I really like building games. Back when my wife and I were dating we would play Caesar III a lot, and still joke about some of those mechanics to this day (“Neighbors moving out, eh? Desirability must be low.”). I think it’s because I like creating things and while building games don’t really let you create per se, they do let you create a network that should be self-sustaining. Games like RimWorld, Banished, Cities: Skylines, and the Tropico and Anno series all earn top marks from me, although because builders are experiencing a renaissance, I currently feel a bit overloaded with them. Generally these games are pretty much the same. What they could use is a little spice. A little…evil.
I admit that I never played the original Evil Genius. In fact, I didn’t even know Evil Genius 2 was a thing until I was installing it. I got a coupon and must have been feeling particularly spendy at the time, but seeing as how I enjoy builder games, I figured “why not”? Especially since Evil Genius 2 isn’t just a builder, but also a tower defense game, resource management game, a bit a Tetris, and ditches the constant trope of “saving the world” in favor of “dominating the world”.
Fans of games like Dungeon Keeper (the original), War for the Overworld, or Overlord will appreciate Evil Genius 2 (I’m just now noticing a trend that this style of game is all about being evil). You begin with almost nothing except a helipad and a deserted island. From there, you must instruct your minions to carve out themed rooms, populate them with equipment, and send your forces out into the world to carry out your schemes. At the same time, you must defend your lair from nosy special agents who will try and infiltrate your organization, steal your plans, and kill you and your employees.
The challenge comes not from earning money or defeating your enemies, but from organizing your base.
Your island hideaway only has so much room to work with. The light rocky area is available, but eventually you’ll run into rock that your minions cannot cut into. That means that room size is a premium. Make a room too big, and you’ve wasted space; make it too small and you might not be able to expand later when you need it the most. In addition, hallways will need to be added to reach further into the landscape, so cramming rooms together to save space during the early game is going to lock you out of options.
Dropping into the “quick start” game provides a tutorial…a very long tutorial. In fact, I looked at my playtime per Steam (2.3 hours) and pretty much all of that was tutorial. The concepts are pretty much the same from step to step — build a themed room, populate it, and let it do its thing — but the sheer number of options and requirements necessary to run an evil empire makes me realize that world domination takes more than just a bald head and a fluffy white cat. For example, the lair needs a cafeteria to feed the minions. It also needs a medical facility. Of course you’ll want an interrogation room for when you capture enemy agents.
At some point you’ll need to secure the base, so you’ll be adding a security room, and will then place security cameras around the facility. Traps are a good idea, so any agents who get past your guards will have a harder time progressing.
Once your base is running like an evil top, the next step is to send your own agents out onto the “world stage”.
Here you will set up criminal networks in various parts of the world. Each network has a range, and you can enact schemes within that range to earn money or recruit minion archetypes or henchmen. Be careful, though! Schemes generate “heat” and a network can only accumulate so much heat before it needs to shut down for a while and wait for the heat to dissipate, making that network unable to provide the gold you need to continue your operation.
Evil Genius 2 is a pretty complicated, feature-rich evil dictator simulation that uses the good ol’ “James Bond” template of bald, monocled evil genius, complete with island lair and fake casino front. If anything, it can be slow at times while your minions run from a work site to the helipad where materials are stored, and back again. Some schemes on the world stage can take 3 minutes, and some can take 30 minutes. There are only three speeds to play with: paused, normal, and somewhat faster than normal with the last speed helping somewhat if works sites are near the helipad, but which really slow down the further out the lair is built.
I don’t know if Evil Genius is worth the current asking price ($39.99 for the basic and $59.99 for the deluxe which includes the season pass), although with a 2.3 hour tutorial I guess that dedicated megalomaniacs could find that much worth in the game. I haven’t yet tried the actual game, but apparently there are other lairs and other geniuses to play as, which might change things up as each genius has his or her own set of skills to help their operations along. So far I can say that I’m enjoying the game as it’s quite different in style and tone than all of the more traditional builder games out there.