Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments, LIONBIRD LTD
On the surface, Jurassic World Evolution looks like a gorgeous spiritual sequel to the popular Zoo Tycoon games, but with a Jurassic World paintjob. Unfortunately, Jurassic World Evolution fails to delve deep enough into the systems that made Zoo Tycoon so much fun, but also failed to deliver a compelling enough Jurassic World story to make the game anything more than just passing fun. None of its shortcomings can take away from the magic of having a T-Rex walk out into an enclosure and let loose its signature roar, but digging into the actual game at all will leave you quickly wondering where the rest of it is.
I spent way more time than I probably should have when I was younger playing Zoo Tycoon and the subsequent Dinosaur Digs expansion. I was that kid who was always obsessed with dinosaurs, had the lunch boxes and could name pretty much every dinosaur that was popular enough to be talked about at the time. Jurassic Park was my favorite movie growing up and my love of dinosaurs never really went away, even if my obsession faded. Jurassic World Evolution looked like it was going to check all the right boxes and bring new life to my memories of playing Dinosaur Digs but with much better graphics, a story element and Jeff Goldblum, whose inclusion in anything makes it better. Seriously, who doesn?t love Jeff Goldblum? Once you get past all of that however, you are left with a disappointingly weak story with no real park simulator mechanics to dig into either.
The staple of animal park management games sits in your ability to craft a home for your creatures that both keeps them comfortable and allows them to be viewed by your guests for maximum effect. Jurassic World Evolution has just shy of 50 different species of dinosaur available for creation, each with their own challenges and needs when it comes to living space. The arrangement of the area, the plant life and the number of fellow dinosaur roommates all determine the enjoyment your dinosaur is going to get out of his life. If your dinosaur is happy, it is content to sit back and be gawked at by your paying patrons. If the dinosaur is neglected or unhappy with its living arrangements, it will change them by breaking out and eating those paying patrons, which in turn should prevent future patrons from coming and paying at all. This is where one of the first problems with the game sits. After a dinosaur rampage has ended and the bodies have been cleared from the streets, the park resumes business as usual. No PR missions, no new security measures need to be in place to make guests feel safer, they simply flock back in the second the crisis has ended.
Monitoring and adjusting the enjoyment of your guests is another surprisingly shallow mechanic that feels like it should have a lot more involved with it. You have the standard building necessities for a park, setting up places to sell food, goods and lodging, but as long as you make at least some of those things, you are good to go. Happy guests are obtained by simply having some food, a bed and some dinosaurs to look at. There are none of the park management aspects that so added to the fun of old Tycoon games. This certainly simplifies the gameplay, but it feels like something was lost with the removal of those needs. Nobody pukes on the sidewalk, you don?t need to hire enough garbagemen to keep the trash empty (trash cans and restrooms are non-existent as well) and you never really feel like you are managing the park aside from buying dinosaurs with a nearly endless stream of revenue. I always felt like I should be doing more for my park guests, but instead I just spent my time doing out of place missions for the 3 warring factions I was beholden to.
Ok, they aren?t warring factions, but your Science, Entertainment and Security teams certainly feel that way as you make your way through the game. Each division sees the other two as rivals for some reason, which leaves you to try and balance all three as best you can or they will sabotage each other and you by letting dinosaurs out into the park. That?s right, if your head of entertainment feels that you are too focused on the safety of your guests, they will literally let giant prehistoric predators out of their cages to go around and eat your guests until you can bring it under control. In addition to the strange feud that your departments have going on, the game makes you complete the missions it assigns to unlock new features and progress through the different islands, each with their own challenges. This would be alright if there was more incentive to do the missions beyond progressing. Even Jeff Goldblum isn?t able to bring much life to the story, although his voice acting is great. The game just fails to make me care about what I am doing, and left me much more interested in just watching my dinosaurs do dinosaur things.
The dinosaurs truly do shine in Jurassic World Evolution, and the game is at its best when it just leaves me to grow and care for them on my own time. Beyond that, Jurassic World Evolution is a very shallow experience, it doesn?t dig deep enough to be a story driven game and it does not maintain enough of the aspects of park building tycoon games to really be considered in that genre either. I feel like with some more time and some added features Jurassic World Evolution can become a really great game, but as of now it sits just above mediocre.
Note: Frontier Developments provided us with a Jurassic World Evolution PC code/copy for review purposes.