Evil Genius 2: World Domination

Evil Genius 2: World Domination

It's good to be bad.

evil genius 2 world domination

No, you’re not imagining things or having a crazy de ja vu moment, this is another review for Evil Genius 2: World Domination.  Back at the beginning of April this year we gave our verdict on the PC release of the follow up to Rebellion’s villain simulator, Evil Genius, and we quite liked the over the top strategic gaemplay it delivered.  Fast forward 7 months with the console versions coming out and it gives us the chance to revisit the top down base builder, as well as see what else has gone on with content and patches in the meantime.  We were also curious on how it would translate to control pads from a typically keyboard heavy input requirement, as well as seeing if the next gen consoles could do it justice.  Suffice to say, we’ve been holed up in a bunker, scheming away and madly cackling whenever anyone was in earshot to get into the right frame of mind.

The point of Evil Genius 2: World Domination is to build a secret lair as one of four selectable evil genii and then, well, dominate the world.  By choosing story mode from the off you’ll get to play through a campaign that leans heavily into the motivation of your character, and teaches nearly all the mechanics you’ll need, as well as set missions and challenges to progress.  Developing your base, establishing criminal networks and researching weapons of mass destruction are laid out in breadcrumb objective format, and for the most part it works really well.  Using a casino as a front, you’ll dig deep into the rock of whichever island you’re starting on and create a home away from home for the hordes of minions employed to do your bidding.  The Forces of Justice that police the world won’t leave things unchecked though, and you can expect to be continually investigated as they try to find out what you’re up to.  It all escalates at a steady pace, but expect that by the end you’ll be getting into standoffs of epic proportions that will test whether you’ve made the right decisions with the layout of the base, and the positioning of all the traps and guards.

Controlled exclusively from an isometric view using a simple grid system, it’s fairly familiar stuff if you’ve played any strategy builder before – mark out the blueprint for the type of room you want, add in the machines and furniture, and let the minions dig out the space and fill it up with the right contents.  There are restrictions to begin with, largely linked to the tutorial nature that steps through the many different types of rooms available, though also driven by the geology of the lair.  With a differing hardness of rock there will be certain sections that cannot be excavated until the equipment and skills are upgraded, so in the early stages there’s a fair amount of space management to make sure everything needed for a healthy attempt at ruling the planet can be built.  Workers, power, money and a control room are the four key elements to take care of, and most have branching and upgradeable parts that will make things a lot easier later in the game.  Get the balance right and you’ll have little difficulty in becoming a successful dictator; get it wrong and you’ll get your ass handed to you on a regular basis by the various do-gooders out on the World Stage.

Minions are essential in Evil Genius 2: World Domination because they do everything.  Whether that’s manning the casino front, clearing up the dead bodies, or running interference out in the world, you’ll need to keep a plentiful supply of willing employees.  With three core types – muscle, deception and science – there are multiple variants under these headings and you must build and maintain training facilities to make use of them.  Once the type has been unlocked, like a Hitman or Biologist, it’s simply a matter of setting a limit for the number in the lair and if one happens to die, or is sent out on a mission in the world map, a new minion will automatically train and take their place.  This is a quite cool system in that you have to manage the types to match the needs of missions and what’s going on in the base, yet can leave it to run itself and get on with the other bits that are always happening.  Research is one of these that’s always ongoing, and with several tiers of improvements to be made across four areas, it’s best to always ensure there are plenty of scientists engaged for that.  Good research brings great benefits, the primary one being traps.

No matter how careful you are, eventually the Forces of Justice (made up of 5 organisations out in the world) will take  peak at your operation.  Stopping them from getting in and sabotaging your equipment or stealing your money is essential, and laying traps will slow them down.  The first line of defence is actually the casino itself – mostly they’ll enter along with the other tourists – and having slot machines and karaoke will sap their defences and make them more vulnerable.  They will get past that though and find the way into your lair, so setting security cameras, guard posts, and all manner of devious devices is a good idea.  Laser walls, shark pools and freeze rays all feature and can be set up in isolation or in combination with others to increase the effect.  There’s a sweet thought in using pinball bumpers to bounce an enemy around that’s been blown by a giant fan until they end up eaten by a shark.  Unfortunately it remains a thought because rarely will the traps trigger.  Whilst there’s nothing wrong mechanically with Evil Genius 2: World Domination, the enemy investigators are just tuned to be too good and nine times out of ten will disable the traps, or become invisible and just walk past them.  It’s actually quite infuriating after you put the time and effort in to be brutal and no one ever falls for it.  Upgrades and new traps don’t seem to help, and your guards never seem able to look through the disguises, despite you being able to highlight them (and there being equipment and minion types to do it).

