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Posted on Sep 29, 2004 in Electronic Games

Evil Genius – Game Review (PC)

By Doctor Sinister

SUMMARY

To be frank, this game is HARD. It’s actually very nearly impossible to simultaneously build and run your base effectively AND operate out there in the big wide world, which is a shame as one relies very much on the other. More than once I came back from a thirty-second jaunt to the World Domination map to find that my island base was quite literally overrun with enemy Agents and that my very expensive detention centre was on fire. Imbeciles!! Why am I always surrounded by imbeciles?! No-one had thought to trigger the alarm and/or arm my Minions and I became Very Angry, which meant another round of executions once it was all over.

Given that all the enemy Agents are very helpfully tagged in red on the minimap as they run around the island, I wouldn’t have thought that it would have taken much extra programming to allow your base to “govern” itself whilst you are not there. Before you “leave” you could simply click a “Kill all Agents” button or an “Interrogate all intruders” switch and you could happily go away to plot without having to worry about what you are going to go back to.

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Alternatively, why not have the facility pause the simulation whilst you are issuing orders on the main map? This seems to be a bit of an omission and I often felt like I could have done with slowing the game down a bit whilst things are constantly thrown at you.

Having said this – it’s also ADDICTIVE, like all good games are, and very hard to stop playing. It’s fun to look at and watch, and the suitably evil music that plays throughout never really begins to grate – for a change. The disembodied female voice that shouts out your every order over the intercom is a nice touch too.

Evil Genius covers many of the issues and dilemmas that any everyday supervillain is likely to encounter, such as: Do you keep plenty of Minions nearby to enhance your base, or send more of them out on nefarious missions? Do you kill enemy Agents, or keep them alive and interrogate them for information? Or should you spend your hard-earned cash on enhancing the control centre, or alternatively buy that nice new shiny laser trap that’s just come on the market?

The game manual contains all you need to play the game, as you would expect, but I hardly ever consulted it as the game itself includes not only a Tutorial mode, but also a constant stream of video clips and prompts telling you what’s what. You certainly won’t be left in the dark, which is just as well given the pressures you will face when you sit in the Big Chair for the first time.

Yes, Evil Genius has a few flaws, and it can subject you to lots of events all at once, but no-one said conquering the world would be easy, or you’d all be doing it. However, I still regard it as an excellent training tool for planning your own takeover, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has aspirations of this nature – just as long as you remember that I am first in the queue. And so, we come to the crunch.

Gameplay:

Despite the constantly and often frustratingly impossible competing pressures of simultaneously running your base and trying to maintain a presence in the outside world, the original game premise alone warrants a high score, not to mention the sheer fun in designing your base layout and deciding where your execution chambers will be most efficiently placed.

I was running Evil Genius on a P4 1.6Ghz machine with 512MB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce Ti 4200 with an additional 128MB RAM onboard. I encountered no significant problems, except some minor slowdowns when I had lots of enemy Agents engaged in a pitched firefight with my own Minions.

Interface:

For lazy game players, this is about as straightforward as you can get – all you need is a mouse to rotate the map, zoom in and out and to place objects, although using the Shift key comes in handy for placing multiple objects of the same kind. It’s a pity you don’t have the option to permanently get to a low enough angle that you can “walk” around your base – but I’m not going to deduct any points for this, so I’ll give it full marks.

Graphics:

One of the highlights of the game is its coherent sense of style. Equipment has a deliberately “retro’” feel to it, like the player is stuck in a 1960’s spy film, but this never once feels inappropriate, nor does any one piece of equipment jar against another. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the whole design and appearance of the game.

The 3d figures of you and your Minions are caricature-like in nature, but again, this does not feel at all out of place. The whole game has a polished feel to it – quite literally in some places since the floors of your base are gleaming and reflect every movement of your Workers as they run around complying with your orders, which I thought was a nice touch.

AI:

This is where Evil Genius is let down and somewhat lacking. For example, for about three hours my evil genius’ Inner Sanctum remained undecorated with the fine works of art I had stolen from around the world and ordered placed on the walls, until a Minion somewhere suddenly remembered the orders I had given. In addition, no priority is given by your Minions to building a new room or equipping an existing one and there are no real controls over this.

Since this review was originally posted, I have received some handy tips from Elixir Studios (my reputation clearly precedes me), and I include the first of these here:

Developer’s Tip – If you want something to be prioritised you need use the Boost Order function of your EG. If you select you EG and then click on a build tag he will walk over and snap his fingers indicating that this is the most important object/room (it should sparkle!). Otherwise yes, building things can seem a little random. The easiest way to avoid undue frustration is to not queue up too many things at once.

Another example, during a power failure, it might have been nice if my Workers had changed their priorities and commenced construction on the new generator plants I had ordered, instead of installing a Gym in their own Barracks.

Developer’s Tip – Again – your minions don’t have any context of the needs building an item will satisfy – they won’t build the cafe quicker if they’re hungry either :) The best way is to use your EG to prioritise or locking doors to objects you’d prefer to be built later is another option.

Of course, I arranged immediate executions, but I had to do this in the dark, which was tricky. In addition, I would repeat my comments above regarding Enemy Agents – since they are automatically flagged as red “blips” on your minimap, why isn’t there an option to automatically target them for elimination? I’m going to give the AI about 40%.

Developer’s tip – On Red-Alert your minions will shoot to kill. It’s a bit drastic though so use it with care. Everything has been left to the player as there’s a lot of options available and trying to automatically select the right one is impossible. When selecting an enemy group for termination make sure you use the left-ctrl to tag the entire group – this makes things a bit easier.

Thanks to Elixir Studios for those tips, they are undoubtedly helpful and should help anybody with their game, but I’m going to stick with my original score of 40% for the AI. This might seem harsh for a game that I undoubtedly got a real kick out of playing, but there are times when the pressure you are put under almost seems like too much. I just felt that this could have been eased a little if your Minions were more intelligent or if the system for targeting enemy Agents was easier and perhaps even centrally controlled.

Multiplayer: (not scored)

Evil Genius does not have any kind of Multiplayer option, so I am unable to give a score for this element. Nor is there any kind of scenario editor since the game is strictly linear in scope.

Armchair General Score: 84%

48/60 — Gameplay
18/20 — Graphics
09/10 — Sound
09/10 — Documentation and Technical

My overall rating for this game would be 84% (mostly for AI issues). Become an evil genius today – you know it makes sense.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am receiving reports that one of the Dinosaurs we have on sub-level 32 has escaped and I need to go and sort it out. Before you ask, no this isn’t in the game, this is real life.

Some handy links for you:

Game Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Elixir Studios
The official site: How Evil Are You?
The Evil Genius Website: Evil Planet

Review by;
Doctor Sinister
Future Emperor and Supreme Warlord of the Planet Earth

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