Jurassic World Evolution is the latest park builder from Frontier Developments, this time tackling the carnivorous world of Jurassic World. Life might find a way, but has Frontier found a way to bring the Jurassic World to life?
Jurassic World Evolution puts you in control of creating new facilities across the islands of Las Cinco Muertes, or ‘The Five Deaths’ as Jeff Goldblum morbidly reminds you. The first island is very much intended to be your learning experience, however as the game goes on, you quickly learn it taught you very little. It takes you through the basics, with incubating a dinosaur, making sure they’re fed, much like that time your teacher made you look after a bag of flour like it was a baby in high school. Just me?
Anyway, once you’ve released your first dinosaur, you’re very much cast off to work to your own devices. Jurassic World Evolution has 3 departments. Science, Entertainment, and Security. You’ll get missions from all of these departments, once you complete contracts for them to raise your notoriety. Working for one will have a negative effect on your notoriety with the others. It all becomes a bit of a balancing act, especially as these first missions are really the tutorial, with a different title.
The issue is, that by having to do contracts beforehand, you find yourself sat there a little flabbergasted as to what you have to do, depending upon what contract challenge you’re given. It might be easy, it might be nigh on impossible at that moment, there’s no real in-between. This doesn’t really change as the title goes on either. As you start your new islands, you’re often given contracts that involve dinosaurs you haven’t unlocked yet, and are left grinding it out for peanuts or canceling it and waiting for another contract to come through, that ends up being inevitably worse.
Progressing within the departments is one of the main progression paths in Jurassic World Evolution. Each department has its own milestones on each island, which grant the player unlocks. These come in the form of research, dinosaurs, missions, and buildings. You may also get finances from the departments, but these are generally such pitiful amounts you have to wonder why on earth they even bothered. As above, you raise your ranking with each of the departments through the completion of contracts, and these come in a variety of forms. From keeping your visitor numbers above a certain quota to raising the genome of one of your dinosaurs.
These are some of the nicer contracts, that generally happens over time or give you a point of focus for your excavation. Some of the others, however, are a little more convoluted. They can include selling dinosaurs, sometimes ones you don’t even have, which can see you spending 350,000 on a dinosaur to sell it for 50,000 and earn 100,000. It’s a little bit ridiculous. The game also loves to give you this one as you’re trying to up your dino count. Another classic is to challenge you to build up your dino count, right at the start of building your new park and you’re sat waiting for the money to roll in.
That’s the thing with Jurassic World Evolution, there is no way to skip time forwards, which is a common attribute of park and city builders. This does mean that the process of starting a new park becomes a bit of a waiting game, while you wait for money to trickle in. later as the title goes on, you’re drowning in money, to the point where it actually becomes a little silly. you’ll face zero challenge and won’t mind pissing away your money on contracts for the notoriety, because you’ll have earned back your spend in a heartbeat.
It’s the pacing of Jurassic World Evolution that is really the biggest gripe. It’s just all over the place. Finances come in at an appalling rate, then steady, then stupidly fast. You’ll be nowhere near hitting 5 stars on your site, and yet you’ll have 8 figures saved in the bank, and nothing else to buy. You’ll have nothing else to buy because you’re too busy trying to figure out how on earth you’re supposed to unlock the next run of items and research. The majority of the unlocks come from increasing the number of tech structures you own in total, across all your islands. So you ultimately need to upgrade all of your islands to unlock everything.
Each island comes with its own challenge, the second island has frequent storms, the third has been started by someone with worse control of their finances than myself, and means you have to sell of goods to raise it from the brink. Sadly, despite the joy of these challenges, once you get past it, it’s little more than building the same stuff in a different place, with a few new unlocks. It’s a shame because the new islands could be so much more than they are. You unlock a sandbox island rather early on, but this is ultimately useless until you unlock everything, and at that point, your other islands are earning enough to make the unlimited budget rather pointless.
That’s the thing with Jurassic World Evolution, there’s no real sense that you’re attaining much. You’re working towards unlocking the next island, which is all well and good, but there’s very little in the way of help as to how to get there. The tutorials within Jurassic World Evolution are lacking, to say the least. The missions help to start with, before descending into a bit of a copy and paste situation. They ultimately become little more than better-paying contracts.
All of the above makes getting your parks up to 5 stars a game of trial and error. The chart containing the park satisfaction and dinosaur rating is tucked away on a menu, and never shown, nor explained to you. The same goes for the ability to request contracts. It’s tucked away and I didn’t find it for about 2 hours. Once you work out where these are, the game does little to properly explain how to boost your ratings. Nothing on how to improve your dinosaur rating, or how to stop them feeling uncomfortable. One will go completely batshit and ram at a fence until they’re free. ultimately you’ll notice that you have to look at each dinosaur to see what they like. AFTER you’ve created it. Meaning you’ve got to quickly adjust the surroundings, and even the company of the dinosaur itself, to create the ideal surroundings.
The late game within Jurassic World Evolution ends up being an awful lot of busywork. There’s no way for you to set your ranger teams to tasks automatically, meaning that you have to manually keep an eye on the feeders and fences and set them to work yourself. While I generally enjoy micromanagement, this is nothing more than repetitive busywork, as opposed to unique gameplay. You can only schedule 4 jobs per team for good measure, so have fun with that and your 20+ feeders in the latter stages of an islands progression.
Graphically Jurassic World Evolution is a pretty looking title, with some nice views and nice close-ups of the dinosaur models. There’s been no skimping on that front. Even on a modest machine, the game runs smoothly and suffers from little in the way of performance issues. While you’re not gonna get the most gorgeous PC experience available, there’s little to gripe here.
The game sets you up with some diversity in its surroundings and gives you enough tools to make your parks look like they’re meant to be. The game lets you view the world at ground level with the ranger teams, which really shows off the game’s beauty, even challenging you to take interesting photographs, which really illustrates the lovely models generated for Jurassic World Evolution.
Overall Jurassic World Evolution is an interesting title with some poor design choices. A genuinely beautiful park builder, it sadly suffers from poor pacing and challenging scenarios that seem to end just as they become enjoyable. It’s a fun experience, but nothing to really hold your attention after more than a couple of hours.
Jurassic World Evolution is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam PC.