Jurassic Park is given some excellent fan service in this new dino-filled business sim, that feels like the perfect match of licence and genre.
British studio Frontier might be best known for Elite Dangerous, but they have a long history of making business and theme park sims such as RollerCoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, and the recent Planet Coaster. Jurassic World Evolution manages to make use of all their previous experience and apply it to a beloved franchise whose reboot, while a huge box office success, hasnt been such a hit with the critics.
Evolution manages to capture the originals sense of awe and wonder better than many of the film sequels. John Williams iconic score sweeps over in fleeting but effective moments, Jeff Goldblum returns to provide some comical original voice-work, and all while the dinosaurs themselves rightly steal the spotlight.
Jurassic World Evolution plays like youd expect if Steven Spielbergs masterpiece met a Tycoon sim. The main mode tasks you with creating thriving, stable parks on a sequence of islands with different layouts and conditions. The path to success is incubating a high quantity and variety of dinosaur species; driving ticket sales for the park which ricochet into food stalls, merchandise shops, and hotels to encourage more guests and income.
You can earn more by completing specific tasks which are divided into three categories: science, entertainment and security. Each leader of these divisions offer contracts which lead to financial rewards and perks relevant to each area; security contracts earn you better enclosures like electrified fences, while science can lead to research into curing specific dinosaur diseases which can otherwise threaten your entire investment.
Creating the dinosaurs is a constant loop of sending expedition teams to mine sites, extracting fossils to boost a dinosaurs genome, and incubating them back at the park. A higher genome percentage means a greater chance incubation will be successful, making it less likely the process will fail, wasting the high amounts of cash youll have to spend to create them.
Managing these tasks, along with maintaining the well-being of both dinosaurs and guests in the park, is the constant, surprisingly tough, challenge throughout Evolution. The games opening hours are slow-going, as it unfolds the basic mechanics so it can slowly pile on further concerns, like adverse weather conditions, with more ease. Many areas though, like upgrading buildings and the benefits of modifying genomes, arent really explained – leaving you to experiment on your own, as you fiddle through the menu screens.
Once you conquer the first island the game opens up into a more dynamic, unforgiving beast. Its surprising how quick things can go south in Evolution. On numerous occasions, our growing profits were reversed after failing to react quick enough to an outbreak of disease, which wiped out herbivore herds and sunk the parks appeal. You can soon become forced to sell fossils and buildings to simply keep cash flow ticking over, hoping the dinosaurs have enough food, space, and, adorably, friends – so they dont kick up a fuss before your next money surge.
More chaos comes from a carnivore breakout, as you scramble to keep guests safe in shelters before sending out helicopters with tranquillisers – which you can directly control. Its never too difficult to detain a dinosaur, but keeping them happy so theyre not head-butting fences or trying to kill one another is the most rewarding aspect of Evolution.
From the detail in the models to the cinematic camera which kickstarts every time you release a new creature, the game inspires an affinity for your charges that makes their deaths far more impactful. Although its a shame this doesnt translate to the droves who populate the park, who are generally pleased as long as theres food, a gift shop, and no velociraptors chomping at their heels.
Evolution also offers a sandbox mode after youve achieved a four-star rating on the first island. Here, unlike the main campaign, you can use all the tools youve unlocked with unlimited funds to create the ultimate Jurassic Park experience. While it will surely spawn some impressive creations down the line, Evolution is far more thrilling as a management sim than a sandbox game – with much of the fun stripped out when youre given an endless pool of finances.
Other problems become more noticeable the further you venture into the campaign. Contracts can be wildly inconsistent in difficulty and considering you can swap them for another at any time it can become a crutch to simply cycle through tasks to find an easy win. The missions also become repetitive, with the games natural climb to success feeling similar despite the changing variables on each of the islands.
Despite its issues, youll remember Jurassic World Evolution for everything it gets right. Frontiers love for the licence shines through the occasional repetition and dodgy Chris Pratt replacement voiceovers, delivering a flawed but highly enjoyable experience thats worthwhile for anyone who knows their compsognathus from their dilophosaurus.
Jurassic World Evolution
In Short: Probably the best ever use of the Jurassic Park licence in a video game, marred by repetition and exploitable systems.
Pros: The loop of incubating and protecting dinosaurs is highly addictive. Jeff Goldblums Malcolm is back. Velociraptors.
Cons: Magic begins to fade as the main campaign loses steam. Not the best park building sim out there.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Release Date: 12th June 2018
Age Rating: 16
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