At least there’s an option to deal with the intruders in particular ways, and with plenty of minions around you’ll find that setting a default capture or kill option in certain parts of the lair will do the job, allowing them to be disposed off immediately, or interrogated for intel.  These are researched abilities though, and not focussing on them will mean late stage onslaughts featuring a lot of manual tagging.  That, or just placing the whole place into red alert should do the trick.  Hold the triggers and sirens will sound giving your workers a kick to deal with anything untoward, but it’s hardly discrete and will affect the casino guests, sending them running for the exit.  That’s despite the fact your minions will rarely head into the casino themselves, largely leaving that up to your second in command to take a beating on their own.  Heading out to the World Stage has you commanding minions to setup networks to run criminal operations and bring in cash or complete story objectives.  I expected this to be a small part of the game, but you really do need to keep an eye on things outside the base building as heat builds up in regions, and that can lockout activities for a period of time.  Missions run in the world aren’t necessarily short either, with some taking up to 90 minutes of real time – though fast forwarding the pace certainly reduces that.  It’s also where you’ll engage with the Super Agents that work for each of the main territory controllers, and ultimately how you’ll complete the objective in the game’s title – Evil Genius 2: World Domination.

There’s a lot going on at all times, and very rarely is there a point where there’s a chance to just pause and let the cash flow in.  The lair constantly will need enlarging, whether that’s because the vault gets full, there’s not enough power, more minions need employing and training, or there’s a super weapon to construct.  Fortunately, each lair has multiple levels (four in total), and every level is pretty spacious once the tools to dig through all rock types are unlocked.  It all means that if you manage to dig out everything, it’ll be like running a small city with distinct areas and purposes.  Whilst there’s a natural flow to the construction driven by necessity at the beginning, Evil Genius 2: World Domination allows easy adaptation of existing space and movement of items, so it’s never a pain to alter the layout.  This also means that you’ve usually got an eye on where new elements are going to be, and when you’ll be expanding certain sections, making it genuinely feel like you’re in charge of making an awesome underground lair.  It also offers up a fair amount of customisation objects so that cosmetically the minions will feel more comfortable… or you can embrace your inner warlord and make things as cold, uniform and functional as possible.  They’re here to work dammit, not enjoy a tropical holiday.

It’s in the animations and the different types of rooms and equipment that the charm of Evil Genius 2: World Domination comes through.  The art style is sort of 70’s Bond chic, and a lot of the character influences trace there too, but the cartoon presentation and rounded edges serve to soften what could be quite harsh content.  As this is all tongue in cheek you never feel truly evil, more comically vindictive, and despite the visual links to Austin Powers, you’re definitely not inept.  Part of the appeal is the lovely characterisation of the genii themselves, with a great performance by Brian Blessed as Red Ivan as he looks to recapture his homeland and make his enemies pay.  Former 007 actress Samantha Bond takes a turn as well, and some returning Rebellion favourites round out the main villains.  Given a campaign can take up to 20 hours, you’ll have plenty of time to get familiar with the different traits and abilities of each, and how that can affect the gameplay; or just take a tour of their skills in the sandbox mode.

With lots of things it does well, and the way the PS5 features are incorporated like the DualSense triggers locking when you’re maxed zooming in or out, the fast loading, and even mouse and keyboard support; there a few niggles that manifest.  Mainly these fall around the gameplay explanation side, like who are the Super Agents and what do they do?  You figure it out eventually, but some are mystifying as to how they appear in your base and why they’re leaving brief cases around.  There’s also no real info on how to keep the minions happy and what causes them to decide to defect and steal a load of your gold.  Plus the aforementioned bypassing of traps by virtually everyone that walks in the front door.  Then there are a few technical issues with the sound that drops music and distorts the environmental noises after a period of time, though nothing that can’t be fixed with a reload of a save.  My main concern though was it doesn’t play nice with rest mode and causes a hard reset of the PS5.  I’ve seen this before in other games early in the console cycle, and it can be avoided by not entering rest mode in the game itself, but it’s a worrying issue to come across.

What you get in the console version of Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a lengthy set of campaigns, loads of replay with a sandbox mode, difficulty levels to challenge your management skills, and even some free DLC that crosses over with Portal and Team Fortress 2.  Mapping the controls to a pad has been done really well, and whilst there is an awful lot to get used to, the tutorials do a great job of making sure you’re shown where everything is; it just can’t help that there aren’t enough buttons to hotkey everything.  The game is filled with character and humour, and is built with a clear love and passion for what it’s portraying… sometimes we want to see the bad guys win.  It’s in turns chaotic and easy to manage, with that fluctuating pace really helping engage you throughout.  Without doubt it’s a timesink where it’s worrying how the hours fly by without you realising, which is a very good sign for this genre.  Strategy enthusiasts should be all over this already, and if not, they need to be considering embracing their wicked side.

A PS5 review copy of Evil Genius 2: World Domination was provided by Rebellion’s PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation and Xbox for around £35, as well as being already available on PC.

The Verdict

9Amazing

The Good: Longer than you’d expect | Lots of options and development | Great characters

The Bad: A few technical hiccups that can be worked around

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Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, amateur DJ (out of practice), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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