There are few franchises that could fit into the park simulation genre as well as Jurassic Park. As such it is something of a surprise that this has only been explored a few times in the past. Now with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in theaters we have Frontier Developments bringing dinosaur park management to consoles and PC once again in the form of Jurassic World Evolution. Does this title manage to scratch the itch for both simulation fans as well as dinosaur fans?
Players are introduced to their task of managing five islands and bringing them up to prosper with Jeff Goldblum narrating just how dangerous it is to play God and resurrect creatures that can easily go on a rampage and slaughter humans and simply put them on display for the masses. Once this is done players are given a brief tutorial where the game runs through a gambit of tutorials to give players a small glimpse of what to expect before throwing them into the world of dino park simulation.
With a roster featuring over forty different dinosaurs, many of which have been shown off in movies so far, and a large number of original dinosaurs that have never appeared in films. This of course ranges from the iconic tyrannosaurus and velociraptor as well as triceratops and ceratosaurus. Players will need to construct an expedition base where dig teams will be sent out to various locations across the globe to dig up various fossils and minerals that can all be sold for some quick cash or harvested for dino DNA. It takes about 50% DNA viability to begin incubating any dinosaurs that you have unlocked though the lower the percentage you have not only do you have a chance of failing to incubate the creature, wasting time and a lot of money, but the dinosaurs will also have a shorter lifespan.
In fact the dinosaurs each have unique stats, such as defensive and attack capabilities beyond the norm, and preferences when they hatch. This ranges from being as simple as how much water, foliage, and grassland they prefer in their enclosures to making sure that all of your dinosaurs actually get along in their paddocks. Sometimes certain dinosaurs prefer to run around in a pack while placing more than two in an area can cause them to grow uncomfortable and unhappy. This can increase the chance of the dinosaurs either falling sick with a wide array of illnesses to simply busting out of the enclosure and going on a potential killing spree.
Other than gathering enough DNA to incubate dinosaurs and then making sure that they are happy with their enclosures, most of your time in Jurassic World Evolution will be spent balancing your relationship with the three divisions that assist you in running the park. These divisions are Science, Entertainment, and Security with all three of them assigning players random themed mission as you play through the game. The mission are generally themed around the division handing them out, with Entertainment asking for special photos being taken of dinosaurs in their enclosures, Science requesting specific dinosaurs or genome data be acquired, and Security usually testing the limits of the park or, more dangerously, requesting carnivores be brought into the park.
These missions all have variations of course as those mentioned are only a few situations you will run into but for the most part they simply tend to be busy work as you maintain your park, with there being plenty of repeat missions as you try to keep all three happy since completing missions for one division may upset another. In fact, other than the drop-in radio conversations with characters from the recent set of films there is basically no core storyline here outside of rumblings with Dr. Wu and the often nefarious sounding security division.
Those who are looking for a game with plenty of park management will find themselves left out in the dark when it comes to Jurassic World Evolution. The only thing that players generally need to worry about is keeping visitors happy by having healthy dinosaurs and the occasional shop where they can buy food and little gifts. There is no way to micromanage the guests that appear in the park nor any reason to be concerned about the cleanliness or entertainment values of the park. In fact, there aren’t even major repercussions to having dinosaurs running rampant through the park other than a small dip in attendance for a short time. In fact, guests seen running from a hungry carnivore will immediately calm down and return to their pattern once the threat is tranquilized.
Players can take control of a ranger vehicle and drive inside of enclosures where they can either shoot dinosaurs with medicine to cure them from whatever form of illness they have contracted, if you have researched a cure using the barebones research system, and take photos of them for a quick buck. The other vehicle that can be used is the ACU helicopter that can be used to tranquilize any dinosaurs that happen to get outside of their pens and then carry them back to their enclosures.
The only major disasters that can occur tend to be in the form of sabotage from an unhappy division or power outages caused by powerful storms that can tear through some islands. Even then, as mentioned earlier, the worst outcome you can have here is a temporary loss of income and potentially the death of a dino that ended up on the wrong side of a carnivore.
It is also worth noting that, until you complete the game, there is no sandbox mode available for players to have fun with. Instead dinosaur fossils and various facilities are locked behind how many islands you currently have unlocked, making it a bit annoying to have to force progression if you want to unlock everything rather than being able to turn any specific park into a masterpiece.
Visuals & Audio
When creating a dinosaur park management game it is essential that you get the looks of the dinosaurs perfect and thankfully Frontier Developments have managed to do an amazing job in that regard. Taking a short drive in a truck through an enclosure and seeing these creatures up close is truly a sight to behold and a lot of credit goes towards the developers making the models look so incredibly well detailed.
The voice work is interesting to say the least as you can tell that the developers gathered as many voice actors as they could from the original works but you will notice that a few of the bigger names, outside of Jeff Goldblum, are performed by people with similar sounding voices.
There is a lot of fun to be had and more than enough hours to sink into Jurassic World Evolution without feeling like you are wasting your time. The lack of true park management systems and a rather large use of timers when it comes to incubating, researching, or building anything, will make for an occasionally dull experience that you’ll need to step away from in an effort to come back with a renewed vigor for the game. Thankfully for those who hang in there this game will satisfy fans of dinosaurs and want to control a park of their very own, just don’t expect too many options outside of the dinos themselves.