Evil Genius 2: World Domination (for PC)
It’s rare for a video game to receive a full sequel nearly two decades after its release. The first Evil Genius, released to PC in 2004, was a curious mix of another PC gaming classic, Dungeon Keeper, and the James Bond spy films. Evil Genius received decent reviews, but it didn't get a sequel to expand the concept—until now. Evil Genius 2: World Domination is very much the child of that first game. In fact, it almost feels like a clone, but with improvements courtesy of updated technology and new features. Evil Genius 2 works because the original title was such a great PC game, so more of the same is a good thing. Despite that, this $39.99 sequel has a few rough edges carried forward from the classic entry, and new features that could use better implementation. The Mastermind RevealedIn Evil Genius 2, you’ll sit in the plush, leather chair of an evil mastermind who has world domination goals. You push your organization to steal and kill its way towards completing a huge doomsday device that will definitely…do something. The point is that you succeed where every other evil mastermind has failed. You select one of four Geniuses this time, with each playing on a different spy-genre archetype. Maximilian returns from the first game, a cartoonish spin on Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You Only Live Twice. He has the ability to command more minions than the other geniuses. Red Ivan is the Red Scare personified, a megalomaniacal general who controls more combat-focused minions. Zalika is the mad scientist of the bunch, complete with a glass-dome helmet you’d find in 1950s, pulp sci-fi. Her minions can swiftly research topics. Emma is the modern spin doctor who reduces her crew's negative perception. Each Genius plays largely the same, despite those small, flavor differences. You’ll focus on creating a fiendish, sprawling complex hiding behind your casino front. In Evil Genius 2, you lack direct minion control, so you operate more like a middle manager. You carve out rooms, including an operations control room and training facilities, and your minions complete your orders at their earliest convenience.It’s here that Evil Genius 2 shows off its new visuals. From the default camera view, the game doesn't look much different than the original title. Zoom in, though, and you’ll see the detailed and delightful animations that Rebellion Developments crafted. There are scientists toiling on whiteboards, guards training other minions, and henchmen prying secrets from captives. It all looks great, like a tiny cartoon playing out in front of you.The Tasks, They Blend TogetherA lengthy tutorial makes up the campaign's early hours. It shows you how to build your base, train and manage minions, and do evil deeds on the World Map. The latter represents the game’s second half, where you send minions on missions to gain gold, steal items, or learn new information to improve your capabilities. Each successful mission nets you a benefit—money or intel—but also causes increased heat from law enforcement in that region. You must manage that heat while completing your objectives. The World Map missions aren't particularly interesting, visually or narratively; they're just a way to manage heat and resources away from your base. Your World Map exploits feed back into the base-building gameplay, unlocking new minion types, increasing your base infrastructure, or adding cosmetic loot (like the Crown Jewels or Excalibur) to wow your workers. The problem is there’s a mid-point in each playthrough where you’re just pushing the numbers higher. You’re adding more generators to increase power, more barracks to boost your minion ranks, and more traps to keep enemy agents out of your business. All the grinding makes you feel as though you're undertaking the same menial tasks as your minions.Speaking of minions, your workers have traits this time around. Some of these traits are completely useless; for example, you may encounter a minion who has a knack for buying unicorn-themed products. Other minions, however, have useful traits that feed into their general job performance. Unfortunately, you lack direct control over how your minions train in their traits, so you might end up with a Biochemist who doesn't have the best stats for the job.I don’t need to micromanage every minion, but Evil Genius 2 needs a system that lets you assign minions to specific jobs. The same is true for World Map missions; I’d love to control who I send out, like you can in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain's troop-management side-games.The campaign’s many mid-game problems vanish when you play in sandbox mode, though. In that mode, you’re given more resources, so you can build your dream base. You can create fiendish traps, build out your casino's front operation, and work on crafting the best base layout. That’s where Evil Genius 2's fun lies. Agents Among UsWhat’s an evil genius without a secret agent to stymie his or her plan? As your operation grows, you’ll attract visitors. That begins with tourists coming to your casino and expands to investigators who think you might be up to no good. Thankfully, minions with deception skills turn away anyone who peers too closely at the man or woman behind the curtain. You’ll occasionally encounter agents and enemy spies. These units push deeper into your base, stealing items, killing your minions, and sabotaging your infrastructure. To deal with them, you’ll need better guards and a series of elaborate traps. These include shark pits, killer bee dispensers, and weapons that freeze enemies in giant ice blocks. It's a joy to deploy a series of traps that play out like a tiny Rube Goldberg device. You must tactfully place traps and guard posts for maximum efficiency, as the agents get better at circumventing your security with time. This cat-and-mouse element is a blast, especially after dealing with the mid-game grind. This is Evil Genius 2 at its best. It makes me want more agents, more traps, and perhaps more minion types to fill out counter-strategies for the James Bonds of the world. There's enough for a foundation here, but I always found myself looking for a little more. One more lair item to display in the base, one more cool trap to live out Bond-killing fantasies. Can Your PC Run Evil Genius 2?Evil Genius 2 isn’t the type of game that’s going to strain your rig. To run the game, your PC needs at least an Intel Core i3-8100 CPU, AMD Radeon RX 550 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1030 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 18GB of available storage. That’s a four-year-old processor and equally old video cards.My desktop PC, with its AMD Ryzen 5 3600X CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, and 32GB of RAM, had no problems running Evil Genius 2 at 4K resolution. The frame rate danced between 90-100 frames per second.Evil Genius 2: World Domination is available on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store. It’s best played with a mouse and keyboard, but also offers full controller support.The Beginning of an Evil PlotEvil Genius 2: World Domination is a direct continuation of the 2004 classic. In that, Rebellion has done a good job with new gameplay additions, and the game looks great, but it would be better if there were more to do. More minion control, or at least the ability to assign them to different jobs as you can in games like Prison Architect or Rimworld. More robust traits. More interesting missions and outcomes on the World Map. More traps and minion types.Evil Genius 2 already has a $24.99 season pass that adds another Genius, more minions, and more lair items. Rebellion is known for its longtail support with its other games, such as Sniper Elite and Strange Brigade, so it wouldn't be surprising if more content is on the way. Evil Genius 2 isn't quite the mastermind it set out to be, but with some training this henchman will be on the road to riches and world domination.
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