater usability and visuals. This means it’s just as fun as the original and makes it a worthy successor. 

Nostalgia is often blinding. Our memories lie to us, and that often makes any attempt at touching a classic fall short. That isn’t the case here, Evil Genius 2 is everything I loved about the original game.

At the same time, every single complaint I have can be traced back to the original. A game created in 2004 and that’s really disappointing. However, times are different, games receive updates on a more regular basis and Evil Genius 2 already has a season pass planned. It may not affect my review, but I remain hopeful that it will improve further.

It really doesn’t matter how much the agents would like to speak to the manager.

The reality is, none of the draw-backs in Evil Genius 2 stop me from enjoying it any more than they did in the original. I’m just annoyed they persisted all the way into a sequel released in 2021.

Evil Genius 2 embodies the humorous charm, clever base management, devious traps, and cheesy spy movie clichés that I loved in the original game and wholeheartedly replaced it for me. I won’t be putting it down anytime soon.

It doesn’t stray far from its inspiration but still delivers key improvements with stronger replay value, better visuals, and an experience that’s fresh enough to feel new while staying true to itself. If it could have ditched some of the flaws that plagued the original it would have been perfect. Regardless, Evil Genius lives To Die Another Day

A copy of Evil Genius 2 was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Rebellion for the purpose of review.

You may also enjoy my review of Rimworld.

Pros

  • Four diverse genius’s with lengthy campaign’s
  • Three unique base locations to choose from
  • Difficulty settings present, including a highly modular custom difficulty plus a sandbox mode
  • Tons of toys to play with, from minion types, to diverse henchmen and traps
  • Great lair focused gameplay based around designing and tweaking a single evil lair for the whole campaign
  • Traps, henchmen and minions make designing plans to handle agents a blast
  • Choices feel impactful, from research, to henchmen. There is no filler, everything has a useful function.
  • A worthy and respectful successor to a classic game
  • The six super agents pose unique threats to your lair

Cons

  • The world map side of the game is nothing but boring and time consuming micromanagement
  • Minion stupidity can be frustrating
  • Reliance on the world map can make campaigns feel similar
  • Pacing feels off, especially when it comes to super agents
  • While the challenge can feel inconsistent due to dumb minions, the game feels solvable, even on the highest difficulty.