Evil Genius 2: World Domination Interview: Venus Spy Traps, Shark Tanks And Bond Villains

The original Evil Genius was developed by Elixir Studios back in the early 2000s and published by Vivendi Universal Games in September 2004. It was a great year for simulation games, which also gave us Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, Zoo Tycoon 2, and The Sims 2. Sixteen years later, Rebellion Developments, who acquired the franchise rights back in 2006, is almost ready to release a sequel into the world and attempt to conquer it once more.

TheGamer was given the opportunity to take a look at a short hands-off preview of Evil Genius 2: World Domination, followed by an interview with Richard Edwards, lead designer, and Ash Tregay, producer. We talked traps, Bond villains, and why now is the perfect time for Evil Genius 2 to make a dramatic and pun-filled entrance onto the simulation game scene.

The Time Is Right For World Domination

Speaking about the timing of the long-awaited sequel, Edwards says “I think it’s mostly a conflux of different things. For instance, we’ve seen a renaissance of strategy management games in the last few years, so things like Two Point Hospital, the Paradox games – a whole bunch of things like Cities Skylines as well have really helped to push that to the fore. But of all these games, there’s been nothing quite as similar that’s gone down the same route that Evil Genius has.”

The spike in simulation game releases in recent years is noticeable and includes a mixture of console ports, remasters, spiritual successors, and brand new franchises. Developers like Frontier, Paradox, Bossa, and Two Point Studios are leading the way in reviving the simulation genre. Rebellion, best known for the Sniper Elite and Zombie Army franchises, sits comfortably beside them, even citing the fellow European studios as inspiration.

“In recent years the one that’s had the biggest impact on us is Two Point Hospital. That’s because it’s a game that looked back to the classics – basically Theme Hospital – and brought them into the modern age for new players.” Edwards fondly recalled an EGX panel he did with Tregay and a couple of the Two Point Hospital developers last year. “It’s just such a core inspiration for us that we can take these games that had such a following back in the day and make them for a modern audience,” he says.

The Importance Of The Original

The original Evil Genius was a cult hit, so retaining all the aspects that made it special is of huge importance to the team. Tregay describes working on Evil Genius 2 as “a passion project” while Edwards goes a step further, saying, “Evil Genius was a big part of my reason to get in the industry. When I played the original one it just captivated me in a way that not many games did. So this was something that I carried with me through a lot of my life.”

Recalling his interview at Rebellion, Edwards confesses “Halfway through [it] they told me that I would be working on Evil Genius 2, rather than any of the other franchises, and at that point, I had to literally stop the interview… I was just so excited to just discover that there was actually going to be a sequel to the game that I loved so much growing up.” Apparently, there’s a bit of an urban legend in the studio surrounding Edwards’ fateful interview. “Half the people say that I fainted, half the people say I climbed across the table. Personally, I like to think I was a little bit more dignified and just got up and paced a little bit. That first game really did inform who I am as a person, I think it’s fair to say.”

That level of passion extends across the studio. According to Tregay, the team’s desire to keep the heart of the original has been at the forefront of the project. “When people join the team, one of the exercises we like to have them do is revisit the original game – play through it with modern eyes and pull out what they believe makes the game the cult classic we all know and love – and what are the bits that they would change. We discuss that and make sure it’s in line with where we are headed.”

The emphasis in this sequel is on enhancing and building on the solid foundation of the first game – updating, adjusting, and adding to the concept to produce something that will truly draw in new and old players alike. Tregay says, “For every key competent of Evil Genius we’ve kind of taken a look at it, taken it apart, improved or expanded on it in some way… Everything we thought was key, exciting, and interesting about the heart of Evil Genius 2… We’re bringing that forward, then making sure we’re changing things on top of that.”

As soon as you look at the game, you can see the influences from spy movies; both Edwards and Tregay cite Bond as an influence. Although their opinions about superior Bond movies differ, both interestingly cite Brosnan-era films. Preferring the classics, Tregay says “Goldeneye, it’s not my favorite Bond but it is my favorite Bond Villain. I think Alec Trevelyan is wonderful and anti-bond and he makes a few mistakes. He could have had it all.” On the other hand, Edwards is aware that his choice provokes a different reaction. “The World Is Not Enough. I’m aware that it gets a lot of controversial headshakes, like Ash is doing there, but I just love the audacity of the villain and there’s something so of its time. I do personally think it’s the best Bond that Pierce Brosnan was a part of.”

Traps And Puns

In Evil Genius 2, players will take control of one of four different geniuses: returning villain Maximilian, promoted henchman Red Ivan, or Emma and Zalika (two new genius characters). Each of the four wannabe world rulers has their own unique narrative, Doomsday Device, and focus. While they share similarities, the way they forge a path to victory differs. The main campaign will lead you through their quest to take over the world, but there are also side quests that will help you build your lair and enhance your chances of success, as well as learn more about your genius.

