Retro Requisition would like to draw your attention to a classic video game of old that we shall be formally requisitioning to be reborn, revisited, rebooted, or remastered. We will explain what makes each game such a timeless classic still worthy of attention, pitch what it would be all about and get all realistic by discussing the possibilities of it actually ever happening.
“We, the most awesome and fabulous team at That Not Current, have decreed in all our wisdom and obsession with the wonders of retro gaming, that the following game should be brought back to life and hereby submit this formal request to make it so:”
Evil Genius (2004)
THE PLAYERS: Elixir Studios, Vivendi Games, Sierra Entertainment, Rebellion Developments
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mobile
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
With a tagline of “world domination simulation” it really is quite self explanatory. Evil Genius is a simulation game with elements of RTS, wrapped up in a parody-rich spy thriller theme. While it’s certainly nothing new or revolutionary in terms of game-play, the setting, narrative and humour within the game elevates it way beyond the sum of its parts into something truly unique. Taking on the role of one of three Evil Geniuses — all very heavily influenced from iconic James Bond villains — the object of the game is to build a “Doomsday Device” to take over the world. This is achieved through building up a secret lair, deploying minions to various tasks to both manage your complex and spread your influence throughout the world. The latter is accomplished through the World Domination feature, where your minions are deployed to perform “acts of infamy” throughout the world in order to grow your evil reputation and garner enough resource to progress with your overall quest. Different minion types offer a variation in the strategy element of the game.
Anther aspect of the game is classic-SimCity style settlement management, building different rooms to provide different abilities and options. Your secret lair can be infiltrated by the “Forces of Evil” in a number of different guises and you have to fend them off through deployment of traps and minions to protect your Evil Genius from being assassinated and ultimately losing the game. Also at your disposal is your trusted henchman, who has unique abilities when defending your base.
While the game-play is addictive enough on its own to warrant your attention, the theme is superb carrying with it an effortless charm. Set in an alternative timeline around the 60’s and littered with James Bond cliches galore, this is Austin Powers in simulation form. Not only is it wonderfully wacky, but it’s actually a challenging little game that is extremely rewarding for players.
It was resurrected a decade later by a new developer as a mobile/online game, but unfortunately the less we say about that the better.
WHY DOES IT NEEDS TO BE REBORN?
With such a strong theme, Evil Genius still has outstanding appeal 14 years after it’s initial release. With games such as Planet Coaster, Cities and Tropico 5 — not to mention the abundance of freemium mobile/Facebook games in this genre — there is very much still a strong appetite for simulation games. When Evil Genius was released it was really thinking outside the box and offered something worth taking notice of, laying down a marker for what is possible with simulation games both in terms of visual style and humour and cultural reference. Bringing this classic back could have a similar injection of freshness on the genre. When you think back over the past decade and a half, there has been a re-branded Bond, a boom in comic book movies, new takes on the spy genre with films such as Kingsman, “minions” superbly brought to the masses with Despicable Me franchise, not to mention a whole new global landscape and revolution with a society obsessed with social media. There is an abundance of material to rejuvenate and reinvent it.
On top of that, the evolution of the simulation genre through games like Cities, Tropico 5 and The Sims 4 getting the juices flowing at the thought f that new and improved formula applied to a game as downright cool as Evil Genius.
With a couple of short-lived and poorly received freemium mobile version that have failed to make an impact, the game also needs to redeem itself — which is more than enough reason for a rebirth.
WHAT WOULD WE WANT TO SEE IN ANY REBIRTH?
More of the same essentially, with the obvious improvement to user interface, graphics and options. However, maintaining the look, feel and parody-infused humour of original is absolutely key, and I’d love to see elements of the past 15 years of culture references adopted.
Adding more control and personalisation of the minions, similar to The Sims, would be awesome, including a levelling up ability to control what type of Evil Genius you’d like to be. Likewise, copying the more story driven missions and quest from the Tropico series would be neat, setting the game over longer periods of history for example. Finally, while Evil Genius is more simulation than real-time strategy, the RTS element could be further enhanced to create a real behemoth of a hybrid gamins experience. I always thought the “Global Conquest Mode” from Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath could work in a round about way for Evil Genius. This could be achieved by expanding on the World Domination and Acts of Infamy parts of the game, providing more strategies, even possibly providing the opportunity to get more hands on in missions, similar to emergencies in SimCity series for example.
Without question it is a game that could benefit from some sort of online play, however, following the last experiment, would most definitely avoid going down the mobile root.
IS IT LIKELY?
Most definitely, but exactly in what guise remains to be seen.
Designers Elixir Studios were actually well under way with development of a sequel until there untimely demise 18 months after the release of Evil Genius. Rebellion Developments (makers of Sniper Elite games) picked up the IP and sat on it for just over five years before releasing a hideous, best forgotten Facebook game called Evil Genius: WMD. It was based on the freemium Farmville game and was an utter insult to the original game. Not content with trashing the legacy of Evil Genius once, they had another go in 2013 with another mobile game called Evil Genius Online, which fared a little better until it i was pulled in early 2017.
A month later in March 2017, Rebellion released the following statement on their website following social media rumours of an Evil Genius 2:
“We’ve always wanted to make a fully-featured PC follow-up. We’ve taken concepts for an Evil Genius sequel to publishers before but we weren’t able to secure the funding we needed. However since then, we’ve looked into alternative ways to get this game funded and created. We are going to make this happen. And it’s going to be soon”
They followed that up with confirmation last summer that the game is indeed in development, although with no time frame for release due to the complexities of adapting their Asura engine, used in their FPS games, to accommodate a simulation/RTS game. A crowd-funding campaign hasn’t been ruled out either, so we could be looking at a two or three year window before a release.
All positive stuff and for once it appears our requisition is being acted on!
In the meantime, the utterly charming, addictive and joyous original can be bought over a GOG and plays perfectly on modern machines.