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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Vivendi Universal

 

Developer

Elixir Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 2004

 

 

- Lots of challenge

- Tons of structures to build and objects to purchase

- Great presentation

- Mix of Risk-like world map and base building works

 

 

- Not being able to pick specific minions to perform duties

- Much stumbling early on as you figure things out

- Objectives sometimes become forgotten

 

 

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Evil Genius

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

Establishing and maintaining a worldwide criminal network is no easy business. After all you have to recruit minions to do your maniacal bidding, commit crimes to get your name on the Top Ten list at MI6, and build a carefully planned underground lair complete with training rooms, mess hall, barracks, and control room and eventually build a doomsday machine. Evil Genius (EG) demonstrates what it would be like to own and operate a criminal syndicate - albeit a criminal syndicate stuck in a comic book set in a fantastical vision of the 1960ís.

 

evil genius pc review          evil genius pc review

EG mixes strategic elements of the Sims and the classic board game Risk; and the graphical style of No One Lives Forever. Itís a complicated mix but for strategy fans EG gets a lot of things right.

After choosing one of three megalomaniacs, you begin on an island with a lone stronghold full of cash and a big piece of island rock where you construct your lair.

Itís all too easy to start building with wild abandon. Slap in a hallway here, then a barracks and control room - and just as quickly slapping down room specific objects to really start the ball rolling. Itís a credit to the developer to just how easy it all is, but thereís a catch. On your first early attempts itís very easy to build rooms too small to be effective. For example, building a barracks is the first step to attracting minions, who in turn construct your base and carry out other duties. To house minions, you need room for bunk beds and lockers but thereís no way to know how much space these items take up before youíve laid down the plans for the barracks. So, you could end up with a barracks with a couple of bunks and a locker - hardly the kind of accommodations that are suited to expanding the number of minions you can house. The reverse is also true. You may make a room gigantic and only be able to install a couple of items in it. Getting the plans right - having your base make sense - will only happen after some early stumbling.

 

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If youíre accustomed to strategy games along the lines of Red Alert or WarCraft III you will encounter some frustration with the way EG handles itís units. Your minions - the lowest rung on the criminal ladder - cannot be specifically directed to carry out your requests. You have only indirect control over these lackeys. Laying down the plans for a control room will send a construction minion off and running to fulfill your request. Sometimes a minion will 

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respond quickly, while other times a room will remain unbuilt (or captured spy uninterrogated) for what seems like forever. Itís maddening to watch obviously unoccupied minions wander around while they could be filling orders. The only units you have complete control over is your evil genius and any henchmen that might be in your employ. (And even then, your henchmen will wander around on their own.) While control over these units is useful for attacking enemies it doesnít help when it comes to construction.

Although the minions all have five stat bars akin to The Sims, since you donít have direct control over them youíll have to build objects and perform certain diabolical acts to keep up the health, loyalty, stamina, etc. so that they stay in top form. In that way, itís kind of like the classic Lemmings.

To keep the funds flowing you must order your underlings to take up positions around the globe by accessing the world map. At first, it seems at odds to the base building aspect of the game but after a short while it becomes apparent how important the world map actually is.

The world map is reminiscent of the board game Risk. As you position your minions you have three options: hiding, plotting and stealing. Actively stealing will bring more attention to your minions and crank up your ďheatĒ level. Heat brings more attention to your evil doings and the chances some goody-goody will be sent to infiltrate your island lair. Stealing is the best way to bring in the cash. When the minions are in hiding, itís probably because youíve gathered too much heat and want some of it to dissipate. When set to plotting, your minions can uncover Acts of Infamy.

A successful Act of Infamy relies on the number and type of minions you have attempting the Act (once again relating back to what kind of minions youíve been able to churn out at your base) and the kind of resistance in that region. A successful Act of Infamy usually results in a new item (or minion type) available to you at your base, which in turn will help you produce better units and more successes on future Acts of Infamy.

evil genius pc review          evil genius pc review

There are objectives to achieve to push the game forward - this is no ambiguous SimCity game (even though some of EG's objectives seem to get lost in the constant battle against the good guys that continually infiltrate your lair). The game alerts you to specific objectives via a easily accessible menu and tells you when the objectives have been fulfilled. The objectives range from the simple to more complex objectives that include some strategic moves on the world map. On my first play through, about half way I got completely stymied - progress seemed impossible. Without foreknowledge of how the economics and architecture work, EG can be incredibly tough and the objectives nearly impossible later on.

On the one hand, you always know what youíre supposed to do (or at least have a clue), but on the other if you got stopped on one objective it can become very frustrating, very quickly. Most often, the problem can be traced back to your money management skills. (Did you expand too quickly? Do you have enough minions plotting and stealing on the world map?)  Loading a previously saved game is usually the only route to correct the problem.  (It should also be noted that EG has an autosave function besides the manual save option.)

EG doesnít lack in the challenge department, and it pulls through in fine shape on the presentation front as well.

EG makes some obvious stylistic nods to Monolithís No One Lives Forever series and the Austin Powers movies. Itís a good choice. It keeps the proceedings light and comical - the even the nefarious interrogation techniques and the many booby traps are good for a laugh. The camera shows off the animation very well and you can get close enough to the surf to see schools of fish! Itís attention to detail like that that should indicate just how much depth the rest of the game has. The music gets the same treatment - the radio announcements giving the results of Act of Infamy never get old and the music has a certain groove to it.

The Producer on Evil Genius, Peter Gilbert, told the Armchair Empire that the basic premise behind the game was, ďBe Dr. No.Ē For the large part, Evil Genius gets it right. Thereís some trial and error early on that could have sunk the whole game, but the depth and style overcome that stumbling block. It still sticks in my craw that minions canít be given direct orders, but strategy gamers should be smilingÖ with an evil, throaty laugh.

- Omni

(September 29, 2004)

 

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