Evil Genius 2: World Domination is only a few weeks from launch. The title of which is a true sequel to the 2004 strategy cult classic is looking to bring the Evil Genius universe back to life with glorious modern visuals and mechanics, all while paying homage to the areas that made Evil Genius great in the first place. To get a look as to what the title is bringing to the table, we've played through the first few hours of the game as Maximilian on the Crown Gold Island, alongside having a chat with producer Ash Tregay and lead designer Rich Edwards from Rebellion.
Evil Genius 2 is a lair-building strategy title where you are put in the shoes of one of four Evil Geniuses. The goal of the title is to build an empire of evil that spans the globe, all whilst being based around this nefarious lair you are constructing in the middle of a mountain on a desert island. Essentially, you know those really eccentric James Bond villains? Well, that's you. And your duty is to manage a ragtag group of minions who are employed to do your bidding to build this evil empire all concealed behind a casino cover operation. As you would expect however, being evil isn't easy. You'll have to deal with the intruding Forces of Justice, whose sole goal is bringing your operation to its knees.
Before I dive into the intricacies, I'd like to mention that for the sake of this preview and as mentioned earlier, I had access to the Evil Genius Maximilian on the Crown Gold island on Normal difficulty, and I could complete the tutorial storyline, but after that I only had access to expanding my lair - there was no more storyline shown to me. However, as producer Tregay said, "We are a narrative driven campaign game at our heart, each of these Evil Geniuses has their own unique narrative campaign, their own story." As for what the campaigns entail, Tregay also eluded to this, "That's their own set of narrative objectives to work through that have a different focus as to how they would go about dominating the world."
Obviously dominating the world isn't an easy task, and that's where the lair building becomes incredibly important. In a mechanical sense, the construction systems are very easy to adapt to, and offer a lot of opportunities to be able to further expand and customise the rooms you build. These rooms themselves can range anywhere from Mess Halls where your minions eat to the Evil Genius' personal Evil Sanctum. Ensuring you equip each room with the right items (for example making sure the Holding Cell has enough prison cells) is crucial to how impactful it will be in the grand scheme of things, but everything comes with a price and needs power to run. This is where the tug-of-war of resource management forms, and it becomes increasingly challenging to face as your lair expands.
The many types of minions that you employ are also crucial to your lair's operations. Each minion comes with a set of strengths and weaknesses that can be used to accentuate their skills should you choose. For example, a worker might be particularly passive meaning they wouldn't make for the best bruiser-like henchmen. "It's about making sure the players who want to min-max have the tools available to do that," said Tregay. "We don't force anyone to do the micro-management of individual minions in your lair because what Evil Genius has time for that?"
Turning minions into specialised workers requires a little bit of upgrading, and you can choose to do so from a variety of options in the research skill trees. The skill trees are deep and offer a lot of options, but can be pricey to unlock and require a formidable army of scientists equipped with the latest gear to do so. This then even extends to researching new facilities and items for your lair, such as new traps, and expands into the World Domination panel, giving you plenty of new opportunities on the world map during global operations.
As for the global operations on offer, this is all about establishing a foothold in various regions across the globe to conduct nefarious illegal activities. You'll have to send minions out to complete these feats, and each one will draw the attention of the Forces of Justice, but they are necessary to expand your base and don't just reward more gold. Some will unlock new specialised minions, and others might reward alternative resources, perhaps for your Doomsday Device, as Edwards mentioned, "This thing is enormous and it does require fuel to run."
The world map is one of the biggest new features in this title, one that separates it from its predecessor. As Tregay put it, "There is of course a world outside your window, and it's about recognising that the lair is a very key aspect to the game and where you are going to spend most of your time, but it's the means to an end, and that end is dominating the world."
The Forces of Justice have also elevated their efforts since the original and will now send out a variety of individuals to investigate and destroy your base. Whether they are Investigators, Saboteurs, Thieves or Soldiers, you'll need the latest traps and henchmen to ensure they are dealt with effectively and as quickly as possible.
The Evil Genius you choose is also very important to the way you manage your base. They all have special abilities that benefit their playstyle. Maximilian for example is very economically focussed, and can make minions around him train faster or be more productive, and he excels with building a base and a global criminal network built on bribery and large heaps of gold. Red Ivan on the other hand is a more physical Genius, and is much better at conquering the world through force and fear, so you can probably expect the sorts of abilities he wields. The point is, each Genius seems to offer a unique way to play through the game, and considering each has their own storyline, it looks like there will be plenty to explore. And, on top of that their Doomsday Devices are all reflections of the people they are, as Tregay puts it, "The Doomsday Device is very much an extension of that character."
One of the features coming at launch that was also recently announced is a Sandbox mode. A mode where "you can build the lair of your dreams unfettered from unnecessary restrictions, and without needing to worry about your pace to world domination, or the strengths of the forces against you," as Tregay stated. We have yet to experience how this mode plays, but you can check out a trailer for the mode below.
From what I've seen, Rebellion has really focused on producing a game that not only looks and plays like a modern strategy title, but one that also pays homage to the 2004 original. As Edwards put it, "The first game is always something we refer to when we're looking at anything we're trying to create." Tregay also touched on the matter saying, "There are so many details and we've worked really hard to bring the essence of the original game forward into the sequel."
As Evil Genius 2: World Domination is launching in a few weeks, on March 30 to be precise, there is still a whole lot that we have yet to see for this game. But, right now, my time with the preview build has me very excited, as there seems to be a lot to do, in an easy to understand and humorous package. If you're a fan of strategy games, or are a naturally devious person, this game is looking like one you should definitely keep an eye on.