Evil Genius Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.5
Review by Thomas Cap

It all began in the dungeons

In the year 2000 I experienced a very sad moment when I learned that development of Dungeon Keeper 3 was cancelled. I was one of the first to buy Dungeon Keeper when it came out in 1997 and also with the sequel 2 years later, which I spent many happy hours playing.

For those among you that don’t (or can’t) remember: Dungeon Keeper was a unique new real time strategy game that put you in charge of an evil underground domain. Commanding a vast army of villains, demons and other out-of-this-world creatures your goal was to expand your lair further and further, contaminating and spoiling the land above you. Of course your neighbors upstairs, especially those pesky do-gooders that people often refer to as “heroes” would try to invade and destroy your lair at regular intervals, plundering your treasure room while they were down there (even heroes need to survive). All this helped in the training of your minions for combat, setting deceitful and deadly traps and help the study of new ways of offence and defense a necessity if you wanted your evil empire to survive.

Dungeon Keeper was new, unique and most importantly fun. The graphics (don’t forget though it was 1997) were impressive and I know many people regretted that there never was a third installment.

Many a year has passed since then, computers became a bit faster and no one ever picked up the successful idea – until now that is. Everybody say hello to Evil Genius.

Born to be bad

Evil Genius is a new real time strategy game that puts you in charge of an evil organization. Commanding a vast army of villains, soldiers of fortune and other antisocial characters your goal is to expand your area of influence further and further, contaminating and spoiling the countries of the world. Of course your neighbors, especially those pesky organizations that people often refer to as “governments” will try to invade and destroy your lair at regular intervals, plundering your treasure room while they are there (would you prefer another tax raise instead?). All this makes for great training of your minions for combat, setting deceitful and deadly traps and study of new ways of offence and defense a necessity if you want your evil empire to survive.

Sounds familiar? Elixir Studios, developers of the ambitious but sadly not well received Republic, picked up what Bullfrog left behind when they and their games - like so many before and after them - disappeared in the vast videogame giant that controls the market nowadays. Don’t get me wrong – their work is only based on the general idea of Dungeon Keeper but they took it so much further so let’s get started already.

Dungeon Genius – Evil Keeper

Evil Genius lets you choose one of three evil masterminds. Maximilian is, despite of his short stature, a true genius when it comes to infamous acts, Alexis is a woman of breathtaking beauty but full of evil ambitions and Shen Yu finally is a former agent who simply grew tired of following orders and now prefers to give them instead.

Which one you choose has no impact at all on the game itself but since your avatar will be running around your base at all times and will need to be protected from attempted assassinations you better grow fond of him or her.

Once you have chosen your Evil Genius you are transferred to your first island. A true evil genius needs a hidden base of course so your minions – in the beginning you only have access to the versatile but weak and not very loyal construction workers – better start blasting tunnels into the islands mountain. First you will need some barracks for your minions, a strong room for your booty and last but not least a control room to coordinate your evil actions all over the world.

Base Building is really simple. You draw the shapes of the room, put placeholders for the items you want to have in them and your workers will take care of the rest. Now finally the developer’s affection for the small things becomes obvious for the first time. A worker will go to your strong room, fetch some money, run to a nearby depot and buy some dynamite. He will return to the construction site, place the explosives, get away from the danger zone before triggering the blast and after the dust settled down again he will build your room. Once the room is done your workers will start fetching the ordered object from the depot and bring them to your new room where they will set them up.

This is just one of the many examples of the detailed and often even funny actions your minions will perform. Watch them in their free time, witness accidents and their training, yes even watch them trying to steal from you, grabbing a bar of gold and trying to hide it in the barracks. While I of course had to eliminate the later much of my time was simply consumed watching my guys at work.