Each of the geniuses will personify a different evil trope. “We asked ourselves what kind of villain would you want to be and then we took of the answers that we had from the dev team, condensed that down and found that there were really four archetypes. Those archetypes are what we followed,” says Edwards.

In the demo, the focus was on Red Ivan, a returning henchman now put into the spotlight. The new bases are on one of several deserted islands and include a Casino operation, generating money and providing a legitimate front for evil activities. As you play through the campaign you will need to hire minions, train them, and keep your base safe from spies. Fans of the original will be pleased to know that trap-building is also making a comeback in a big way. Edwards elaborates, “We’ve gone down the path of making sure that we can rebuild the trap networks that were present in the first game but making sure that you can also have that little new twist on it.”

When asked about their favorite traps, they both mentioned their adoration for the pun-tastic Venus Spy Trap. “The Venus Spy trap is a large carnivorous plant that can turn people into plant food,” says Edwards. “Honestly part of me loves it just because it looks genuinely intimidating when it pops out of the ground and grabs its victim, but also you’ve got to respect the pun.” And it’s a pun the team is proud of – “Perhaps a little too proud,” says Tregay. The game contains “So many puns. Puns around the world, puns about characters, puns about places, puns about objects. A large part of our game is a pun delivery mechanism.”

The pair is also fond of the freeze ray, shark tank, and deadly combinations. “I think the effects on [the freeze ray] are lovely,” Tregay says. “It encases any hapless victim in a solid block of ice and freezes them in place. But of course, you can use your other traps in an exciting combo to then move them around the lair – still fully encased in ice. I like to freeze them, then blow them or drag them into a shark tank and watch them get chomped up. It’s very satisfying. I recommend it… Don’t mess with the classics.”

Micro And Macro Management

Based on the demo, the lair seems to run well on its own, but there are also some very fiddly options players can dive into to micromanage aspects of their operation. These include being able to match minions’ personalities to their roles. Tregay says, “It’s been a big focus to get that balance right between micro and macro-management. Making sure that the player has plenty to do but they don’t need to delve down into the min-maxing if they don’t want to but if they are that kind of player then we give them the tools to do that.”

Edwards went through parts of the campaign, demonstrating how geniuses are the overseers of the big picture – and that is the main focus. “There’s something that we are embracing called the ‘shoot them you idiots’ paradigm…” he says. “If you, the genius, just want something to happen – all you have to do is give the order and the minions will go and do it. So you absolutely can take that back seat and let your base take care of itself while you manage the big picture.”

Minions will be recruited for you (up to the limits you set) and as they perish they’ll slowly be replenished. If you want to min-max, you can dispatch or execute any minion that doesn’t meet your exacting standards. Otherwise, you’ll just be able to set the numbers and watch good things happen.

The other noticeable difference we spotted was the Doomsday Device. Previously the whole game was about building and firing the device. However, Edwards says the team is aware of how alluring pushing the big red button is. “We want to make sure we give you the opportunity to fire it much more frequently throughout the campaign.” This means that your genius’ unique device will begin to take shape early on in the game, giving you the ability to perform frequent tests as you progress. Its development and testing are fully part of the campaign, rather than just an end game one-shot wonder.

“Once you’ve gathered fuel, once you’ve picked a target, you can use your device repeatedly throughout the campaign – until eventually you’ve upgraded it and it is devastating enough to sort of point at the world and say ‘I want you all to surrender to me,'” says Edwards.

Domination Complete

From what we’ve seen and heard, Evil Genius 2 looks likely to fulfill the wants and wishes of fans who have been waiting 16 years for a sequel – as well as offer a unique villain protagonist twist to franchise newcomers. With a team dedicated to enhancing and updating the Evil Genius experience, things look promising for the simulation sequel.

So far we’ve only seen a glimpse, but it’s enough to get us excited. Plus, we’ve been promised more in the near future. Regarding the team’s favorite geniuses, Tregay had a clear winner. “Emma is my favorite. Emma is crazy and she’s great.” Edwards, alternatively, was more cagey. “I don’t like picking favorites between the geniuses because they get upset.” He did however make a choice… sort of. “Ivan is one of the [geniuses] I’m a big fan of because he is a returning character from Evil Genius and we are giving him that chance to shine. I would say that I’m also a huge fan of one of the genius’ we haven’t talked about yet – so I’d ask you to keep your eyes out for anything involving Emma or Valika. They’re so exciting and I can’t wait to put them in front of players.”

Evil Genius 2: World Domination is currently slated for release in the first half of 2021 on Microsoft Windows.

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Helen began playing games at an early age with her first computer being a hand-me-down Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It didn’t put her off… She is all grown up now but is still a gamer at heart, especially when it comes to The Sims and other strategy and simulation games.

She juggles the daily demands of life with a family and somehow still finds the time to indulge her two passions in life, writing and gaming; sometimes both at the same time.

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