Evil Genius 2: World Domination PC Review

Evil Genius 2 presents as a faithful reimagining of the classic PC sim genre, but does the style hold up today?

By LG18, Posted 02 Apr 2021

Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a game rooted in a bygone era, both in a positive and a negative sense. On one hand, the game is a love letter to the sim genre. It’s every bit as colourful and wacky as those classic titles like Sim Hospital and Zoo Tycoon, and is impressively slick in its presentation. On the other hand, the game lacks cohesiveness. Many of its systems initially seem to have great potential, but the more you play, the more the clunkiness of old game design begins to show. 

 

Red Ivan Evil Genius


If there’s one thing EG2 gets spot-on it’s the visual design. The game basks in the campiness of ‘60s and ‘70s spy flicks, down to every bit of retro-modern furniture and each caricaturish character with their over-the-top denotations of Evil. Each room type has its own distinct decor, and every item is painstakingly modelled with cartoonish flair. The overall graphical fidelity is top-notch, too. There’s an effective use of high-quality reflections and shaders, and performance-wise the game doesn’t skip a beat. 

The animation looks fantastic and each of the four villains is brilliantly rendered. Voice acting is solid across the board — even the minions are fully voiced, making the story segments a joy to watch overall. Brass band spy music envelopes your experience, and each of the game's three vibrant island locations offers an enticing blank canvas fit for hatching your evil plan. The look and feel gels together very well, and Rebellion have done a stellar job in recreating the unique vibe of the game's predecessors. 

The true test of any PC strategy game, though, is its interconnected mechanics, with a great RTS successfully striking a balance between complexity and playability. There’s certainly a wealth of strategic systems to enjoy in EG2, though whether it comes together in a given moment is hit and miss. The end goal is the construction of a Doomsday device, and each playable villain has their separate machine. Getting there will take meticulous planning and many hours. 

The EG2 strategic dance, so to speak, is one familiar to many RTS fans: you start by building a gold reserve for a steady flow of income, a generator room to power your lair, and a place for your minions to sleep.
Once these necessities are in place, you’ll train an army of minions and set them to work building your interconnected evil ecosystem. Control rooms, labs, interrogation rooms, armouries, mess halls: there’s everything one would wish for to execute the grand plan of world domination. The minions are the most essential component of the base. They’re responsible for keeping the place running like clockwork and are imperative as you begin to expand. As is an essential part of any strategy game, there are a wealth of upgrades and modifications a player must purchase or research to progress. This leads to a more expansive, multi-tiered base.

A huge part of what makes these games enjoyable is the reward for proper planning. Observing your lair when it’s in tip-top condition is a marvel to behold, and brings a great deal of satisfaction for the several hours of work that has gone into it. For the first ten hours or so, EG2 seems to get it all right. It offers what appears to be a well-balanced, relatively deep, and compelling set of core mechanics, and it’s all good fun. The design tools offer tactile controls to plan out your base, and deciding what room goes where and how they all link together is always a great time. With the freedom of multiple levels of elevation, it’s possible to make some amazing-looking bases, and it’s easy to spend hours in the editor setting everything up.


Evil Genius 2 base building


But building all the rooms for your lair, training the many types of minions, and generally designing things to work properly, represents only a third of EG2’s key gameplay components. This is where the game shines, but you’ll only get so far on your path to world domination before the need to branch out becomes apparent. The second largest part of the game revolves around maintaining your cover. The glossy facade of an exclusive casino fronts the hidden sprawl of your base, and it’s your job to make sure nobody finds out what’s going on. 

Alongside your worker and scientist minions, there are guards, responsible for physically protecting the lair, and also those employed as peacekeepers to keep the casino cover operation ticking over. At regular intervals, secret agents and inspectors will attempt to penetrate the base. When an enemy enters the lair their ability to do any damage depends on how well you’ve set up your cameras, where your guards are stationed, how well you’ve positioned your traps, and how good your staff are at keeping up appearances. 

The idea of keeping your lair a secret is an enticing prospect, but the game doesn’t manage to execute it with enough vigour. When all’s said and done, a lot of these covert operations just feel shallow; while you can deck out your Casino with all the appropriate props, there’s no depth to its actual management beyond having your minions man the poker tables and occasionally ward off an intruder. When an enemy does eventually penetrate the lair, traps feel underwhelming, doing little to stop an intruder in the early game. 

Many of the traps are brilliantly designed and there’s a lot of diversity, but not much variety in how you can deploy them. It would’ve been great, for example, to set up a series of elaborate rooms to deal with the agents before they reach critical areas of the base, but the engine doesn’t really allow for that. It feels restrictive, teasing the player with some great ideas, but then not giving them the freedom to take things to the next level. This is a sentiment that carries over to many other elements of the experience. Most critically frustrating is the world stage map screen: the third key element of the game. In order to significantly progress — both in the monetary and upgrades sense — the game requires you to set up criminal networks across the globe. Once a criminal network has been established you’re able to choose from a variety of schemes and side stories. Unfortunately, these are usually just a box-ticking exercise. 


Evil Genius 2 nuclear blast


Not only is it boring, but it’s also an incredibly lengthy process. You’ll put in hours upon hours of work just to achieve a few more upgrades or another minion type, and the game doesn’t allow the player to work on more than one scheme or side story at once, painfully extending the tedium even further. This means the extra layer of strategic depth the game brings is shielded behind a laborious slog. When everything is unlocked, the game opens up a little: The wealth of clever traps unlocked in the later game finally gift the player more creative freedom, and the management aspects become more complex to offer greater engagement. 

The game rewards patience, but you’ll have to have a great deal of it to see it through.  EG2 consistently takes one step forward and two steps back. For all the replayability having four different geniuses brings — each with their own stats, abilities, and unit types — the prospect of going through the upgrade grind again puts you off jumping back in. There’s plenty of untapped potentials, but most of it requires trudging through hours of tedious tasks. Even if you stick it out and get everything upgraded, the game is littered with ideas that could be great but ultimately remain underutilized. It almost feels like a remaster rather than a new game, and despite the new exterior, many of the design choices feel rooted in the past.


Evil Genius 2 island base birds eye


Unfortunately, EG2 is a game that drops off before it has a chance to really get going, suffocating its cool ideas with an old-fashioned UI and an arduous upgrade system. There are certainly several hours of fun to be had here, and there are moments when everything clicks, but the game usually fails to instill the degree of intricate management players want. Many will enjoy the many hours of base building, but its sense of progression splinters off in the middle game to something most won’t have the patience for.
 

Linden Garcia,
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Rebellion Developments
Developer(s): Rebellion Developments
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Simulation
Release Date: 2021-03-30

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