I have fond memories of the original Evil Genius that released back in 2004, so it’s no surprise that I was quite excited when I found out that there was a sequel in the works. So, the big question now is whether this sequel is a worthy successor to the original game. Therefore, here are my thoughts after spending around 40 hours with the game.
The premise of the game is to build your “evil” lair and take over the world. You get to to choose between 4 different Evil Geniuses, each with their own unique abilities and superweapon that gets built throughout their respective campaigns. There are also 3 islands to choose from, each with a different layout and its own set of challenges. The game recommends starting your first playthrough with the campaign, though there is also sandbox mode which does not have the gated unlocks found in the campaign (which is an issue I’ll talk about in a little bit).
The game looks great and runs incredibly well. The humor, the references, and the art style all lend to its theme perfectly. There is also great attention to details in all the objects and animations. Rebellion has really done a fantastic job visually, all while staying faithful to the original title. The music is also good, but it does begin to get repetitive and wear thin after a few hours.
The game plays out in two modes. The Lair View, where you do all your day to day management and expansion of your lair, like hiring and training minions, building new rooms, doing research, and dealing with those pesky agents of Justice that keep coming to your base, and the World Stage where you’ll be completing schemes to get cash, doing missions to get new units, and various campaign and side quest objectives.
The Lair View
This is basically the place where you build your base. The UI does a good job of not getting in your way or being cumbersome for the most part when it comes to building stuff. It’s quick, simple and easy to change things (there are a few complaints with other aspects of the UI we’ll discuss later).
Each island is made of several floors, through which you can extend your base. These floors are made up of different types of rock and a portion of it is excavatable from the start. The other types require research and as such your usable space is very limited until that is done. So, it’s somewhat of a puzzle figuring out the best solution to the space you have so that you can fit in everything you need.
Hiring and training minions is done from the minion training screen, where you hire basic workers or set the desired amount of a specific type of minion you want in your base. There are 3 categories of minions: Muscle, Deception and Science. Then, there are 4 types of minions in each of these categories. So a basic worker will train to become either a guard, a valet or a scientist. These can further be trained to become one of the more specialized variants that unlock later in the game (for example a guard -> martial artist/weapon specialist or hitman). So all you need to do is set the number of any given minion you want and the game will do it’s best to try and maintain that number.
There is also a minion manager screen, where you can see all the minions, their names, their roles, their traits and how long they’ve been in your service (you can even assign preferred roles to each one). In practice though, this screen seems absolutely pointless. At the start they’re sent to do schemes on the world map from which they won’t ever return, or they get killed by the justice units in your base. The game also assigns them to roles based on their traits anyway, so I’m not sure why this screen exists.
Both your Evil Genius and your various henchmen can be issued move orders and also have 2 special abilities (what these are will of course depend on which Evil Genius or henchman you are using). You can even order your Evil Genius to execute a minion in front of the others to make them work more efficiently.
The game does not appear to be difficult (admittingly I played on normal). So at no point did I ever feel the need to control my Genius or my henchman to make an actual difference. By the time you reach mid game, it basically plays itself. Regardless of how many super agents or law enforcement units invaded my base, or what was happening on the world stage, I could just leave the game to run at double speed and be fine without any kind of interaction for ages. Money still came in and things carried on as normal.
If you’re wondering why I’d do that, this is why:
My first big gripe is the pacing of the game’s campaign mode. More than 50% of the research trees are locked until you reach a certain part of the campaign (including the ability to mine the majority of the stone types). In my case, that was nearly 13 hours in and that was for my second attempt – which was mostly played on fast forward, bee-lining through the main missions as fast as I could to see how long it would take to get some new unlocks. 13 hours (and that’s only some new stuff, lots of other stuff was still locked for a few hours more). I initially thought it was a bug, or that the content was locked until release, because there is such a large time gap between when you’ve researched everything you can, up until the next stuff unlocks. You’re effectively stuck with the inability to expand your base properly, use any of the cool traps, or get access to several important room/item upgrades and minions for several hours.
Another feature that is also locked behind this wall is the ability to designate certain areas and minion behavior. There are 3 types of zones.
- If an agent is found here he is escorted back to the cover operation (Casino)
- If an agent is found here they are captured and locked up
- If an agent is found here they are killed
Number 2 unlocks relatively early. Option 3 unlocked only after 13 hours in my game. As for option 4, it unlocked at an even later stage.
Up until that third option is unlocked you will have to manually mark each agent that is sneaking inside your base (even if you have cameras the guards seem to do nothing). Once you mark them, BOTH your workers and your guards will attack them. Needless to say, your workers will get destroyed.
Once option 3 is unlocked, the moment an enemy agent is in that zone and is spotted by a camera, ONLY your guards respond and deal with it, and they do it immediately (as it should be). I’m not sure why something as rudimentary as this is locked behind a research wall many hours into the campaign. It makes me wonder what the point of my security room full of armed and ready stationed guards is for, or all my cameras.
My issue with the campaign pacing is that it leads to the game feeling very stale as you end up doing the same things over and over, while you wait a very long time for more cool stuff to be unlocked.
My first “playthrough”, (which still had 50% of research options locked), took 22 hours. I wasn’t rushing on my first try. I was taking my time and trying to enjoy the game. However, I had to start over because I came across a game-breaking bug (a side quest would not complete and they can’t be deleted/disabled). As a direct result, it prevented me from finishing a campaign mission because I could not take a new side quest to get a required minion. I even contacted support and got no reply.
