Nobody ever seems to pay attention to the warning signs. People get munched while sitting on the toilet, a T-Rex runs loose through the streets of San Diego, gyrospheres get used as dino-footballs, and yet people keep on trying to make dinosaur theme parks. Why don’t they learn?
Frontier has thrown the toilets, goats, and electric fences to the wind with Jurassic World Evolution 2. Are we finally getting dino-utopia? While that vaguely depends on you, the ostensible answer is no. Instead, you need answer only one question: do you have enough tranquillisers ready?
Jurassic World Evolution was Frontier’s first attempt at wrangling their park management formula into a John Hammond-approved shape. Despite its somewhat simplistic take on the management sim it has proved to have some serious longevity, with its continual updates and DLC expansions ensuring that it’s remained an integral part of our dino-obsessed household’s gaming. With Planet Zoo released in the interim, it’s little surprise to see that some of the added depth from that outing has found its way to Jurassic World Evolution 2.
Your first step into Jurassic World 2 is likely to be the campaign. For fans of the franchise this is going to be a real treat, as the events of the game follow on directly from the last film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Thanks to man’s now-predictable hubris, dinosaurs are loose in North America and Canada and as they now roam the forests and plains, it’s up to you to see that they receive the care and attention that they need.
You, along with the first game’s Cabot Finch and a selection of stars from the Jurassic franchise, find yourself involved with Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose remit this laughably falls under. You head off into the pleasingly varied landscapes to do your best, with the game funnelling you down a narrative path via a series of challenges.
There’s more of an emphasis on action gameplay here than there was in the first outing. You find yourself driving through the rolling hills, searching for signs of Allosaurus like you’re in Monster Hunter World, or refitting a dinosaur poacher’s facility while tranquillising a pair of Carnotaurus. While direct control existed in the first game, it’s clear that Frontier want you to be part of the action this time, getting you into the chopper to try and capture a loose dinosaur. It’s not completely enforced though, as you can still add tasks so that the AI takes care of such things for you. That’s not as exciting, though.
The campaign is a lovely introduction, though it is a little bit on the short side. I realise that we’re likely to get more narrative drops in the form of DLC as the next film arrives in June 2022, but I definitely wanted more, if only because I was enjoying it so much. It’s fantastic to see so many of the original characters returning as voice actors here, tying the series together, but the Owen Grady soundalike remains considerably un-Chris Pratt-like. He’ll voice an orange cat and an Italian plumber, but not himself? Come on Chris!
While the campaign is a shorter experience, you’re also getting Chaos Theory mode. This is the Jurassic Park equivalent of Marvel’s ‘What If’, letting you change events, or take on tasks that never got off the ground or appeared in the films. My favourite here was the opportunity to build The Lost World’s San Diego site – the one that never received its T-Rex delivery. You journey through and across the Jurassic Park timeline, beginning with John Hammond’s original vision through to assisting Simon Masrani start his. You never know, with you at the helm maybe this time it’ll be different?
The central park management has seen a healthy dose of updates, with some smart changes to the underlying structure of your facilities. Your Rangers have joined up with your Capture Team and the Response Facility, as have your fossil and research departments, while the all-new Palaeo-Medical Facility lets your scientists treat and heal wounded animals. Staffing is one of the primary new additions to your management tasks, and you’ll need to find the right people for the right job, whether it’s for dino welfare, genetics, or logistics. It’s a nice extra wrinkle to the formula, with their comfort becoming something else to juggle besides the extinct creatures.
Of course, all of this dinosaur care and conservation costs money. You’re going to have to secure your park’s future by making it profitable, and while the dinosaurs themselves are the key to that – as long as they’re happy in their tailored enclosures – you’re going to need to start working on the theme park side of things as well with restaurants, shops, and attractions to keep the people entertained when they’re not oohing, aahing, or running screaming for their life. Building a working park remains at the centre of everything you do, and I think it’s even more compelling this time around, especially when tied into the campaign and Chaos Theory modes. Of course, you can spend all the time in the world creating the park of your dreams in Sandbox mode too, and I’m willing to bet that just like the original we’ll still be playing it years from now.
While the story and management aspects are a clear step up from the original, the dinosaurs remain the real attraction. These extinct creatures were beautifully rendered in the first game, but their behaviours were distinctly limited. Each dinosaur now behaves in what I imagine is a more realistic manner, looking truly lifelike now as they lie down, roar, yawn, or interact with each other (and your Rangers’ Jeeps). Those interactions range from friendly to deadly, and whether it’s a pair of T-Rex butting lovingly into each other, or raptors hunting in packs, they look incredible. Zooming in and watching them go about their lives remains a delight, and when things are going well in your park, this is the perfect way to spend your time.