E3 First Impressions: Evil Genius 2

Build. Train. Defend. Dominate. Are you ready?

Rebellion brings us a sequel to the satirical “spy-fi” base-builder Evil Genius and I got a chance to sit with a couple of the game’s developers and they walked me through some early alpha gameplay during E3 last week.

I need to preface this preview by letting it be known that I did not play the original…And I’m very, very upset about that.

Base builders and simulation games are my bread and butter, as evidenced my recent love affair with Klei’s Oxygen Not Included and other survival-builders like Ark: Survival Evolved and 7 Days to Die.

This is why I’m perplexed I didn’t know of Evil Genius until last week. (Psst! Another simulation title I’m excited for is Planet Zoo.) Luckily, Rebellion filled me in on what I have missed out on so far, while giving me a sneak peek at what’s to come.

The core gameplay in Evil Genius 2 is the same that fans have come to expect from the franchise, alongside some iconic characters (looking at you Maximilian). The sequel is bringing with it optimization, updates, and–you guessed it–traps.

One of the biggest changes to the core gameplay is that players will have the option to choose one of a host of islands around the world map to strategize, build on top of and into (hello multi-level lairs!), and dominate the world from.

The core of the gameplay is keeping your cover operation running smoothly in addition to keeping an eye out for Forces of Justice and their Super Agents. This is done by strategically designing your base of operations with security through research and training your yellow-suited minions to hone their criminal craft. Roles include biologist, hitman, and minion’s trained in the art of deception (lethal and non).

When recruited, your minions will have assigned character traits that determine their strengths and weaknesses. Positive traits include things like gaining a morale boost following a kill with negative traits, like laziness, that can be solved with a quick conversation with your lair’s human resource department (and they weren’t kidding).

Evil Genius 2 GIFResearch and development will be key to unlocking base enhancements such as new room types and security upgrades, including traps. Rebellion said that not only does Evil Genius 2 have a larger number of traps than the first game, they are offering true variety (think less bees). Minions will not trigger traps, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be caught in them!

Henchmen are back, as a role and with some returning characters. Well, kind of. Red Ivan from the first game did such a good job blowing things up, developers said, that he has been promoted to serve as one of the four Evil Geniuses in the game, joining Maximilian and two unidentified female geniuses. (I originally reported that Alexis was coming back, but I mistook our lady cloaked in blue below for her, sorry about the confusion! I thought she had maybe ditched the furs and got lasik.)

You may recruit a henchman striking quite the resemblance to Eli Barracuda of the first game, but developers noted that Barracuda Jr. has turned this into a family business, following in his father’s footsteps.

Different from minions, your recruited henchmen will have unique strengths and abilities, can be sent on missions around the world and will manage their own time until given direct orders. Evil Geniuses will operate similarly and both classes will follow direct orders given by the player. All classes of characters recruited by the player, including Geniuses, will auto-prioritize player commands once they are directed to take an action, leaving behind an often frustrating mechanic in many games of this genre. 

Evil Genius 2 GIF

Forces of Justice, seven of which were shown in key art during our meeting, and their Super Agents, similar to henchmen with unique names and backstories, are also trained in the art of deception and will routinely attempt to break into your base via disguise. It will be up to the player to utilize security protocols and, when all else fails, be able to pick up on key tells when they manage to break in. These clues include simple things like a running “minion,” or catching a glimpse of a shoulder holster or backpack when none of your minions typically wear them.

Some enemies will merely break in to map the base before leaving, while others will work to steal your gold bars or set fire to your control room. When chaos breaks out, players will have the chance to go into a high alert mode, rescinding all non-essential commands and throwing everyone into a highly disruptive ‘Oh shit!’ mode, which will not go unnoticed by tourists who believed they were relaxing at a luxurious island casino.

But that’s the price of world domination, I suppose.

Evil Genius 2 will be launching on Steam in 2020.