Evil Genius is hiring – call 555-CANNON-FODDER

Once you have your base setup it is time to start threatening the governments of the world. Sending out your employees to steal or perform other acts of evil you will soon realize that better minions are needed for more delicate jobs. Since specialists are always in demand and not all of them want to work on a desolate island and especially not for an evil genius abduction is often the way to go. Locking them up in a prison cell and adding some interrogation will cause them to share their knowledge and experience with one of your workers who than can pass it on to others in a training room. Each interrogation needs to take place in combination with a torture device of you choice – just let your cursor wander around the objects in your base you will be surprised how creative your minions can be. That a laboratory can be a dangerous place is likely no surprise but how one can use kitchen equipment and library furnishing will surprise you...

Your construction workers can “evolve” into one of 12 different characters from 3 different fields – Social, Science and Military. A minion that started one career path cannot go back to an other path so make sure you have enough training rooms and workers since every job on the world map needs different abilities.

Social jobs include characters like the diplomat and the playboy and their job is distracting your enemies. Your science team includes all sorts of eggheads ranging from Technicians and Biochemists to Quantum Physicists. Thanks to their technical skills they will not only make sure that your base is always up and running but also look for objects that maybe can be improved with a little research. Last but not least the members of your private armed forces. Guards, Marksman and Martial Arts Experts will track down and capture / kill your enemies wherever they encounter them.

10 little agents came to my island...

Sadly world domination is neither a simple nor risk-free business. The more evil deeds you perform the more unwanted attention you will get from the worlds intelligence agencies. Investigators, saboteurs, burglars, assassins and soldiers will be sent to your island to fight back. Investigators will try to sneak into your base and find proof of your evil ambitions. This may include stolen goods, prison cells, torture devices or simply witnessing how another agent or tourist, falls victim to an, ehhhhm, *terrible* accident. Investigators can be fooled by your minions with social skills though. If they are successful the investigator will forget to what parts of your base he has already been and with luck will leave your base without any evidence, which will calm down the agency he is working for. Sooner or later – rather sooner though – there is no way of hiding your actions any longer. Saboteurs will try to place bombs in important rooms, burglars will try to steal (back) important pieces of booty or technology, assassins will try to take down your evil genius and soldiers will slaughter your minions.

Of course you have more than one way of fighting back. Besides your military units you will have access to more and more deadly traps and weapons over time that you can place at important entry points and junctions in your base. The better the agent the smarter they are and they might be able to circumvent or even destroy your devilish trap. The real joy of trap building is of course building vicious combos. An agent might pass a laser barrier that triggers a jet engine hidden in a wall, slamming the poor agent against the next wall where he triggers part 2 of your trap a treadmill that suddenly stops to throw him into a basin full of piranhas... The list could go on and on if the agent didn’t eventually die.

Beware though – an unwary or simply stupid minion might accidentally trigger a trap as well and not once did one of my oversized trap systems swallow half a dozen of my employees in a single shot. Accusations that I simply wanted to test my traps at the cost of a few expendable “assets” are purely speculative.

Hey Brain, what do you want to do tonight?

Once you have slain too many agents and performed to many crimes on the world map the agencies will finally use drastic methods to get rid of you and will send their dreaded super agents. You can’t kill nor capture them (at least not for long) at first and only once you found out their weaknesses do you have a chance of crushing them once and for all. But before that will happen they can deal an awful lot of damage so you better fortify your base and send your high-class social minions to distract the agents till their mission time is over.

Once you have caused enough havoc it will be finally time to take over the world. What does every evil genius need for this? A doomsday weapon of course! You and your forces will move to a new island (that finally also includes an active volcano, hurray!) where things will start to heat up especially once you announced your plans to the world. What happens next and what the three available doomsday weapons do I will leave up to you to find out but rest assured – the developers won’t let you down there either.

Conclusion:

One of the few letdowns is that there are only two islands and the set number of missions. Furthermore the game can be awfully hard at times when half your base and ¾ of your staff are slaughtered in an all-out attack and before you can raise the funds to rebuild and restock the enemy is all over you yet again. But still - lots of lovely little details and gimmicks, lots of black humor and lots and lots of evil deeds to perform - what else can an evil genius of tomorrow ask from a game?