Jurassic World Evolution perfectly replicates the dumb reality that the movie series exists within. Since Jurassic Park’s power went out and dinosaurs were left to kill a whole bunch of people in 1990, we have routinely wondered why these people still want to mess with dinos despite the inherent risks they present. Then in 2015, some moron decided to open the gates to Jurassic World, an idea that once again went terribly and caused another inevitable slew of deaths. In Jurassic World Evolution, you get to take control of your very own dinosaur park and appeal to guests who will happily take their life in their hands just to have a look at a Diplodocus. Like the movies, Evolution isn’t the most intelligent business simulation game out there, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a hell of a lot of fun.
Jurassic World Evolution is the modern day equivalent of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, tasking players with building and maintaining a park filled with dinosaurs. Set across five different islands, each with their own set of challenges and limitations, Evolution has you steadily creating a more diverse array of dinosaurs to fill out your park. However, due to the volatile nature of these prehistoric monsters, the more expansive your park becomes the more danger it presents to its patrons. Like the movies, Jurassic World Evolution‘s moments of chaos are its highlights, and while building a stable park is satisfying, there’s nothing quite like watching a T-Rex mow down a bunch of folks while you desperately try to tranquilize it from your chopper.
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The day-to-day management of your park will be familiar to those experienced with the Zoo Tycoon or Rollercoaster Tycoon games, or even developer Frontier’s previous release, Planet Coaster. You build a series of attractions in order to bring in guests, while also creating other sources of revenue such as food stands, gifts shops, and restaurants. You’ll need to ensure that your park remains powered, building substations and pylons to keep it running, and there should also be security measures in place to prevent all hell from breaking loose. The attractions in your park revolve firmly around the dinosaurs, with you flying out an expedition team to uncover genomes, before building those dinosaurs in laboratories and releasing them out into their pens.
Each dinosaur has specific requirements, ranging from the type of terrain they prefer to be surrounded by, to the number of other dinosaurs they’re willing to live alongside. Statistics for each dinosaur can be brought up at any time, though this information isn’t readily available before you release them into the wild. This means that you’ll discover some dinosaurs can’t co-exist with one another after you’ve created and released them, making each new creation a nerve-wracking prospect. If you pair this Ankylosaurus with a Stegosaurus, will they prove to be too large for life to tolerate one another? Or what about throwing another carnivore in with the T-Rex?
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If a dinosaur is living in an environment they are uncomfortable with, their comfort meter depletes. Once this drops into the red, the dinosaur will attempt to escape their enclosure, at which point they’ll begin posing a threat to your park’s visitors. You can deploy an aerial ACU unit to go and take it down with a tranquilizer gun, with you even able to take control of the helicopter and shoot the darts for yourself. However, while it’s certainly more fun to take a hands-on approach, the AI is a good aim even before you’ve upgraded the ACU, meaning that the vast majority of the time it’s much quicker to let the game take care of this task for you.
Once a dinosaur has been tranquilized they can be flown back into their enclosure, while your park rangers repair the damages. These rangers are also controllable, with you able to drive into enclosures in order to medicate sick dinosaurs, refill food supplies, or take photographs. While I found it enjoyable to survey my park from the ground and get up close and personal with my creations, there is no risk involved in going face-to-giant-face with a carnivore. They may run towards your direction and, occasionally, knock your vehicle, but they mostly mind their own business. Your staff can’t be killed by the dinosaurs, with Frontier instead opting to simplify the process of heading into an enclosure and carrying out the necessary maintenance and repairs. This feels like a missed opportunity, as I had hoped that heading into a T-rex enclosure would be a nail-biting experience. Instead, it’s turned into a humdrum activity in which an ambivalent Rexy idly watched you while you throw another goat into its feeder.
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However, while the act of heading into an enclosure and tending to your dinos may not be as thrilling as I had hoped, when the Triceratops shit hits the fan Jurassic World Evolution really starts coming into its own. Each of the game’s islands does a good job of forcing you to lay out your park islands differently from the last, with Dr. Ian Malcolm (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) guiding you through each one with his sardonic sense of humor. While one island will have a budgetary constraint forcing you to act sparingly with your budget, another will plunge you into darkness and throw cataclysmic storms at you, unleashing your dinosaurs from their pens and trapping your guests in the process. Though I had set up various preventative measures, watching a tornado hurtle through my park and rip down my gates and unleash the Deinonychus was an utterly helpless scenario.
In each island you’re tasked with appeasing three different divisions — science, entertainment, and security — who each set you tasks that improve your ranking with them. You’ll be asked to go out on more expeditions for the scientist, uncovering new genomes and creating new dinosaurs. Your head of entertainment will want you to build a few arcades and bowling alleys to increase your fun factor. Meanwhile, the sociopathic security guy will ask you to throw two dinosaurs into combat and allow your park’s visitors to watch. You’ll frequently get new contracts from these divisions, giving you additional goals as you work on growing out your park. There’s nothing too exciting in these quests, but they present new challenges that push you in the direction of unlocking more stuff. To move to a new island you need to achieve a 3-star rating in your current park, with you having to improve both your dino and facility ratings in order to do so. This will involve you increasing the variety of your dinosaur creations and improving their welfare, to setting up monorails and building hotels to make your park more functional for guests.
Jurassic World Evolution Review: The Final Bite
Considering that you’ll spend most of your time in Jurassic World Evolution hovering above your park and viewing it from a distance, a lot of effort has still been put into what the dinosaurs look like when you’re getting in their personal space. Double-click on one of your creations and the camera will stick to them, showing off their detailed design and unique animations. The sound design is second-to-none, too, with that familiar John Williams score playing at pivotal moments, while the roars of your dinosaurs are ripped straight from the movies. Tending to your routine activities while the T-rex bellows in the background is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Like the best movie tie-in games (of which there are admittedly very few), Jurassic World Evolution is littered with fan service, and the fact that Jurassic Park‘s Isla Nublar is the setting for the game’s sandbox mode is another nice touch.
Jurassic World Evolution doesn’t allow for the same levels of detail as Planet Coaster, where players could build elaborate constructions limited only by their imagination. I would have liked for some more scope for experimentation in terms of its enclosure designs — I was hugely disappointed that Jurassic World‘s SeaWorld-esque attraction wasn’t available to create — though there’s more than enough here to please those who want to build their own dinosaur theme park and let a Velociraptor loose every now and again. Arguably the best Jurassic Park-themed game to date, and a must-buy for fans of the films.
Reviewed on PC. Copy provided by publisher.