Evil Genius 2: World Domination invites players to find out how good it is to be bad by allowing them to realize their dreams of bending the world to their will. In doing so, they’ll take on the pesky Forces of Justice (FOJ), rival crime lords, topple rival crime lords, and steal a few world monuments along the way. And all while designing and maintaining a complex underground base full of minions. No one said a life of crime was simple, but it pays extremely well.
As the sequel to the 2004 cult classic, Evil Genius 2 fully captures the deviously humorous spirit of the original while greatly expanding its gameplay. For starters, there are now four different geniuses to choose from, each with their own special expertise, unique campaign, and Doomsday Device with which to take over the world.
Between Maximilian, Red Ivan, Zalika, and Emma, players have a range of play styles to choose from. You can rule as a money-making generalist, a mad scientist, or a manipulative spymaster. From there, players can build up their forces to enhance their strengths or make up for their weaker areas. All you have to do is choose your pre-designed island and work on building up your criminal empire.
Building an evil minion army
What minions lack in intelligence, they mostly make up for with loyalty. Yellow jumpsuit workers do a fine job of keeping your base humming by constructing rooms and moving the furnishings around, but they’re not particularly good at dealing with foes. However, you can train them into more specialized minions to increase their usefulness beyond being cannon fodder when the Forces of Justice start snooping around your base. This includes Muscle minions for security, Science minions for research and maintenance, and Deception minions to help prevent investigators from reaching your lair.
The pesky good guys will start trespassing on your base almost as soon as you establish a presence on the World Stage, and they don’t stop coming. Even if you take extreme measures to make sure the heat from your presence is kept low, investigators will still keep arriving. On top of that, they have an annoying habit of completely bypassing your scantly furnished casino cover operation and head straight to the front door of your lair like a homing missile. Not even putting up fake entrances leading to deadly traps can deter them.
Those meddling goody goodies always have a knack for choosing the right door, which is particularly troublesome when a mission requires the FOJ steal something from me. I set up a fake room with a reinforced door to draw attention, but they always ignored it and went straight for the door to my lair. Eventually, I had to just delete the door and practically place the object right in the middle of my casino for them to finally see it and take it. Your minions aren’t much better. They’ll just let intruders saunter in and take photos unless you manually tag them for distraction, capture, or execution. Until you research better automation technologies, you’ll be doing a lot of micromanaging during the early phases of the game.
Fortunately, you can set up a few simple traps at the entrance. The computer assistant, Iris, will alert you when one has been set off. The downside is that Evil Genius 2 doesn’t make it easy to respond to alerts. For instance, Iris will tell you when a trap is triggered or when your minions are in combat, but you can’t click on a notification to be taken to the event. Instead, you have to search through your multi-level base to find the problem. Similarly, you can’t customize Iris to adjust the number or types of alerts. For example, I don’t need to be told that training has stalled whenever a minion decides to take a bathroom break.
Taking over the world
Designing the perfect evil lair while powering up your Doomsday Device requires you to head out into the world and pull of schemes. In addition to making money, you can acquire henchmen along with world monuments to add to your collection. Doing so involves a semi-complicated balancing. You have to make sure you have the resources and minion power to establish a presence to pull off a scheme without catching the attention of an FOJ Super Agent who will absolutely mess your base up and lay waste to your entire army if you’re not prepared.
The world map is set up like a board game, and pulling off schemes is as simple as picking one of its pieces and executing it if you can fulfill the requirements. Each territory where you have a presence brings in money over time while generating a small amount of heat. Executing a scheme generates more heat, and getting too much locks the territory down for a few minutes.
Even though the world map is a fun way to interact, some of the pieces can be hidden behind others. This inadvertently forces you to carefully scan each territory on the world map until you find the hidden token. It becomes extremely annoying when a mission requires you to track down a series of MacGuffins on the World Stage before your power plants blow up.
Shoot them, you idiots!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching your minions dash back and forth across your carefully planned base, especially when it spans multiple floors. Evil Genius 2 lives up to its promise of delivering a wickedly satisfying experience, whether you want to drop a bunch of agents into a shark tank with a comedically large fan or use your Midas gun to transform your minions into gold statues to decorate your base. Personally, I put my statues in a special room like the Terra Cotta Army, which to my surprise, did not serve as a deterrent to intruders.
However, the game isn’t without its weird quirks. These include a range of minor problems, like how FOJ agents suddenly become murderously violent without provocation. Once their bloodlust is sated, they’ll snap a picture of the body bag (possibly as a selfie?) to take home as evidence of wrongdoings. Other times made me wish that I had more direct control over the minion and genius behaviors. I often wanted Zalika to back my minions with her powerful laser beam, but sometimes she would inexplicably put it away so that she can run up and punch a Super Agent in the face. As satisfying as that might be, I would prefer some sort of behavioral control so that she could always keep a deadly distance.
Minions also tend to keep whatever weapon they first pick up like they’re some sort of security blanket instead of putting them back on the rack like in the first game. That means Muscle minions will keep stun batons with them throughout their entire career, even after they’ve been upgraded to a Mercenary, instead of trading it in for an improved assault rifle. Luckily, there’s a high turnover rate at your criminal organization, so the problem can fix itself over time. But it would be much easier to simply instruct your minions to grab the most powerful weapons available off the racks, trading in when possible.
More serious issues involve vague mission objects. For the most part, Evil Genius 2 does an excellent job of letting you know what wicked task needs to be done and where. That ranges from kidnapping hostages from the World Stage to giving an evil speech from your spacious desk. However, there are a few instances when the game makes you feel like you’ve misplaced your evil leader instruction manual. One such instance includes when you have to test fire your Doomsday Device. It took me a long while of clicking around on the big red button at the conference table and looking around for a cue on the device itself before I figured out that I had to actually make my genius interact with the device console to activate it.
Another minor issue I had was how I couldn’t highlight a group of objects or an entire room to move it at once, which often made redesigning my base a huge pain, especially if it was between floors. I also wish I could hotkey specific areas of my base such as the treasure vault or prison so that I could quickly jump to them when necessary.
Making a better world
Even with the problems, Evil Genius 2 is the kind of game that eats away the hours without notice. I often said to myself that I’d stop playing after completing a certain mission or constructing enough power plants to maintain an ever-growing base that’s even more power-hungry than I am. Perhaps the biggest scheme all along has been to keep players managing minions while Rebellion enacts secret plans for global mind control. If it means that we get a game that’s as engrossing as Evil Genius 2: World Domination, then I’m kind of okay with that.