Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Gaming

Villainy is a Beautiful Science in Evil Genius 2

Villainy is a Beautiful Science in Evil Genius 2
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Evil Genius 2: World Domination Preview

I hear there is a new James Bond game coming out. Cool stuff! Evil Genius 2: World Domination is not that. In part, that’s because you play as a villain, a mastermind bent on taking over the world. But truly, Evil Genius 2 is more Austin Powers than a Bond flick, a lighthearted base builder that hones a forgotten formula for a new generation of gamers.

You don’t need to have played Evil Genius 1 to enjoy this sequel- but I did. I’ve always been a sucker for base building games, and the subgenre of “build an evil lair” games is even more enticing. Sadly, there hasn’t been a really worthy entry in the genre for over a decade. Evil Genius 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a remake, taking all the ideas and systems from the original and refining them for a modern audience. All of that is excellent, because I was never good at the original Evil Genius.

In this game, you build and you manage. You start with an empty island, but eventually, you will carve your way through a volcano and fill it with rooms and minions. Then you will send your minions out into the world to do crimes, and your vault will fill with gold. Sometimes, the good guys will come snooping, and it’s up to you to kill, capture, or distract the agents of justice.

Repelling secret agents is the good stuff. Your evil base can build a casino as a front, and spies are easily distracted by martinis, roulette wheels, and karaoke. But if they manage to make it into your inner sanctum, spies will have to navigate a labyrinth of guards, cameras, and devious traps. Researching and positioning the perfect laser fence or poison dart launcher is good fun.

In the build available to reviewers, I got to play one campaign on one island as one genius. After about three and a half hours, the game transitioned into more of a freeform sandbox mode. This is where things become a little hard to assess. The campaign is a riot. Fantastically funny writing genuinely had me cracking up, but once the game’s objectives became less focused, my attention started to waver.

It’s not that the base building isn’t fun- it’s really tight and propulsive, constantly pushing you to expand and throwing unexpected challenges your way. My money situation got dire more than once, but I never fell so deep into a failure cascade that I couldn’t claw my way back out. As a veteran of the genre, I’m here to tell you that is great design. Indie management games often fall apart because of small balance decisions, but Rebellion interactive has progression on lock. Everything takes a good amount of time, problems are intuitive, and you always know what you want to do next. That’s a great improvement over the original Evil Genius, which tended to quickly spiral out of control if you made a mistake.

Progression Personified 

But where I wish Evil Genius 2 stepped up a little more is on the creative side of things. I eventually unlocked a couple of dozen cosmetic items, stuff like water coolers, chairs, and vintage 60s computer banks. But space was always at such a premium that I never really felt compelled to spruce up my base to make it look cool. What kept me involved was not the building, but the progression system and the writing. This game has jokes!

It also helps that Evil Genius 2 is pleasant to spend time with. The music is exactly what you would hope- twangy guitars, stinging horn hits, rich string chords, and a shuffling chromatic bass. It’s spy music, and it’s so good that I spent some time just grooving to the menus. The animations are fun too- not too serious, closer to something like Incredibles than photorealism. And all of that shows command of tone. Evil Genius 2 knows that if things get too heavy, randomly executing henchmen will land differently.

What has me most excited are the things I haven’t gotten to play yet. Max is a classic sort of mastermind but there are three more characters that will be available at launch, and two more islands. If each genius gets a campaign similar to Max’s, I will happily complete every one, and that’s another couple of hours of gameplay. On top of that, it would be easy to add more characters via expansion packs. DLC, or what have you.

I’m looking to the future because at its core, Evil Genius 2 is good. It has a good feel and a good style and a rewarding challenge. While I wish it was more creatively fulfilling, it more than makes up for that in groovy aesthetic touches and dumb jokes that are way funnier than they needed to be. I loved the experience of Evil Genius 2, and I want more of it to satiate my growing lust for power!

*** Early Access code provided for preview ***

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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