It’s been 15 years since the debut game in the Evil Genius franchise was released, but at E3 2019 Rebellion finally showed off the sequel to the cult-classic villain simulator.
Initially debuted during the E3 PC Gaming Show on the Monday afternoon of E3 2019, the game has already seen a lot of positive chatter from players hungry for more operation building and management titles.
The genre was popularised by Sega and Two Point Hospital earlier this year, with the hunger for Bullfrog-inspired management games back at the forefront of public consciousness thanks to the sleeper hit’s success.
Even though Evil Genius 2 has been in development for a few years now, the re-announcement of the game couldn’t have come at a better time. On the show floor at E3, the game offered something unique – and we’ve come away from the show with Rebellion’s newest title lodged firmly in our cortex.
Similarly to the original 2004 game, the sequel will cast the player as a nefarious super-genius with one goal and one goal only: to take over the world.
The satirical spy-fi thriller will allow you to play as one of four main villains, each with their own campaign and doomsday device. Though the company only revealed two of the villains at the show – returning characters Maximillian and Red Ivan – we’re told each will have their own playstyle.
Maximillian, for example, is a proper Blofeld: gold-loving all-rounder that does villainy in a more traditional way. Red Ivan, though, is a ‘might is right’ ruler, and you can expect his campaign to have more of a focus on aggression, rather than more low-key villainy.
In-game, you have all the tools necessary to train an army of henchman and a construct a base under a volcano (obviously).
General gameplay tasks include training you minions in the art of deception, constructing traps to ensure the forces of good can’t penetrate your defenses, and running a cover operation so that your dastardly deeds don’t get busted from the outside.
Other management and base-building games on the market offer a very different kind of fantasy: want to build your own zoo? Go ahead. Want to construct a hospital? Fine. A theme park? Knock yourself out.
Evil Genius 2 steps away from the obvious fantasies and lets you engage with something else, and everything it does, it does well.
Back in the day, animations and characters were sprite-based or pixelated, meaning colour schemes would differentiate one class from another.
Now, Rebellion is investing in motion capture for each of the models and characters types, and its that animation that makes the lair readable from the God’s Eye view. The heroes, when invading your lair, may be dressed like your henchmen, but their animation cycles have this swagger that immediately lets you identify them.
The valets you train to deceive your opponents walk with stiff arms and straight backs, but the hulking bruisers walk and move with their hefty forearms noticeably in view.
It’s how we remember the likes of Theme Hospital and Dungeon Keeper looking… but of course, they didn’t. Our memories upscale everything, right?
Despite that, Rebellion is doing a phenomenal job of competing with how we thought these games looked and delivering something that – truly – is unlike anything else out there right now.
It’s not just the old features coming back that make us happy: the developer has also made some changes to the formula that make the whole lair-building aspect even more entertaining.
You can merge rooms in the title, for example, making the lairs feel even more customisable than before. Each of your three arms of evil (Muscle, Science and Deception) can be built and operated together, and planning your efficiency is a vital part of running the lair.
You’ll only ever have direct control of your villain and your henchmen, too: the grunts will do the rest of the legwork. But improved UI and immediately identifiable icons that refer to traits or status make overseeing your ant’s nest of treachery a fun and consistently interesting task.
Evil Genius 2 is currently without a release date, but it will launch on Steam when the time for world domination is upon us.