Evil Genius 2: World Domination Review: One And Only Dominator
Anytime I’m presented with a morality-type system or the chance to play the miscreant in a game, I can’t help but jump at the opportunity. See, in real life, I consider myself a pretty balanced and pleasant person to be around, but games are about escapism for me, so when it comes to gaming, I always find the prospect of playing an unprincipled wrongdoer a ton of fun. Does Rebellion’s Evil Genius 2: World Domination provide a satisfying sandbox for players to live out their warped power fantasies? Let’s discuss.
A Sequel Years In The Making
Having never played the original Evil Genius, which was released in 2004 for PC, the prospect of finally getting to dip into the franchise 17 years later as its sequel was confirmed for console instantly grabbed my attention. Developed by Rebellion this time around, like its predecessor, Evil Genius 2: World Domination drops you into the shoes of one of 4 playable crime lords and asks you to develop a global criminal network whilst working towards your ultimate goal of developing a Doomsday Device and taking control of the world. Since the events of the original title, the Forces of Justice have managed to wrangle back control of the world, and it’s your job to undo all their pesky do-gooding.
As with the original, world domination is obtained through a mix of strategy, base building, and sim aspects, and thankfully, these pillars that make up the core of the title are robust and well implemented.
Varied Villain Roster
You’ll start by selecting which of the game’s super villains you want to take control of in your quest for global supremacy. Your choice is important here, as not only does each villain come with their own bespoke campaign, but they also come equipped with unique special abilities such as Maximillian, who can trigger an aura that causes minions in his vicinity to work quicker. If you want something a bit more hands-on that will bolster your combat capabilities during those pesky Agent invasions, you may want to opt for someone like Red Ivan (voiced by the wonderful Brian Blessed), who comes equipped with a rocket launcher for when you want to lay down some heavy firepower.
I appreciated the diversity within the villain roster and the fact that each of them comes equipped with not only bespoke abilities, but unique narratives. With their being three islands to choose from, and four campaigns to work through, lack of content is absolutely not a criticism that can be leveled at Evil Genius 2: World Domination, and having completed a playthrough as Maximillian and dabbled with the others in the early game stages, I truly feel like I have only just scratched the surface of what is on offer.
An Education In Evil
Another aspect of the game which Rebellion should be thoroughly applauded for is how smooth and thorough the onboarding process is. Strategy games tend to be complex beasts, with systems on top of systems, and Evil Genius 2: World Domination is no different. The tutorial, however, completely removes the intimidation factor that I often experience when playing strategy games. Baking the tutorial into the main storyline, your first few hours with the title will be spent working your way through main and side missions, each focussing on one element of the game. You’ll have missions asking you to build and use each of the various rooms which are available to build, some that focus on minion recruitment, others on traps and base defense, research tutorials…I could go on, but you get the picture.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like handholding, then this tutorial may grate on you; as above, it goes on for a few hours and is extremely granular. Thankfully for anyone who wants to go in blind and figure out the myriad systems for themselves, the option to skip the tutorial is there. For anyone new to the genre, though, or like me who has no prior experience with the franchise, I would definitely recommend playing through it, as you will be thoroughly prepared for that moment when the training wheels come off.
Bad To The Bone
And what devious fun there is to be had once those training wheels do eventually come off! As you work towards your overarching objective of building a doomsday device, you’ll spend almost all of your time developing your lair, whilst also managing your criminal schemes via the world menu. The base building aspect initially comes across a little barebones, however, through the recruitment of scientist minions and a little research, you’ll soon see your lair grow from a basic outpost that houses your gold and bunks for your staff, to a sprawling multi-floor complex with all manner of crazy rooms and contraptions.
Prisons with brainwashing interrogation chairs that let you convert enemy agents to the dark side, armories full of weaponry, incinerators for disposing of the inevitable mountain of corpses that will start piling up, and of course, whacky traps are all correct and present.
The selection of traps is really what sets Evil Genius 2: World Domination apart from other strategy games. As alluded to above, your base will periodically get invaded by enemy agents, who can all be dealt with in a variety of ways, from distracting them for long enough that they just leave your base, to, if you’re so inclined, subjecting them to a deadly maze of traps. It’s these traps, ranging from the slightly absurd to the downright insane, which turn the experience from a bond villain simulator, into a Saturday morning cartoon villain simulator.
Do enough research, and you will quickly grow your arsenal from hilariously oversized boxing glove traps to full-on shark tanks, killer bees, and my personal favorite, the Venus Spy Trap. Where the fun really creeps in is when you begin to use these traps and contraptions together. Whilst they are perfectly fun on their own, it’s entirely possible to create entire networks of deadly traps, making your doomsday device and mountain of gold inaccessible to all but the most resilient of agents.
Sure, a giant fan is great fun on its own as you watch it kick in and push an agent back down the corridor he just came from, but what if you use that fan to blow the agent onto a slippery floor which in turn makes them more susceptible to the effects of your magnets and bumpers? Take it one step further then and cap it all off by having the end destination of your corridor of death be guarded by a flame thrower or shark tank if you so, please.
It’s a truly flexible system; chances are, if you can think of a deadly combination, you can implement it in-game (using the available tools, of course). By the end of my first playthrough, I had turned the first floor of my lair into a deadly labyrinth that needed almost no manual input to operate. The satisfaction of seeing your humble hideout turn into an almost fully automated death machine is one of the most hilarious and satisfying gaming experiences I have had this year.
World Domination Takes Time
It does take a significant time investment to get to this stage, however, and that is where my main gripe with Evil Genius 2: World Domination comes into play. A lot of your research progress is capped by how far you have progressed in the campaign, which leads to frustrating bottlenecks where you have no option but to abandon your development to progress through the main story. On one hand, I can see the benefit of keeping the player on rails to a degree, as it helps keep your time spent focussed and with clear goals in mind, but the flip side of that is you will often find yourself sitting on a mountain of resource having built all available weaponry, rooms, and traps, only to realize you cannot add to your lair further until you hit a predetermined point in the story. It makes those stretches feel like wasted time and effort. Whether this is an issue for you will be a matter of personal preference; some players may like the more guided approach as, admittedly, it does keep things from feeling overwhelming.
When you aren’t expanding your deadly paradise, the rest of your time will likely be spent expanding your criminal network on the world map. As you upgrade your control center within your lair, you will build up broadcast strength which in turn allows you to set up outposts around the world. Setting up these bases becomes your primary source of income, as they make various schemes available to you in which you can send minions to complete, earning gold passively in the background. As well as income-generating schemes, this is also where you will launch missions to recruit specialist minions such as the technicians you will need to carry out repairs and the valets who will front your casino and distract agents.
Carrying out schemes does carry a risk, as generating enough heat in an area will result in a lockdown and may see your lair invaded. Whilst this can be annoying in the early game, it becomes a non-issue in the late game as your empire will have expanded to such a degree globally that stopping operations in a locked-down area until the cooldown expires never really impacts your bottom line.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination, with its whacky traps and accessible brand of evil strategy, is an easy recommendation. Seeing your lair expand from a couple of basic rooms into a fully-fledged multi-story instrument of death is one of the most gratifying gaming experiences I’ve had in 2021. Sure, the campaign can feel a little too guided at times, but that can’t overshadow the power fantasy that Evil Genius 2: World Domination provides.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available On: Xbox Series S/X (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC; Publisher: Rebellion; Developer: Rebellion; Players: 1; Released: November 30, 2021; MSRP: $39.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a code provided by the Publisher.