I’ve been thinking about how much I would love a crime-themed Evil Genius / XCOM game. If you’ve never played them, you should give them a try if you like management and strategy games.
In Evil Genius, you play as a Bond villain, essentially. You have your secret base, your minions, and your henchmen as you commit crimes across the globe and stop the world’s nations from stopping your reign of terror. It’s fun, but it suffers from a lack of replayability, I feel. It’s very easy to get into an infuriating spiral of being too poor to improve your base, and getting your minions slaughtered by Jet Chan or some other jerk whenever you think you’re just about to get enough infrastructure to advance in the game. I liked the game a lot, but the missions just aren’t that much fun. You send minions off, they overcome any obstacles by dying in enormous numbers, and then you get a piece of loot for your base or some other benefit. You can only indirectly affect the mission, and it just feels not as connected to the base as it could have been. XCOM, meanwhile, combined the base and mission sections of the game masterfully. Both sections rely heavily on each other, and each has a good amount of stuff to take care of, so neither section feels like it’s unimportant.
So what I’d like is a game that combines the best of both. You’d have field missions where you have to grab the goods and get out without setting off alarms and getting caught, and you’d be able to kill or knock people out to affect how people thought of you. So you could be brutal, and get feared, and maybe guards would just panic and run at the sight of you, or you could be like Arsene Lupin and never kill, and the governments will hunt you down less. So you might loot a famous painting from a museum, and you’d have a small gang of colorful crooks, with the possibility of losing them to arrest or death. Ideally, you’d be able to get in and out without the guards alerting anyone to your presence, but there’d be the possibility of getting caught and having to shoot your way out.
In between missions, you’d manage your gang, which would be mostly selecting from recruits, with some occassional headhunting. Your numbers would be smaller. I think it’s more interesting to have, say, fifteen good soldiers, like in XCOM, maybe with three or four henchmen types among them, rather than the hundred faceless minions in Evil Genius, whose deaths just make me annoyed. You’d be able to send them out to do various side missions, so maybe if you want to do a mission at a museum, you’d be able to deal with the night guard, either through bribery or threats or just breaking his leg the week before so there’s less trouble. Maybe you could insert your lieutenants into the police, as Lupin did, to stymie their efforts at finding you.
Or you could send out your gang members into the world so they can research missions, like in Evil Genius. But there’d be some random generation, so it’s not the same missions all the time, with some constant story missions or big heists, like the Mona Lisa. One thing I disliked about Evil Genius was that the missions never change, but it wouldn’t take much, I don’t think, to add an element of randomization. Mix up the order, or some of the smaller details. After all, in a video game, the only difference between two famous paintings is a texture.
And then the maps for the actual missions themselves could be based off a stable of maps. So you’d have museum maps, office maps, government building maps, &c., with some art assets that changed based on country or randomly, so that there’d be a bit more variety, without having to make everything random. So maybe there are certain quarters to the museum maps that are put together randomly, and the artwork and signs and such change based on which country you’re in.
As for your base, I like the way that Evil Genius does it, where you build various rooms, but I admit, I dislike how frequently forces of justice arrive. Your base doesn’t feel secret at all, and a single trigger-happy soldier can cause a chain reaction, where investigators see body bags, so you try to kill them, but then all the body bags make your minions defect, and it all just ends up being awful. I’d rather base assaults be rarer and more serious, with a real possibility of having to abandon everything and start fresh in another corner of the globe with your surviving crooks. Maybe the base would have common minions to staff everything, and then you’d have higher-level crooks for the missions.
I mean, honestly, there aren’t many themes I wouldn’t want an XCOM-style game for, but I think playing as Doctor No or Lupin would be especially entertaining. Any thoughts?