Jurassic World Evolution is a park-building sim style game made by Frontier Developments, developer of the Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster games, among others. Fans of those series will find themselves right at home with this title. To be honest, I didn’t know much about this game during development, and assumed it was another Turok style shooter, looking to ride the success of the Jurassic World movies. I was thrilled to be completely wrong.
Learning the Ropes
From the moment I took control, it felt like I had missed a rather large chunk of tutorials. I was dropped into this playground with tools aplenty, but seemingly no direction. I was overwhelmed. Having never familiarized myself with the sim/tycoon style of games, I immediately wondered where you were supposed to begin. Do I try to min-max my park to earn as much money as possible? Is my goal to have one of each dinosaur somehow living in perfect harmony under my watchful eye? Or should I just power through the missions and get to the “end”, even at the cost of my park’s wellbeing? I had just begun, yet I was already lost in where to start.
Then there was Goldblum, and suddenly all my trepidation melted away. Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm, and acts as a guiding hand, helping to familiarize you with your toolbox. And boy, he really seems to enjoy bringing this character back for us. We get just enough of Dr. Malcolm to appreciate, without him overdoing it. There are several factions at play, each with their own agenda. Ian Malcolm serves as a middleman between the groups. His words often echo the player’s thoughts on situations.
The three main factions are the Science, Entertainment and Security divisions. Each has a figurehead that will contact you frequently with missions and contracts that can earn you cash rewards, as well as acclaim within their respective division. The contracts are rather shallow, and tend to be pulled from a pool, rather than tailored to each specific quest-giver. There were several times I received the same exact contract multiple times from different divisions. Despite the cookie-cutter nature of the contract system, it was easy enough to pick and choose which ones to accept, so it never became too tedious. On the other hand, the mission system is a bit more static. Once you level up a required amount in a division, you can complete missions, which are basically juiced up contracts, albeit with better rewards.
So, what do these contracts and missions entail? Most of the time, they’ll request for you to do something to improve your park. Whether you’re attempting to raise your guest count to a certain number, create a new genetically crossbred dinosaur, or assist in a dino fightclub, all your tasks are working towards the goal of keeping as many satisfied customers as possible. And with that, you’ll earn more money to increase the volume of content within your park. But most importantly, you’ll be able to create more expensive, exotic dinosaur species.
The sheer amount of times I had to corral escaped dinosaurs back into their pens was the most frustrating part of gameplay. You need to be mindful of each dino’s comfort meter. Ignoring their comfort will result in them panicking and breaking down the fence to attempt a daring escape. Despite many attempts to keep all my dinosaurs comfortable, breakouts were seemingly unavoidable at times. Allowing these creatures to wreak havoc on your park will cause your rating to drop and can cost you millions in legal fees from guests who were injured, or sometimes, became lunch.
You’ll feel a sense of pride in these creations. You need to do a decent amount of work just to get one small dinosaur to enter your park. First your expedition teams unearth fossils from across the globe, then you study those fossils to extract the breed’s genome. Once you have a viable genome, you can incubate a dinosaur egg. If all conditions are met, adding in a pinch of luck, you’ll witness the miracle of life. However, life is fleeting. The first time one of my dinosaurs died really stuck with me. It was small enough to look almost like a pet. When I saw that he had passed away, I felt terrible. I ordered his limp, lifeless body to be taken away in a helicopter. I could only take solace in the fact that he passed away from old age, so it was simply inevitable. Life begets death.
I was getting a firm grasp of the mechanics of the game after getting my sea legs under me. The first island was complete, and now it was time to move on to the next of the Cinco Muertes (“The Five Deaths”; the islands of the Jurassic Park universe). You realize very quickly that these islands differ from each other in many ways. New mechanics suddenly spring to life that are beyond your control. And while one moment you may be sitting comfortably with millions of dollars in the bank, it can all disappear in an instant. This leads to cruel frustration. But no matter how grim things seem on your island, it can all get better if you ride it out.
The visuals are nothing short of spectacular. Each creature looks astonishingly realistic, and the physics of the world behave surprisingly appropriately. The islands look like various forms of paradise, and the dinosaurs are wholly customizable. I still can’t help but to get chills recalling the moment I first successfully created a Tyrannosaurus Rex. By random chance, it started raining the moment the gates opened and my T-Rex stepped through in all his majesty, followed by his world-famous roar. Legendary.
The interactions between dinosaurs are spectacular. Two uncomfortable dinosaurs may turn on each other and fight to the death. These fight scenes are visually arresting, and the AI pulls off the interactions without a hitch. The first instance of this that I witnessed was between a Ceratosaurus and a Triceratops, the latter being the victor. The fight ended with a stunningly brutal animation of the Triceratops pinning the Ceratosaurus to the ground and stabbing it through the head with one of his horns. That ended things unsurprisingly quickly.
There are five main islands in the game. Each area starts you fresh with a set amount of money and all your progress with the factions reset to zero. This, I assume, is to prevent you from hoarding money on the earlier islands to bring along to the later, more difficult islands. The first two areas are straightforward, but the difficulty really ramps up as you enter the third island. One of the islands starts you off in significant debt, and you need to flip the way you’ve been playing the game to a more money focused playstyle to dig yourself out of the hole. Some of the maps get very tricky with their landmass, forcing you to get very creative with how you plan and build your structures.
Jurassic World Evolution was a very pleasant surprise and may have introduced me to a genre that I didn’t know I enjoyed. The visuals are striking, and the gameplay became quite addictive after getting into a groove with the game. The sense of satisfaction when mastering a system is something I don’t feel often enough.
- THE GOOD
- Visually Arresting
- Satisfying Difficulty Curve
- THE BAD
- Missions Tend to Get Repetitive
- Uninspired Performances by the B-Cast
Jurassic World Evolution is better than it has any right to be. If you’re a fan of Park-Building games, I would highly recommend checking this one out. Even if you’re unfamiliar to the genre, this game could open you up to a world of enjoyment, and may very well make you a fan of the style.