Evil Genius 2 review: Casino Royale

by Lars
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Evil Genius 2 is a gigantic followup to 2004’s madcap world domination simulator, a sequel that seemed as though it might never see the light of day after the closure of its original development studio. Rebellion, however, have picked up the torch and carried it forward into 2021, delivering a huge base-builder with a sad lack of sharks with frickin’ laser beams (so far).

Hapless tourists flock in and out of my casino, perusing roulette tables, drinking cocktails, listening to purple-suited goons belt out karaoke hits. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted, and none of these tropical holidaymaking morons has the slightest idea that just behind the door to their right is a sprawling evil lair at the heart of a global criminal network. I stride through the halls, watching my scientists research the doomsday weapon that will bring the world to its knees.

A couple of hulking red thugs train up the next chunk of my expanding army of muscle, and screams from the interrogation chamber fall on deaf ears. A flock of yellow-suited minions are carving out the vault, expanding it to hold a huge influx of ill-gotten gains. I walk up behind one of them and execute them on the spot – one minion breaks ranks to haul away the body and incinerate it, whilst the others are just motivated to work more fervently. Whoever said crime doesn’t pay?

Minions are at the heart of all your plans, an endless force of disposable goons that follow your every command. Even when it gets them (or hundreds of others) killed.

From that description, you’d be forgiven for thinking Evil Genius 2 was sinister and gritty, but the real genius of Rebellion‘s sequel is how perfectly it’s captured the campy, cartoonish humour of the original, expanding and embellishing upon it to bring it fully into the modern age. It’s far more Austin Powers than James Bond, oozing personality and nuance in every animation. Watching your base at work is fascinating – your minions interrogate captured agents by dropping dynamite in their laps, hurrying back and forth between advancing diabolical schemes and grabbing a bite to eat in the nearest canteen.

“Evil Genius 2 is far more Austin Powers than James Bond, oozing personality and nuance in every animation.”

Evil Genius 2 streamlines a lot of the simulation aspects in a way that eliminates exhaustive micro-managing and finicky building whilst still providing players with a ton of freedom. Building rooms is as simple as choosing the one you want, clicking and dragging the zone, and watching your goons get to work. Your options aren’t gated by advancement through the campaign, instead limited by the funds you have available, so it’s easy early on to start building a mental image of your dream evil lair. The tutorial is fantastic, in-depth but not overwhelming, a gentle stroll through all the basics you need to start taking over the world.

Your lair is fronted by a fully operational casino to dupe the forces of justice, giving you the opportunity to take out any intruders before they interfere with your nefarious plans.

All of the foundations of your base will be in place by the end of the tutorial, giving you everything you need to expand. You earn money in a slow trickle by establishing communication hubs across the globe. From these outposts you can launch schemes to funnel even more gold into your vaults, whilst trying not to draw the attention of global peace-keeping forces. Too much heat will lock down your outposts, cancelling any schemes in progress and potentially sending agents of justice to investigate the lair. At first, these agents are idiots, but as you progress, they’ll become more and more competent, waltzing through your defenses and massacring minions.

“It’s like someone put Wile E. Coyote in charge of an incredibly well-funded evil lair.

You can kit out your corridors with an array of traps to catch out infuriating do-gooders, and these are all hilariously appropriate. Giant, spring loaded boxing gloves, shark pits, pinball bumpers – it’s like someone put Wile E. Coyote in charge of an incredibly well-funded evil lair. Traps can be laid out in networks, creating combo effects to thoroughly batter any intruders that trigger them. As investigators arrive, you can tag them for termination, capture or distraction, minions hurriedly following the command to sometimes unexpected effect. Your options for defense and expansion will increase at a measured pace through research, but occasionally you’ll be visited by super spies that can evade your every attempt to apprehend them.

Watching Evil Genius 2’s lairs bloom from simple operations to multi-leveled fortresses is immensely satisfying, and the process is streamlined enough to sit back and watch without micro-managing.

This is where some of the frustration creeps in. Agents can throw massive (not literally, which is actually a bit surprising) wrenches in your plans, and it’s annoying as hell to watch them effortlessly dodge all of your defenses. It can be tense in an exciting way, too, but when you’ve been plodding along for hours trying to desperately gather enough cash to build the next big thing you need for the hundredth sub-objective the campaign demands, even small setbacks are painful. Once the grind sets in, Evil Genius 2 can start to feel like it’s losing steam, but the charm, humour, and overall intricacy of its simulation are enough to get it through those slumps.

New minion types are unlocked by capturing and interrogating enemies, allowing you to tailor your forces to your specific needs. It’s easy to manage – minions are “spent” when you send them out on schemes, replenished to the maximum automatically over time (although they can be hired manually if you so desire). When new types are unlocked, you simply set the amount of them you want trained, and your workforce does its best to keep that number maintained. Keeping them well-rested and fed is essential to their efficiency, but you could always just shoot one in the head for a quick performance boost.

At its best, Evil Genius 2 is one of the greatest games of its kind, with a distinct identity fully realised by Rebellion.

Evil Genius 2 becomes a game of balance, keeping your workforce happy and/or terrified enough to carry out your goals, whilst raking in enough cash to advance and fend off the greater threats. Your schemes must be balanced between the ones that earn money and the ones that bump heat down, and though incremental upgrades are made across your criminal network through research, the good guys are more than capable of ruining your day if you’re careless. It’s the little details that bring it to life, the animations that characterise faceless goons, the tense pursuit of an intruder after you’ve wreaked havoc on the global stage. All your victories will be underscored by a steadily mounting threat.

It all comes together in one gorgeous package, crisp graphics and bombastic music, involved gameplay that streamlines so much of the micro-management, giving you more time to sit back and lord it over your evil domain. It’s challenging, but at the same time incredibly accessible, with differing difficulties and a sandbox mode available to suit every type of player. It’s hard to imagine Evil Genius getting any better than this, to be completely honest, and I just hope that the planned season pass gives us even more of it.

Evil Genius 2 – The end is now

Evil Genius 2 is a masterpiece, a behemoth of a sim game with a clear vision of what it is and what it can achieve within its theme. It is gorgeous, rich with opportunity, humour and light-hearted storytelling, mashing together pop culture tropes with clever gameplay to forge a top tier title with little competition. With four playable geniuses, each with their own campaign, and three different island locales to build on, there is a wealth of content to explore with different narratives all leading to the same goal of total world domination. It’s rewarding, varied and entertaining enough to keep you hooked for hours on end – Evil Genius 2 could well represent the future of this genre as we know it.

Evil Genius 2 was developed and published by Rebellion. You can check it out on Steam here! Check out more of our latest reviews here, and join us on Guilded for giveaways, gaming talk and more!

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