On a side note, I re-tested that quest called “Ace up my sleeve” in my second playthrough, and the same thing happened. Rebellion issued a patch that did not fix the issue in my old save game. Perhaps one needs to either start again (or have not taken the quest already). So, if you plan on playing, my advice would be to save before taking this particular quest. The quest is divided into several parts, so you won’t know if it’s bugged until a guy has to perform on stage at your base.
Evil Genius 2 also features a number of different side quests, crime lord (chains that will eventually lead to you acquiring a new henchman), loot (stealing a particular item from the world stage that offers some benefits) and side quests were you deal with enemy super agents (which when completed will remove those agents from the game). Then there are opportunities, which are basically arbitrary challenges that reward with a small amount of cash. IMO, they are not really worth chasing unless you’re strapped for cash, and that won’t be for long.
The World Stage
The second mode where you’ll be spending the rest of your time is the World Stage. It’s here where you will be creating criminal networks, and sending your minions out to perform schemes (to get income, loot, fuel for your superweapon etc, and doing main/side quests along with a few other activities.)
(You’ll need to build a ton of Radio repeaters in your lair to be able to have more of these and upgrade them. A ton. In every conceivable nook and cranny you have, because your research is locked in the stone age).
The world is divided into zones controlled by the various forces of justice (PATRIOT, SMASH, SABRE, HAMMER & ANVIL). Each of these zones is further divided into smaller regions in which you can set up criminal networks. If you’ve generated too much heat in a zone, the respective organization will send units to your lair.
Unfortunately, this aspect of the game is far less interesting. It’s relatively simplistic and basically involves spending resources and sending minions to get things done (and sending minions and spending resources to reduce heat). That’s it. There is no real strategy.
Once you have several of these networks (you can build one in each region, of which there are 23 if I counted correctly) you’ll need to babysit them all. Heat is generated regardless of whether you are running schemes or not, and there is also no way to get a quick overview. You’ll have to constantly go to the World stage and check each region to see if the heat needs to be reduced or if a scheme needs to be activated. Having an overview from the lair view would have been a nice QoL feature.
The schemes that remove heat in each region (there are 2, one takes longer and consumes minions, the other is instant and uses money and intel) both have the same icon. So you’ll need to constantly mouse over each one to see whether it’s the one you want to use at any given time. The same applies to schemes that make money. Why Rebellion? Why not use a different symbol so that players could instantly tell the difference?
Due to all these shortcomings, the World Stage is a chore to navigate. They also turn – what could have been an interesting aspect of the game – into what amounts to time-wasting busywork and unnecessary micromanagement. It’s a pity.
Bugs & Issues
Aside from the game-breaking bug I mentioned earlier, I came across two other smaller bugs (one of which required me to load an earlier save). I had to craft a schematic that was to be stolen by the FOJ, but it was stolen before I had actually finished crafting it, so the quest could not finish, which required me to load an earlier save.
Something else that was quite annoying was the “Something is wrong with the training room boss” voiceover/quote repeating itself every few seconds when the base was being attacked. I got it the first time, I don’t need to hear it every 10 seconds for the next 10 minutes.
There are also some icons hidden behind the radio beacon icon on the world map as well. It would make more sense to place them elsewhere as there is plenty of free space.
There was also 1 section where the performance just started to periodically drop (during a base invasion when all my minions were fighting around some stairs). It only happened once, so I suspect it was some kind of bug.
Outside of these bugs I never encountered any other issues that come to my mind. There was a big patch a few days ago and another small one when the game launched. Hopefully these have resolved some of the issues I came across.
Despite the issues I’ve brought up in the review, Evil Genius 2 is not a bad game. It just has some serious pacing issues in the campaign that can be frustrating, as well as poor conveyance of information in general, and is somewhat on the shallow side. There is a lot that is not explained very well or at all in some cases. Of course it’s possible to work it all out, but the game should provide this information.
The world stage aspect could have been less repetitive & perhaps more interesting, and some systems in the game seem to lack any real purpose (the minion manger comes to mind).
The Evil Genius’s themselves don’t really have a big impact on the overall gameplay either, aside from having a different superweapon and “campaign” story. Still, the gameplay as a whole can be enjoyable, if a little bit shallow. It doesn’t innovate or add anything new to what the original did, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps my tastes have changed, but I expected more depth.
Would I recommend it? If the pricing model of the game was higher, I’d probably suggest waiting for a sale. At its current price point, though, it’s not a bad deal at all (if you enjoyed the original or like base building games). You’re sure to get a good many hours out of it (especially in sandbox mode), and there is more content coming via the season pass (new geniuses, new minions and new objects I believe).
- Gameplay is mostly enjoyable
- Reasonably priced
- Performance is great
- Visuals & animations
- True to the original
- Photomode is a nice touch
- Campaign has very poor pacing
- Music can get repetitive
- On the easy side
- World map aspect is repetitive
- No meaningful innovation
- Lack of information
- Not very deep
Computer Specs: Windows 10 64-bit computer using an Intel i7-6700k CPU@4.5gh, 32GB Ram, and an nVidia RTX 2070 Super graphics card.