Evil Genius 2 – first impressions

This is somewhat of a rarity for me – writing up my first impressions of a brand-new game while it’s still brand-new! Evil Genius 2 – or to give it its full title, Evil Genius 2: World Domination – was released for PC only yesterday. It’s the sequel to Evil Genius, a game from 2004 that I don’t recall playing at the time, but the fun concept and aesthetic appealed to me enough to give this sequel a shot.

Evil Genius 2 is a base-builder, but that hardly sums it up. You take on the role of the titular “evil genius” – a supervillain of the kind you’d expect to see in a James Bond film, and the base you build is their lair. Perhaps Dr Evil from the Austin Powers film saga is a more appropriate comparison, given the game’s sense of humour! With a casino as a “front,” the objective is to make money, run evil schemes, and build a “doomsday device,” all the while avoiding detection and capture by the forces of good.

The game’s title screen.

If you’ve ever played a tycoon game – the likes of Theme Hospital, Rollercoaster Tycoon, etc. – then the style of gameplay will be familiar to you. Evil Genius 2 confronts you with a lot of different screens showing every aspect of your evil empire, and you have the ability to micromanage practically all of it.

Hiring, training, and firing of your evil minions – and even executing them if they displease you – is one aspect of the game. Minions can be trained to perform different tasks, both in the casino and behind the scenes, with a number of different specialisations. Guards can man guard posts and act as security, and valets can work in the casino greeting (and scamming) tourists, to give two examples.

A worker minion (left) and a casino employee minion (right).

But minions also need to be looked after – at least in a basic way! They have needs, such as food, rest, and relaxation time, and you’ll need to balance your evil lair to make sure that minions aren’t overworked.

There are a number of different rooms that can be constructed – by digging them into your mountain lair, naturally. Every evil genius needs an office, of course, and then a vault to store their ill-gotten gold. There are rooms to train minions, house them, generate power for the facility, and many more besides.

A staff room for minions.

Building is not entirely straightforward. Like other tycoon games, rooms are built on a grid. However, in order to simulate being underground, not every tile is able to be built on, and there are some which are inaccessible – at least in the beginning. This can make building rooms a tad frustrating, as can the camera control. If you don’t get the room perfect and need to edit it before it’s built, it can take a few camera rotations and clicks to remove unwanted sections and get the room laid out the way you want.

I also found doors to be a tad frustrating. In short, doors can only be placed in an area four tiles wide, and need an additional two tiles of rock/dirt on either side. Not every room needs a door, some can simply be built directly off another room or corridor, but this requirement was odd and unexpected. Doors can be important for security reasons, especially in rooms like a vault!

This feels like it’s more than $40,000 worth of gold – at least at today’s prices!

As with any new tycoon game, it will take a while to fully get the hang of the way all of the different in-game screens, stats, and systems work. Evil Genius 2 throws a lot of different aspects at you all at once, and players who aren’t used to this kind of experience might feel overwhelmed. This issue is exacerbated by the lack of a tutorial. The game simply drops you into gameplay right from the title screen.

There are three game types available, the first of which is a “quick start” that drops you into an already-open casino. The second mode is a standard game, and this offers three levels of difficulty, as well as a custom difficulty selector allowing players to choose from a variety of difficulty options. This customisation is great, and is something I wish more games would offer. For example, it’s possible to tone down the threat from the forces of good to focus more on managing the lair, or to reduce the cost of different types of in-game events like evil schemes or scientific research. All of which is great!

The custom difficulty options screen.

The final game type is a sandbox mode, allowing players to build their perfect evil lair without limitations. As is often the case in games like Evil Genius 2, this is a great place to get started! Learning more about the way the game works and what some of the requirements are while not under pressure is a much more enjoyable experience – at least for me!

In the couple of hours I’ve spent with Evil Genius 2 so far, I didn’t see any bugs, glitches, or other issues, though there are two very minor points of note. Firstly, booting up the game prompted a warning message, telling me that my graphics drivers were out-of-date. This isn’t the case (I checked to make sure) so I’m not sure what caused this warning to occur. Regardless, the game plays fine once you get into it and doesn’t suffer from any graphical issues, low frame-rates, or anything of the sort. On my 4K display it looks fantastic.

The warning pop-up.

Secondly, on a 4K display (my monitor has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels) the initial pop-up when the game launches is very small. The desktop icon is likewise a low resolution; both are clearly designed for screens no larger than 1080p even though the game itself supports 4K. This isn’t something you have to contend with very much, but it’s worth pointing it out. In 2021, games shouldn’t have these silly issues as 4K has become commonplace on PC.

The art style is cute and cartoonish, a step away from the realism a lot of modern titles go for. I like games that are visually different, and tycoon games like Evil Genius 2 do well with this kind of exaggerated style. If you’ve played Two Point Hospital I think you’d agree that the art style – bright colours, cartoonish characters, and bold, silly items and décor – is clearly drawing inspiration from a similar place.

I like the game’s visual style (minions pictured).

Evil Genius 2 has a pleasant soundtrack to compliment its visual style, and while I wouldn’t say I was blown away and need to rush out and buy a copy, it’s just fine. It works well in combination with the rest of the game. Sound effects are the same – they work very well with the overall cartoony style.

The voices for a couple of the game’s characters are interesting! Actors Brian Blessed, best known for his role in Flash Gordon and for being a mainstay on British television, and Samantha Bond, known for her role as Moneypenny in four of the James Bond 007 films (GoldenEye through to Die Another Day) star as two of the game’s evil villains (i.e. playable main characters). That was unexpected, and I had to double-check to make sure I’d got that right!

Samantha Bond (pictured in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough) lent her voice to Evil Genius 2.

I like Evil Genius 2, but more than that I want to like it. I remember tycoon games from the mid-1990s like Theme Park and Theme Hospital with incredible fondness, and this is a great attempt to recreate that older style of gameplay. Some modern tycoon games can go overboard with the stats and micromanagement options, making just learning the basics of how to play feel like a chore and a full-time job. Evil Genius 2 seems to have avoided that pitfall and struck the right balance between recreating that older style of game, but bringing it into the 2020s.

With a 10% discount at time of writing, Evil Genius 2 will set you back £32 (or $36 US). That’s not cheap, but it’s also not catastrophically expensive either. However, there is a “season pass” available to purchase for an additional £23 (or $25). Judging by the size of the DLC screen, there’s room for a lot of potential future updates and/or expansions, so watch this space. I would suggest that expansions could add new lairs – there are only three in the base game right now – or new playable villains, as there are currently four. I don’t think that these feel like extreme limitations, as part of the fun of a game like Evil Genius 2 is going back and replaying levels, completely redesigning your base.

Emma, one of four playable evil geniuses in the game.

In short, there’s a lot of potential replayability even with the four characters and three levels currently available. The existence of a season pass, though, seems to suggest there won’t be significant free expansions or updates, and I would assume that if you want to take advantage of new content as and when it’s available you’ll need to either buy the season pass or buy the individual expansions. This makes Evil Genius 2 basically a full-price game at £54 (or $61 US).

Evil Genius 2 started strongly, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Over the next few weeks I’m sure to spend a lot more time with it, and if I have anything more to say perhaps I’ll write more about it at that time. For now, suffice to say I’m having fun with it. Living out my evil genius fantasy is a lot easier in video game form than it is in real life!

Evil Genius 2: World Domination is out now for Windows PCs and is available to purchase on Steam. Evil Genius 2: World Domination was developed and published by Rebellion Developments. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.