Jurassic World Evolution is a movie tie-in theme park management game from the same developer as the wonderful Planet Coaster, but is it any good?
After years of work-for-hire jobs, including the 3D refinement of the Roller Coaster Tycoonfranchise for Atari, Frontier Developments returned to the genre-defining game franchise that they began with and gave us Elite Dangerous. A couple of years later they followed it up with their own theme park simulator, Planet Coaster.
Naturally, having enjoyed the vast amount of content and creative freedom afforded to me when building parks in Frontier's Planet Coaster, the prospect of doing the same in a Jurassic Park game was very exciting.
Jurassic World Evolution puts you in control of the titular theme park during it's humble beginnings. It is up to you to procure DNA from fossils and bring the dinosaurs back to life all the while managing the park.
The game introduces players to the mechanics of running Jurassic World slowly and carefully. In fact, it's a bit too pedestrian for that early hour or so. Whilst it is important to get to grips with how the game works, the early game is a bit boring and very repetitive. It's only when the second island opens up that things start getting interesting.
Jurassic World Evolution is played across a series of islands with scenarios of increasing difficulty that unlock sequentially. The first island really only serves only to wet the players feet. As you progress to the more complex islands your technology and dinosaur research come with you, your cash doesn't. Which is a bit odd.
The management of the park involves establishing a series of buildings, some of which are upgradable, to improve the park, make it more fun for visitors, safer for visitors and produce menagerie of dinosaurs. They all cost money. In fact, everything costs money.
On the first island you don't have much money most of the time, and not much to spend it one, either. This results in a lot of waiting, as your expedition members go out and get fossils, your dinosaurs to hatch and buildings finish construction.
All buildings need electric, so you must ensure that you are generating enough power and that your distribution network is adequate. More buildings will require upgrades to the power plant.
It wouldn't be Jurassic World without dinosaurs. As in the film, the dinosaurs' DNA is required. You obtain the DNA from fossils the are bought back from expeditions. The more DNA of a particular species of dinosaur that is discovered the healthier the specimen. You don't have to extract the DNA of every fossil, and once you have a 100% DNA record for a particular dinosaur, there's no point anyway, you can also trade them for cash.
Upgrades must be researched. Players select the upgrades from pool of option in the research centre. Once the second island opens you hit a wall with upgrades requiring a a second research centre, which can only be built on the new island, in order to progress, forcing you to move on.
Frustratingly, when it is time to move on to the second island the financial pot of the first island is quite full, where as the second island is practically broke. This means doing your research in the first island and building on the second island. It seems a bit silly having to continuously flick between the two and makes the financial restrictions between island a bit pointless and more annoying than be a valid gameplay mechanic.
Visually, the game looks the part and the options to drive the ranger's car and the helicopter (including firing tranquilizer darts at dinosaurs) ARE pretty awesome. The dinosaurs act in a fairly realistic manner as well. The big bruisers making rubble of your walls and the carnivorous feasting on the passive herbivores if you forget to separate them.
Unfortunately, anyone looking for a Jurassic Park game with the depth of the excellent theme park management simulator/sandbox, Planet Coaster, is going to be a little disappointed. It really does itself no favours with the slow pace and limitations of the early game- which is likely to turn a lot of players off.
I'd say that Jurassic World Evolution would be better suited as an early access game than a full release. It still has some rough edges that I'm sure Frontier will iron out in time.
For a movie tie-in, though, Jurassic World Evolution is breath of fresh air. If you are in for the long haul, you'll get a lot of fun out of it, especially if you are a fan of the movies.