Jurassic World Evolution is a brand-new park simulation video game, in the ilk of the Tycoon games of old, developed and published by Frontier Developments. Frontier Developments is most recently known for Planet Coaster, a game we at Just Push Start are still loving. Using the same game engine as Planet Coaster and coming with the iconic dinosaur brand of Jurassic World, hopes were as high as a Brachiosaurus’ head but does the game live up to the developer’s standards? Let’s find out!
Players will be let loose on five different islands, ‘The Five Deaths’ – otherwise known as Isla Sorna and the surrounding islands. Each offers their own challenge from already roaming dinosaurs, through a bankruptcy scare to an eventual sandbox mode. As a general trend, dig teams need to be sent out to collect DNA, that will in turn need to be sampled by a research station and then finally it is time for the wonderful and exciting time to incubate and release dinosaurs into a paddock.
While light on park management players will have to keep their guests entertained by dinosaurs but also construct some of the typical park features: restaurants, merch stores and the slightly more dino orientated viewing galleries. After a couple of enclosures have dinosaurs in them, and I recommend splitting out the carnivores, for obvious reasons, you’ll seeing a decent chunk of money coming in and your Dinosaur Rating will rise.
As time progresses players will have to deal with a variety of curable illnesses that the dinosaurs can succumb to; apparently no-one wants to see a Velociraptor with the common cold. Not only are cures researchable but so are dinosaur “improvements”. Not all of these are to make them live longer or be resistant, the guests are customers after all. Players can even research different colour patterns in an attempt to boost park ratings, as well as make some disparity between dinosaurs, thus improving the visual experience.
Attempting to capture the over-the-top differences in personal of the films, Jurassic World Evolution features three factions: Scientists, Entertainers and Security (surprisingly no black-market traders). Each has their own agenda to push, and completing the various tasks they offer can net the player some special rewards. These also see a way for players to get lumps of money along the way. My only concern is the way the factions interact. As with the films it seems different groups of personal at the park cannot get along. Raising the happiness of one decreases the others, so it feels like a constant balancing act with the odds stacked against you.
In terms of resources there are two major ones that players will have to balance the books on, money and power. Money isn’t overly hard to come by in Jurassic World Evolution but nevertheless it is vital for players to incubate new dinosaurs, keep them fed, expand the park and even send teams off around the world on archaeological digs in search for DNA. Second to keeping the bank account looking healthy is not in fact keeping the dinosaurs healthy, it is actually making sure the power stays on. How else do you plan to keep that T-Rex stopping electric fence turned on… Thankfully, building some power stations with sub-stations will stop any downtime, though you do need to actually remember to build one before it’s too late.
Over 40 species of dinosaurs can roam around your park. All of them however will be firmly fixed to the ground; as not a single aerial or aquatic dinosaur has made the cut. Considering some of the iconic scenes of the movies see park visitors being swooped down on and swept away, or people devoured by a large underwater dino, the choice to release the game without any species like this baffles me. This only starts the train of thought that this is an incomplete, shallow experience. Something the game suffers from and does little to change players’ minds.
Perhaps cementing the obviousness of a lack of content are the lulls in play. When playing the likes of Planet Coaster players always have something else to look at or do, so when it comes to waiting for a ride to be fixed or researched the wait is filled. This is unfortunately not the case with Jurassic World Evolution. As the game revolves around looking at the gorgeous dinosaurs after hours of doing so you realise there isn’t something else to capture your attention.
This means when incubating a new dinosaur, or sending of a digging team, players can be left waiting; almost hoping something goes wrong in the park to give them something to do. Something that would exasperate this issue but improve the game would be automatic of tasks. Rangers must be sent off to do tasks, individual fossils must be queued up and individual dinosaurs must be released via a menu. It gets to a stage where the gameplay feels like one of those irritating tap happy mobile games, with the player constantly being dragged around just to click to continue.
One aspect that has plenty of depth is the dinosaurs themselves. Coming with plenty to read, dinosaurs have stats, needs and even information assigned to them. Players can peruse the factual information at their leisure by clicking on the dinosaurs or via the menu, and this is certainly something interesting to do for anyone even remotely interested in dinosaurs. Conversely, their stats are something you’ll have to keep an eye on. Each species has different group sizes that they feel comfortable in and wants in terms of paddock features. Ignore these at your peril, as unhappy dinosaurs are not a recipe for a successful park!
The game sells itself as a title where “every choice leads to a different path”; alas, after only a few plays you’ll find there aren’t too many directions to go down and the parks will build up over time in the same ways. I’m sure that eventually aerial and aquatic dinosaurs will be introduced to the game, alas in this day and age it will inevitably be via DLC. As this potential future content is needed to offer the complete experience fans of the franchise would be hoping for it is hard to get overly excited about the game in its current form.
If additional content becomes available the game will feel deeper and have more choices for players. Without it after 20 hours you’ll start to tire of seeing the same things over and over again. Don’t take this as completely dismissive, the first times are exhilarating. When you hatch and release a dinosaur, see it roam out into the paddock, drive the Rangers jeep and even see a live goat destroyed by a T-Rex all add together to make a memorable experience; one that just seems to pitter out too soon, especially when you look at the standard of the developers of park based title Planet Coaster.
[Editor’s Note: Jurassic World Evolution was provided to us by Frontier Developments for the review.]