We finish our Jurassic Park review series with not the latest in the franchise of films. I will watch that and review it later, but with the most recent video game based on the property, Jurassic World: Evolution. Where you can live up to John Hammond’s dreams and literally spare no expense in the creation of a dinosaur park of your dreams.
Now fair warning, a lot of people tried to hype this game up as a spiritual sequel to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, one of the best park building games of all times. Although, there are similarities, we are going into this review that this game is its own game, not building up to the hype of nor trying to reach the heights of Operation Genesis.
Evolution is a 2018 park building simulation developed by Frontier Developments, who have worked on Planet Coaster and many others. The game is loosely based on the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World. In the game you are constructing dinosaur amusement parks on the Cinca de Meurtes or the Five Deaths as they are known in the Jurassic Park universe. Your sites will be the successor of both the original Jurassic Park as well as it’s unfortunate successor, Jurassic World.
Your goals are to create the parks and researching both new dinosaurs and fitting your parks with attractions to achieve a five-star rating. For example, the first Island, Isla Matanceros will reward you with the sand box mode of Isla Nublar if you score five stars on it. More on that later. The five islands are Isla Matanceros, Isla Muerta, Isla Tacano, Isla Pena and of course Isla Sorna. The game features Jeff Goldblum voicing Ian Malcom as your guide through the parks. He is the voice of reason and skeptical of the three branches within the park.
The game features three interesting branches of play, Security, Entertainment and Science all led by colorful casts of characters. Beyond just giving you access to different dinosaurs, buildings, and genes. These three characters introduce the plot of the game. Yes, there is a plot. Although, it is loosely tied to the films, and unfortunately is does not a have a true ending. This is either showing that Frontier will be working on more DLC or perhaps something else will be released later. It is sad, because there is a lot of build up with not a true ending where anything you did really matters. The plot is pretty much just padding, and although interesting the branches of play only really become annoying rather than helpful.
The problem with the three division branches comes in the form of sabotage. If you are too nice with one of the branches and not enough with the others, then the ones with no loyalty to you will begin to sabotage your park. This can be anything simple like opening your gates to getting you dinosaurs sick. Even worse they can shut down the power in your mark, which forces you to manually boot up the power in a jeep. In early game it can be frustrating, but I feel it does give a game a challenge occasionally. It’s a good system in theory, but as you will see a lot of this game is better in theory than in practice.
The AI is terrible, the terrain manipulator tools are limited and dammit we don’t have enough space. They keep adding dinosaurs to the game, so it is near impossible to make a park with all the dinosaurs. It is possible to put all the dinosaurs on Nublar, but they are fit in boxes. It’s a limited system. I think the game should have been in development a bit longer, hopefully Frontier can give this game the things it needs for the gameplay to truly shine.
But, when the game works, it really works. I tend to be so good at planning out my park that I don’t have dinosaurs break out much anymore. There are occasionally problems, but once you unlock all the genes, and know how to keep your dinosaurs and god forbid your guests happy then the game becomes a rather humbling experience. It is also a game I can just go and chill for a while, venting my frustration on dinosaurs who escape from captivity.
The bare bones of the gameplay and many of the decisions don’t make sense, and it seemed rushed. When the gameplay mechanics come together it is a rewarding experience. The AI just needs fixed, the terrain tools need to be increased and the size of Nublar and Sorna needs to be increased. Those three fixes would make the gameplay much more rememberable.
The game is beautiful. I don’t think I have said it enough. There is a limited amount of textures for grasses, trees, water and dinosaurs. But, all of it still looks pretty despite these limitations. It seems Frontier put all their money into making the game look shiny and shafted the gameplay. The graphics are the only thing that doesn’t seemed rushed.
Some of the music from the films are used, most of it is interesting that has a JPark feel. But, nothing really of note so I tend to listen to my own music.
In summary, Jurassic World: Evolution is a game that has a lot of potential. It is beautiful game, but it has some flaws in its execution. The AI, both the guests and the dinosaurs need retooled. The islands need better editing tools for terrain and at least Nublar needs to become an actual sandbox with more room. Especially if they are going to add more dinosaurs.
The graphics are pretty, but the animations are lacking, and in general we need more dinosaurs and the game should feel more like a zoo tycoon than a disaster movie. If you chose to make dinosaurs more aggressive and break out, that is all on you. The good thing with great park building games is it lets us choose, and we don’t get a lot of freedom in this game. Instead, we are given a limited and rushed game that could had been much more.
If you enjoy Jurassic Park/World then this might be something to pick up and play. if you like park building simulators or want a successor to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis prepare to be disappointed. I still really enjoy the game and will on and off have an idea for a new park, now and then. It has it's flaws ,but despite that I still love the game.