Now here's a little lesson in trickery.
Everybody loves a villain. They’re pivotal to any good tale and without a villain, we wouldn’t have a need for heroes.
Evil Genius 2 is a tycoon game that has you playing as a dastardly supervillain with a taste for world domination, a stylish upgrade to the 2004 title, Evil Genius. At a glance, alluring animations and whimsical plot wrapped up in a smooth management sim look great on the surface, but like all upper management positions, the underside of being an evil genius comes with some essential admin you’d rather not do. And I’m not talking about all the murder.
In EG2, you play as one of four vexatious villains, each with their own unique campaign and goals, but for the sake of this playthrough, I went for the game’s pocket-sized purple menace with a penchant for gold, Maximilian.
The aim is to slowly build up an evil lair, nestled all too conspicuously inside a casino. Upon arrival, your island is bare, giving you a sizable playground to expand on. Over time, you can add a multitude of rooms to your lair; bedrooms, mess halls and hospitals for your minions, power generators to keep the lights on, as well as research centres, laboratories to learn new skills and train minions. You can even have a torture room. Isn’t that nice?
Your chosen villain can meander around the base offering boosts to your minions that make them work more efficiently. Alternatively, you can also walk into a room of workers minding their own business and shoot one of them in the face, should you be inclined to do so. I shot someone in the face for not liking dogs. Whatever gets the job done, y’know.
Once your lair is thriving, it’s time to get out onto the World Stage. Here, you can enact evil schemes that will generate money for your lair, so you can keep expanding, unlocking new items and progressing your story. However, doing crime inevitably results in some attention, and your ‘heat’ level in a selected region will rise. As such, enemy spies will occasionally attack your lair or sneak in to steal your secrets. Building traps around your base for unsuspecting intruders and buffing up your minions to batter anyone that attacks is a good way to counter the baddies. The other baddies. We’re not the baddies. Are we?
This is where my enthusiasm begins to drift a little. Generating revenue to maintain your lair is imperative, but maintaining the World Stage’s real time crime gets tiring. Nipping back into the menu to collect your earnings and make sure you’re not South Asia’s most wanted disrupted the flow of what was going on in my lair. Once your lair has more than one level, I started to lose track of what was going on a little. You spend a lot of time on a screen that doesn’t require any actual gameplay.
Not only that, but sending minions out to enact money-making schemes means that they won’t return to you. As such, operations back at the base will slow down while you recruit more. The mechanics of the World Stage are not satisfying, and I began to lament sending my minions out to do things at the expense of production.
A lack of minions at the lair isn’t just a spanner in the production works either, it’s also a dangerous situation to be in if an enemy agent turns up, especially a super agent. Super agents are smarter than your average boxing-glove-in-the-wall, and dealing with them will result in casualties. This is a nightmare if your workforce is already dwindling. Fortunately, you can train any low-level minion to do any job you want, so replenishing hands where you need them isn’t too frustrating. However, the rate at which I was having my jumpsuit fodder murdered was uncomfortable next to how long it took to train them up. Especially when they’re incredibly expensive to recruit in the first place.
The World Stage area is forgiving enough; while I couldn’t really be bothered to keep going there, all it requires is a bit of reading and clicking – minimal admin so I can get back to my murdering.
If working meticulously to goals isn’t what your megalomaniac mind wants, Evil Genius 2’s sandbox mode may sate you. In here, you’re given unlimited cash to build your lair exactly how you like, and you’re not bombarded with quests and goals. Here, I had a better time building up a satisfying lair without being stalled by the often awkward cash-flow.
The building tool is often finicky; an awkward drag and drop mechanic means it can be a struggle to put objects where you want. If you want to move an object after your minions have knocked it together, you have to wait for them to come back and move it for you. That can be a pain in story mode, especially if there’s an agent setting fire to your power generators while 30% of your remaining workforce is moving chairs. However, in sandbox mode, it’s a niggle that I could ignore.
The variation of spaces to craft and the animations of your workers makes the base feel incredibly alive. Hundreds of individual workers that look the same, yet all with different quirks, personalities and jobs. I had a great time just zooming the camera around the lair, watching my minions go about their lives, jauntily bouncing into a room, blithely unaware of the fact that they’re about to get shot in the face because they don’t like dogs. The periods where I was just waiting for a scheme or research task to finish were balanced out by how lively the base is at all times.
In all, Evil Genius 2 is a pleasant game; the premise is pleasing, and the whimsical art style and writing outweighs the minor imbalances in the mechanics. The game is charming and incredibly more-ish, but the main campaign whiplashed a little hard between waiting for automated timers to tick down and having to physically manage three disasters at once. That said, the sandbox mode caters perfectly to my lack of patience. Also, I’m a supervillain, I own an island, why do I have to EARN my money?
Evil Genius (2004) walked so that Evil Genius 2 could walk beside it. It doesn’t offer much in the way of improvement on the first instalment, but it’s a pleasant and welcome upgrade. It’s also one of the only settings in which I can shoot someone in the face because they don’t like dogs, which is sometimes exactly what you need.