This year’s E3 for me has been all about comebacks. A lot of what I loved to play years ago that suddenly went away for whatever reason, like Commandos, Desperados, Destroy All Humans!, and now Evil Genius, are all coming back as either entirely new games or as remasters, which for me is indication that there’s a public now that’s hungry for franchises such as these that were never AAA, but are fantastic in their own unique ways.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is a direct sequel to defunct studio Elixir’s 2004 Evil Genius, whose rights were bought out by Rebellion shortly after, and have remained dormant until now. With Rebellion now handling development and publishing, Evil Genius 2 made for a great show at E3 last week. An alpha version of the game was presented in a pretty snazzy James Bond villain-ish setup, with a fake shark tank and self-destruct button and everything.
Designers Tim Jones and Steve Bristow handled the demo which took us to a pre-built island lair that happened to serve as a casino tower, all the while, deep within, their evil plans were being hatched. From the get go, we got to see a new feature in this sequel, the ability to build vertically, which was not available in the original’s one-floor limitation. Same goes to villain selection, now allowing prospective tyrants to pick from a host of different archetypes, like the original game’s “Don’t Call me Shorty” Maxmillian, as well as returning henchman who’s been promoted to ultimate baddie, Red Ivan. Each of these guys has their own personalities and set of skills, which in the case of Ivan, if the name doesn’t already give it away, have to deal with lots of explosives. Sadly, we didn’t get to see a whole lot in that department due to the demo being an extremely early build of Evil Genius 2, but the promise of now being able to suit characters to specific play styles seems great.
As mentioned before, the entirety of the demo level’s evil operations was fronted by a casino, which according to Bristow and Jones could be balanced at will to suit your needs. Whether you want the casino to be huge or a small front is completely up to you, but that choice will factor in on how easily discoverable your actual business can be to outside forces, and also to your coffers, since your actual income is generated not by your legit business, obviously. I liked that idea because it gives the game an extra layer of strategic possibilities, with room to actually have a robust suite of options in the way of pretty much breaking the system and trying to be a small time villain with a huge legit business, or the gun-ho, reckless opposite. It’s a fun idea that I’m looking forward to trying out when the final game is available.
Keeping your base going is no easy task, and like the original game, Evil Genius 2 isn’t about micromanagement, but the big scope, so you don’t have direct control over your minions, only your evil genius avatar and your henchmen, the second highest tier unit who you can command by giving orders, but overall, every single unit in your base acts on their own, so if you call out your henchman and just idle about, he or she will go back to their routines by themselves. Among these stronger units are some characters related to the cast from the original game, like Eli Barracuda Jr, a tough-as-nails commando and son to Eli Barracuda.
You can build your evil lair as you see fit, but according to the devs’ funny anecdote about base building and layout, there’s a certain logic that is a good metric when it comes to putting together an efficient base which deals with having rooms being connected in order to maximize your minions’ action and task efficiency, but not overdoing it. That plays with the notion that having a big ol’ room where everything there is to be done is packed in a single location tends to be a terrible one because then minions would run up against one another resulting in a mess of a base.
So having a smart layout comes into play as a way of keeping all the small cogs turning and in result, your minions’ will be able to raise their individual stats accordingly, becoming more useful, stronger, and smarter, further boosting their value to your cause. That comes from having a good assortment of development rooms in your base, such as the barracks, super serum, brainwasher, and even videogame sections that Bristow clicked through in their demo base.
It’s also useful to have some traps thrown in here and there for good measure, since pesky enemy agents are sure to try and sabotage your evil plans, such as spies who can disguise themselves as one your minions and infiltrate your base. The trap that was shown to us in the demo popped a huge propeller at the unsuspecting agent, pushing him into a shark tank… muwahahaha! But… *ahem*… there will be other kinds of traps to use as well, like the venus fly trap from the original Evil Genius, lending even more humor to the already ridiculous premise of the game. You can also capture and escort them out, just so you don’t draw extra attention to your operations, but who’s gonna do that, anyway? Oh, well, I guess that might be a good idea, now that I think about it…
The entire gist of Evil Genius 2 revolves around three basic concepts: build, defend, train and dominate. The demo shown at E3 did a pretty good job at showing examples of all four, and even though what was revealed there was still in a very early stage, I was able to see that the base ideas are already solid enough at this stage that it makes me particularly excited to see just where things could escalate to in the final game. There’s still plenty to be revealed as Evil Genius 2 approaches release, such as the rest of the villain cast you can pick from, more kinds of justice agents that are sent by the computer to try and foil your plans, as well as deeper looks at the minion skill trees and their development, or even what other kinds of fronts you can set up in order to drive away the prying eyes of my future rivals.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination is still very early in development, so no firm release date was revealed, but Rebellion has assured me that it will be out sometime next year, and that it plans to take over your PC then.