DFTG Reviews Jurassic World Evolution – “There’s Magic In This Game If You Know Where To Look”
Jurassic World Evolution knows one thing to be true about society: few things inspire youthful imagination like dinosaurs. Most of the modern prehistoric fascination spawned from the Jurassic Park franchise. (A billion and a half dollars doesn’t lie.) I, like many others my age, still hold a nostalgic fondness for those lumbering beasts thanks to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.
When I first saw the announcement trailer for Frontier’s Jurassic World Evolution, I struggled to reign in my boyish excitement. From the gorgeous graphics to the construction of your very own theme park, this game spoke directly to me. I tried to temper my expectations and failed over the course of ten months. I knew I’d spend hours on this game, regardless of its quality.
I’m pleased to report that the game sufficiently captures the wonder of building your own Jurassic Park, albeit with a number of fixable issues. There’s magic in this game if you know where to look. Just about every gameplay video shows a matured dinosaur entering its pen for the first time. Whether it be the deafening roar of a T-Rex or the two-legged sprint of an Edmontosaurus, it never gets olds. After they enter the world, you’ll be given a chance to name each creature as if it were your pet. When they die—whether by disease, old age, or a carnivore attack—you’ll feel legitimate grief over the loss. That stems from the loss of both a “friend” and the hundreds of thousands you invested creating life. Reincarnation doesn’t come cheap.
Park management games have always relied on attention to detail and an ability to multitask. Jurassic World Evolution dutifully carries on this tried and tested tradition. Money gets tight as you progress through the game, so you’ll need to determine how much to spend on research vs. construction. Sending out dig teams unlocks new dinosaurs and upgrades the viability of existing ones. Research unlocks upgrades for buildings, cures for animal diseases, and new genes for dinosaur customization. I prefer to prioritize expeditions first, as bringing in new dinosaurs generates more money to send towards the other projects.
All of these factors lead to some tough decisions in regards to balancing. Do you spend extra cash to make a unique dinosaur with better stats and more prestige? If so, the viability of the embryo decreases, and you may have tossed away half a million dollars on a carcass. Do you spend all your cash on high-investment expeditions? Where, then, will the money come from to build appropriate exhibits? I tend to lean on the riskier side, but it has blown up in my face on several occasions. There’s a ton to manage, a deep dive for any park management aficionado.
In order to keep your dinos alive, you’ll need to make sure they have enough food, space, and friends. Clicking on a specimen allows you to see its needs and comfort level so you can adjust accordingly. If a feeder is empty, you can either send a ranger to fill it up or hop in a jeep and do it yourself. If dinosaurs break out or you need them moved, you can do the same with the ACU team helicopter. Both the car and the chopper handle awkwardly (at least via keyboard), but the rifle mechanics for medication and tranquilization are spot on. Players need to account for wind and distance when aiming, not to mention unpredictable animal behavior. It can lead to some exciting chase sequences through your park, in addition to some guest casualties.
While dinosaurs can kill guests, the fact that your car cannot do any damage is obnoxious, not in tone but in form. Humans simply shift out of the way when you drive through crowds, sometimes morphing through your car. Your vehicle can “collide” with dinosaurs, but they simply call out and flee. If you’re supposed to manage the welfare of these animals, shouldn’t you have to be careful? I understand why Frontier didn’t want players splattering blood all over their game. They should have found a more satisfactory workaround, though.
When it comes to content, Jurassic World Evolution provides us with 42 dinosaurs to find and create. That’s a strong total to start, and Frontier has hinted at both Aquatic and Avian DLCs in the future. I’d be willing to pay a dollar for a few specific species as well, and this game should encourage some strong mods. I wish Frontier provided as much diversity in the flora as in the fauna, but plants are secondary to the towering beasts that eat them.
The Story, So To Speak
As the overseer of parks on five separate islands, players must balance three key sectors: Science, Entertainment, and Security. The heads of each branch offer the player contracts, most of which boost their branch loyalty while hurting the others’. It’s a tough tight rope to walk, but it can be done with patience and tenacity. If you aren’t careful and a faction’s loyalty falls too low, they may sabotage your park to get your attention. The dynamic works, but promises of a real storyline feel incomplete. I’m three islands in and have yet to see any semblance of a plot. The team will reportedly expand on the plot in future DLC, which is good news. There’s nowhere to go but up.
On the plus sisde, Jeff Goldblum, B.D. Wong, and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles from the films to help guide players through The Five Deaths. (Owen Grady also assists, but he is not voiced by Chris Pratt. The difference is jarring.) It’s easy to write this off as a marketing ploy for the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Doing so would be a mistake; this game stands without the upcoming film propping it up. Goldblum seems to be having the most fun—when is he not?—offering snarky witticisms before things go wrong and “I told you so’s” after. He breathes life and levity into the game, just as he did the first film. You’ll get all of your nostalgia feels, and unlike so many cameos, it feels like Goldblum wants to get them too.
The Stunning Sights and Sounds
Aesthetically, I struggle to find any criticisms of what is in Jurassic World Evolution. The dinosaurs—inaccurate as they may be—are gorgeously rendered, and a variety of researchable skins allows for customization. The construction animations for buildings feel superior to nearly every other park management game around. When inclement weather strikes, you may stop whatever task you’re doing to watch it happen. Just as Jurassic Park wowed us in 1993, so too does Jurassic World Evolution in 2018.
Unfortunately, quite a few pieces remain missing from the game. If we’re building an accurate theme park for guests, why are there no bathrooms, benches, or trash cans? These small details matter in gaming, and Frontier would be wise to include them in future patches. It’s a minor complaint for many fans, but serious park builders require them for an immersive experience. I fully expect this wrong to be righted in the next few months.
As for the music, the orchestral isn’t quite on par with a John Williams score, but it comes close. When paired with the breathtaking views and the roars of your creatures, the score sets the tone perfectly for you to play God. On the flip side, you can listen to local Spanish songs on the radio when you drive around in your ranger jeep. They’re catchy, fun, and bring you into the world you’re creating. Jurassic World Evolution knows exactly how to build a universe, even when some aspects of it don’t measure up.
Bottom Line →
While there are a lot of missteps here—likely due to the short development cycle—most of them should be corrected in future patches. The graphics astound, the music never gets old, and the balancing act keeps players on their toes at all times. The storyline is a failure, but that isn’t really why any of us play a dinosaur park management game. At one point, my herd of seven Edmontosaurs gathered in a circle to socialize. Simultaneously, they turned their heads to the sky and called out in unison. That magic is why we keep coming back to Jurassic Park, and it’s why I’ll keep coming back to this game.
Drew Weissman230 Posts
Drew is a freelance writer for DFTG. He's the former Managing Editor of Haogamers and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and The Paragon Journal. He also edited the novel Three Brightnesses and Artist Journey: Rachta Lin (2016 and 2017 editions).