E3 tends to eat up everyone’s attention and rightly so. Some may consider releasing a game in the same week as this annual event to be an unwise move. However, Jurassic World Evolution isn’t at all phased that the spotlight is shining elsewhere, because in truth, this game has a spotlight entirely of its own. Jurassic Park was massively popular when it first released, though as with many movies of the nineties, its sequels did little to elevate the predecessor’s success. Jurassic World, on the other hand, achieved the opposite. It reinvented the series and as a result, went on to be one of the best selling films of its year.
With Jurassic World’s sequel now proving every bit as successful as its immediate predecessor, what better time to enjoy a game based on the franchise’s concept? Exactly. Frontier Development’s Jurassic World Evolution is a remarkable experience that never buckles under the weight of its mechanics, mostly due to how well balanced and accessible the overall experience is. Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so allow me to take it from the top. Jurassic World Evolution is a management simulation game that sees its players building their very own Jurassic World and advancing it however they see fit.
There’s little in the way of story but the game does very much sit in between the movies and revolves around the control of operations on the iconic island of Isla Nublar and the surrounding islands of the Muertes Archipelago. The sites within have gone down and it falls to you to rebuild them with the aid of the ever so charismatic Dr Ian Malcolm; voiced by the one and only Jeff Goldblum. Picture Jurassic World meets Theme Park, with a splash of Sim City for good measure. The game does a brilliant job at feeding you into the basics of play via a (not too) lengthy tutorial that initially explains everything that you need to know.
This typically covers object placement, connecting power-lines and, of course, making dinosaurs. It’s a lot more intricate than that but, by and large, Jurassic World Evolution has your back as you gradually proceed. The first island sees players completing objectives for three divisions that include; Science, Entertainment and Security. Each of these divisions will provide helpful insight throughout each map and as you complete specific missions for them, the game will open up new opportunities in the form of upgrades, buildings and more dinosaurs. The kicker here, however, is that the divisions will often oppose one another.
Certain missions will be a little more lax on this front and offer very little in regards to undermining all of your divisions to begin with, though, later into the game, it pays off to select your missions very carefully. This risk vs reward system is very well fed into the foundations of the game, often challenging you with objectives that will break your standing with one division, just to please another division. There’s a light multi-tiered progression curve to follow too, being that certain missions will require very specific skills or building to overcome. This ultimately gives you an overarching goal, with several options to pursue it.
Getting started is relatively simple thanks to the fact that each map typically has a small system of buildings already in place for you to take to. Once you’re confident enough and have bonded with the mechanics, the gameplay becomes second nature. Buildings, for example, will need to be powered by connecting cables from a power station, though, you’ll also need to ensure that it has a pathway in one form or another so that it’s accessible. The intricacy of this system becomes more complex as you proceed, allowing for more freedom to create your vision, but not too complex that it burns you out just trying to understand it.
Make no mistake about it, Jurassic World Evolution isn’t a hardcore simulation game. I dare say that it’s quite the opposite. Every system and every function connects in one way or another and feeds into something else. Mercifully, it’s very easy to pick up and understand for the most part. I truly want to emphasize that the most. Either way, moving back to the buildings. These tend to come with varying output options such as shops or restaurants, to which you’re able to place, choose what they sell and for how much they sell it. Other buildings can be upgraded with the use of skill points, which again, is very simply stuff.
The ACU building is where your help will come from. Whether your buildings break or a dinosaur needs feeding or bites the dust, assistance will be achieved from these outlets. Though, what gives Jurassic World Evolution an edge over its peers is that there’s quite a bit of depth here. You’re able to do all of this management yourself. Want to take the Jeep for a spin and heal a dinosaur with your dart gun? Why not! Fancy taking flight in the helicopter to observe your creations? Go for it! This extra layer of gameplay really helps to strengthen the immersion within. It truly does make you feel like you’re doing your part for the park.
Each park comes with their own unique challenges, requirements and specifications. This helps to break up the pace of the game and ensures that players aren’t simply doing a copy-and-paste routine throughout. The same can be said about the dinosaurs, being that each species houses their own behavioral patterns and preferences. It’s not a hard system to keep on top of, but you would do well to understand that if you don’t treat them how they want to be treated, shit will most certainly hit the fan. The game offers over forty different dinosaurs in total, discovered through the use of engineering or by means of fossil digging.
Digging sites will naturally offer up some valuable resources such as the aforementioned fossils in addition to minerals and amber. Your pool of dino-knowledge will expand for each specimen that you study, further allowing you to toy with DNA. This effectively alters the appearance and behavior of each dinosaur that you modify. You may wish to change their colors or increase their aggression via attack. There’s no shortage of interesting options to take to, many of which will change each dinosaur’s outlook quite drastically. Again, these systems feed into the game’s other mechanics, producing one hell of a deep experience.
There’s so many options for players to take to and so many unique opportunities arise as a result. Throw in the lengthy portion of play, the distinct site locations and the added layer of depth through the means of deeper exploration and self-help, and there’s very little to knock this game back for. Targets will need to be met before you’re free to move to the next park, though you can indeed travel back to other parks with newly unlocked dinosaurs and equipment if you wish to achieve a five star rating. That said, it’s paramount that you pay close attention to your divisions, or else you may find them sabotaging you before long.
For a moral bunch, they sure as hell don’t mind shutting down your power and unleashing your dinosaurs. My only gripe is that there can be a hell of a wait between tasks, but this is easy to overlook most of the time. Whatever the case, Jurassic World Evolution is well worth a visit. Even if you’re not particularly interested in management games, Jurassic World Evolution is a great place to start out. It manages to remain deep, interesting and diverse from start to end, whilst not alienating genre newcomers. The voice acting and audio cues are also top notch, which sits perfectly inline with the game’s stunning and sharp visuals.
Regardless of your in-game perspective, Jurassic World Evolution looks brilliant. This is further bolstered by the visuals changes that each park brings to the fold. What I loved the most about my time with the game is that it’s so well balanced. This is no small feat when we take into account how multi-functional it is. The constant juggling of financial income, furthering your research, expanding your park(s) and everything in between has been magnificently developed. I’ve sunk well over ten hours into the game so far and I can wholeheartedly say that I’ll continue to sink more time into it for a good while to come.
Jurassic World Evolution is an outstanding management sim. Frontier Developments’ carefully crafted and well balanced gameplay mechanics ensures that it’s accessible for genre veterans and newcomers alike. The game does an excellent job at keeping the player engaged through its diverse sites, which is bolstered further by its great pace, its decent progression system and its vast amount of options.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.