Steven Spielberg fundamentally changed the way the world thinks about dinosaurs over twenty-five years ago (not forgetting Michael Crichton’s significant contribution) and since then, what was lost in the distant past suddenly felt malleable, physical even. The plausibility of Jurassic Park’s science revitalised the notion of seeing dinosaurs, and today they’re probably in ruder fictional health than ever before. Jurassic World Evolution may just be the culmination of that, finally allowing you to manage your own Jurassic
Park World theme park, or, in actual fact, five of them.
You’re tasked with overseeing five new islands, merrily known locally as “The Five Deaths”, and you’ll start off with the relatively stable Isla Matanceros, before taking a handle on the steadily more challenging Muerta, Sorna, Tacaño and Pena. Nublar is the site for the game’s sandbox mode, which allows you to tinker with your park to your heart’s content with everything you’ve unlocked elsewhere, and without any of those boring restrictions you’ll find while working through the main game.
This is a game where you build a dinosaur park, and as with many sims, you’ll need to put the infrastructure into place in order to be successful. Besides those all important enclosures to keep the dinosaurs and visitors separate, gameplay fittingly revolves around research, digging for fossils and looking after those incredible creatures in your care. There’s an array of buildings to help you achieve that, all of which need to be connected to the path system and the power grid in order to become operational, and which you’ll be regularly checking in with in order to get anything done. Anyone that’s played Frontier Development’s Zoo Tycoon will recognise the same light but involving take on the genre here, just with more interesting/deadly occupants.
You’re able to undertake contracts and missions from three divisions – science, entertainment and security – all of which will help develop your park in different ways. You need to keep an eye on your reputation with each of the three departments as they’re all vying for your attention, and if they don’t get it they might just go all Denis Nedry and try to sabotage your park, which seems like a slight overreaction. Working through each of their contracts and missions raises your standing with them, with various buildings and research elements locked to achieving a certain level, but it’s not entirely straightforward, as doing something for one team will generally reduce your standing with another.
Ian Malcolm, voiced by the ineffable Jeff Goldblum, is on hand to offer both pithy and damning praise and support, but it’s a shame he’s not around more often. You’ll be contacted by various other characters as your parks grow, including Bryce Dallas Howard’s Clare Deering, but they’re not all voiced by the original actors. Whoever they got to do Owen Grady sounds nothing like Chris Pratt, which rankles when the others are so authentic.
Still, if you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park franchise – though nobody likes the third one – then Evolution is packed full of fan service. From loading screens with quotes from the series through to unlockable skins for your vehicles, there’s something for every discerning dinosaur chaos lover here. Then of course there’s the music, which satisfyingly uses the original John Williams themes to draw you right into the world.
There are times where the action doesn’t quite meet the fiction though, including when you receive new contracts for tasks you’ve already completed, very often coming almost immediately after you’ve done it of your own volition, forcing you to repeat the action. Similarly, the different contracts don’t always seem as though they fit with the correct division. The security team will ask for two new Dracorex to be incubated, but that loses you reputation with the science team, when it doesn’t really make any sense as they want you to research and perfect each dinosayr. Oddly it seemed more prevalent in the PC version, though whether that’s just luck withthe contracts I was offered on PS4 is hard to say.
Things can also be a bit slow going at times, at least at the start, as you’re waiting for research to finish or an expedition team to get back from their travels. As you progress though the action inevitably really begins to ramp up, and you’ll be having to deal with unhappy animals escaping from their enclosures, outbreaks of illness and storms which destroy parts of your park, generally all at the same time. A fast forward option is always welcome in management sims and it’s a luxury that Jurassic World Evolution would definitely have benefitted from.
Business management games don’t come much cooler than Jurassic World Evolution, and as subject matter goes it has done the the franchise proud. The dinosaurs look fantastic, the park building is easy and coherent, and the ensuing chaos when it goes a little bit off the rails can be frantic and enthralling. It’s pacing where the game struggles a little, with a few too many sedentary moments stretching your patience, but you’re not likely to get any closer to building your own park packed with once extinct animals than this.
Versions Tested: PC and PS4, also available on Xbox One