Evil Genius Impressions

Elixir Studios shows us how you'll try to take over the world as a diabolically clever evil genius.

It's not easy being an evil genius bent on world domination. There are countless minions to house and train, doomsday weapons to build, and pesky secret agents to fend off. However, developer Elixir Studios is definitely making a game of it with Evil Genius, a strategy game that allows you to play as an evil genius who is out to take over the world. We last saw the game nine months ago at E3, so Elixir flew over for the Game Developers Conference this week to give us a peek at their progress so far.

The game is heavily influenced by the classic strategy game Dungeon Keeper, which isn't too surprising since the development team includes members who worked at the legendary British game studio Bullfrog. And Elixir's Demis Hassabis also cites X-Com as another influence on the game. In Evil Genius, you'll construct a secret base on a remote tropical island from which you can train minions and henchmen to go out into the world to commit nefarious deeds. Designing the base is incredibly simple because it uses a drag-and-drop interface. All you have to do is highlight the size and shape of a room, and then you can select from menus how you'd like to furnish it. If you want a training room, you can install special equipment that will, for example, train spies to pose as diplomats. In this case, you'll see a minion practicing the art of handshaking and bowing with a bunch of humanoid-shaped dummies. Once the minion is trained, he'll transform into a diplomat that you can send off to plant as a mole inside a foreign government.

Inspired by the comedic Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, Evil Genius is set in the 1960s, when the world was still polarized by the Cold War. Your evil genius will battle against the five main geopolitical factions in the world, and if you manage to offend one of them, they'll dispatch commandos or secret agents to your island fortress to sabotage you. For example, ninjas can sneak onto the island to try to ruin your day, or commandos might come ashore in a rubber raft, or they may parachute in. You'll have a variety of methods for dealing with these intruders, including diabolically-crafted traps. As you become a bigger threat, factions will throw their elite superagents at you. And if you manage to construct your doomsday device to blackmail the world, all the factions will unleash an assault on you, so you'd better have a well-designed base and highly-trained minions to fend off their attacks.

In keeping with the comedic theme of the game, everything in Evil Genius has a kitschy, over-the-top look. Some of the diabolical traps you can construct can be particularly hilarious to watch in action. For instance, an unsuspecting secret agent trying to infiltrate your base can get tossed around like a baseball before being captured. And once captured, you can torture the secret agent using virtually any piece of equipment in your base. But once again, there's a silly, comedic aspect to the torture.

Evil Genius looks like it will pack a considerable amount of depth and strategy, not to mention plenty of humor. There are more than 140 different agents, three different doomsday devices you can build, and three different evil geniuses you can play. Your evil genius will also have to worry about his or her heat rating and notoriety rating. The heat rating represents your threat level to a geopolitical faction, so the higher the heat rating, the more determined a faction will be in trying to shut you down. Your notoriety rating is your infamy in the world. If your evil genius has a high notoriety rating, you'll attract more minions and henchmen to your cause, and it will be easier to keep their loyalty. You'll also be approached by other evil organizations to sponsor their diabolical plans, such as stealing the Eiffel Tower. The game certainly looks like it's coming together quite well. Evil Genius should ship in the fourth quarter of this year.

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