Evil Genius 2 preview and interview – ‘this is the premiere villain simulator’
GameCentral speaks to the lead designer of the new Evil Genius game, who got so excited about the game he fainted during his job interview…
When you’re trying to bring back a dormant franchise after 16 years – one many younger gamers have probably never heard of – you need someone that’s passionate about the original. There’s no point making Evil Genius 2 unless it’s going to be a labour of love and that seems to be exactly what it is for Rebellion’s developers; especially lead designer Richard Edwards, who was so overcome at the idea of working on a sequel to his favourite game that he fainted during his interview.
‘I had my life in a box. I was intending to move away when Rebellion gave me this interview. And halfway through they told me that actually… this isn’t for Sniper Elite or any of our other franchises. It’s for Evil Genius 2. And at that point I kind of don’t remember what happened next’, says Edwards.
‘A couple of people say that I sort of tried to climb over the table. I think I stopped the interview and stood up and walked around a bit because I needed a bit of a timeout, because I was that huge a fan of Evil Genius.’
Not only is Evil Genius likely to be unfamiliar to many modern gamers but so too is the sub-genre it’s a part of. Like any successful title, 1997’s Dungeon Keeper inspired a number of similar games, including Ghost Master and the more recent Dungeons. These were strategy game where you played as the bad guy, in most cases put in charge of a lair into which more heroic characters would arrive and have to be dealt with.
In Dungeon Keeper and its clones this was a simple reversal of the tropes of Tolkien-esque fantasy but in Evil Genius it was a celebration of 60s and 70s era James Bond films, except Mr Bond was not only expected to die but frequently did – if you were good enough at building a villainous base for him (or rather his legally distinct homages) to infiltrate.
‘I grew up with Bond films, not just every Christmas but they released them at the cinema near where I was growing up. So I saw them all on the big screen for the first time and it was absolutely great. So when this game came out, obviously the theme was something that drew me in’, explains Edwards.
‘I did come from things like Dungeon Keeper, but Evil Genius managed to capture both the gameplay and the feel of that entire genre in a way that very few other things ever have. So this was a game that just spoke to me on so many levels and it is a game that I have returned to many times over the course of my life.
‘Even to the point where I must confess that a few years ago, outside of Rebellion, I was one of those people sitting on Twitter going, ‘Rebellion, why aren’t you making an Evil Genius 2? So to be part of that team is, is absolutely thrilling. It’s genuinely a thrill to be here.’
Before speaking to Edwards we were shown a new demonstration of the game being played, requiring a familiar mix of business management skills and ad hoc puzzling solving. Imagine The Sims crossed with Theme Hospital and you’re most of the way there, with a lot of the overall strategy revolving around fiscally responsible decisions on where to build evil laboratories and minion training facilities.
Increasingly sci-fi style equipment can be researched and manufactured, as well as ever more experienced goons to send out into the world map to complete heists for cash. The action side of the game comes from when you’re infiltrated by a secret agent, with the ability to not only send minions after them but set-up complex traps involving sharks, giant Venus flytraps, and all manner of other impractical security devices.
‘What we did right at the start of development was we sat down and we watched an awful lot of videos of how the fans and how the community were using those traps. So we were able to draw on 10 years of people sharing their trap networks and create a whole new set of puzzle pieces, taking the classics that they were using and updating them so that they can use them in new and interesting ways’, says Edwards.
‘The original game was one of the things that got me into modding in the first place, so I came to this with a sort of notebook of 15 years of ideas of things that I want to make in the sequel. The community out there still supports the game and is still creating mods for it and they’re absolutely the reason why I think we’re making this game. Because we’re wanting to make something where they can relive their first experience of Evil Genius 1 again, but with our title.’
The other side to the game is that the lair you’re in charge of is on a tropical island (two other locations are in the game, but we’re not shown them) and as a front it also runs a casino that’s open to the public. This must be run as much as possible as a legitimate business, while at the same time preventing any normal customer from seeing something they shouldn’t and stopping spies from infiltrating the hidden base within.
What makes the game different from Dungeon Keeper and other similar games is that it has a definitive ending, revolving around creating one of several different doomsday devices – so this isn’t just an endless sandbox game.
‘We are a narrative focused game, which is unusual for this sort of genre. We’re making sure that we give you a solid campaign to follow and you can play that at your own pace. So if you want to take a slightly more relaxed approach to world domination you can… and have a bit more of a sandbox experience in the middle of this campaign’, says Edwards.
‘What we’re giving you is one island and saying, ‘This is your space’. We’re not going to throw different challenges at you or gimmick levels. We’re going to ask you to evolve your building your way and make sure that this entire operation is yours. And we’re going to take you through the entire experience of being a villain. So, yeah, I think we, we basically want to be able to point to this game and say, ‘This is the premiere villain simulator’.’
Without having played the game ourselves we can’t vouch for it personally, but the enthusiasm of Edwards and the other developers is already infectious and it seems likely to result in a game that’s going to delight existing fans and have a good chance of attracting plenty of new ones too.
Release Date: 2021
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