Evil Genius Review
Sierra Entertainment; Rebellion Developments
September 28, 2004
God Game; Real-Time Strategy
Ain’t no blood on these jazz hands!
Being a megalomaniacal psychopathic egotist sounds like a lot of fun, given the money and power to pull it off of course, so God bless Evil Genius and all those who made her possible because this game has supplied me with some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a strategy game. Its combination of classic 70’s-era Bond villainy and some very satisfying technical gameplay and planning makes this a game that is still very much worth your time.
The aim of the game is to make you feel like a classic old-school supervillain in a Cold War setting with lots of lounge suits and primary colours in funky patterns. To that end you are given control of an extinct volcano that you open up bit by bit and fill with all manner of things. The main chunk of the game sees you expanding your base within the volcano by building rooms that have varying functions. These rooms include: facilities for your minions such as bunks, kitchens and training rooms; a control centre to enable you to commit devious acts around the globe; a safe room for all your spoils; and research facilities to improve your base. The building mechanic is very simple and makes planning your base simple, though the placement of objects inside the rooms themselves can be a little frustrating as it relies on your minions not standing in the way of other minions. By the end of the game you will have access to a considerable number of rooms, though considering each benefits from optimal sizing and placement it can be a little frustrating as a new player to find that you are having to demolish whole sections of your base as new rooms you had no idea about are introduced.
The base is run by your minions who come in all shapes and sizes. The primary minion is the construction worker, who, as you might guess, constructs your base. You can also upgrade your minions, by using a training room, into three branches: security, research, and hospitality. The security minions will ascend in rank to carry bigger, better guns and have increased hand-to-hand fighting capabilities for when your base is infiltrated by enemy agents. The research minions are self-explanatory, eventually becoming quantum physicists and the like, while the hospitality minions are vital for keeping the secrets of your island a secret by confusing enemies and vacationers who are visiting your island and generally keeping prying eyes away from questionable sights. It is very satisfying to have a fully-functioning base swarming with minions scurrying about like ants, although owing to the ‘one in, one out’ training system it can be a little troublesome replacing higher-end minions when they are killed or defect.
Your main problem will be dealing with enemy agents who will attempt to gain evidence against you by photographing damning material, recovering stolen items or simply blowing up vital infrastructure. The game starts out by gently easing you into the mechanics of counter-counter-espionage by explaining how interrogation and simple, straight-up murder work, but by the end of the game you’ll find yourself knee-deep in prisoners and body bags with nowhere to put them all. The game seems to think that you’ll have more fun by dealing with more enemies than you can feasibly handle, when in fact simply upping the challenge rather than the headaches would have been preferable. You’ll also find certain minions and henchmen next-to-useless in a gunfight because they use explosives which, as anyone who’s seen an action movie would know, do not function safely within confined spaces.
The whole game comes off rather well, on balance, because it spends most of the time smirking and pointing at everything its imitating with tongue-in-cheek eyebrow-raising (sort of like irony), which it does well enough to make you feel like just enough of an evil genius to forgive the rather badly drawn-out endgame and other flaws. When it works, Evil Genius is satisfying and cool, and it really demands a more polished sequel, which sadly is nowhere in sight. For now though I might recommend this game from your local online retailer Steam (£6.99 if you live in good old Blighty), a steal for anyone with a love of Dungeon Keeper and other base-building properties.
- Clever appropriation of clichés
- Satisfying base-building mechanic
- Extended gameplay suffers from lack of content
- Repetitive enemies and mission structure
- Not quite as polished as it ought to be
Final Verdict: 75%
Evil Genius was a game that never seemed to have gotten the attention it deserved. Were you ever aware of this game when it was making its way to store shelves?