Based on the 2015 film Jurassic World, Jurassic World Evolution is a business simulation game. Naturally this one has the Jurassic World theme and allows players to establish their own park and create their own dinosaurs. The game was released for multiple platforms including the PS4 and Xbox One in 2018, naturally it was the PS4 version that I played. In the game Jeff Goldblum, Dallas Bryce Howard and DB Wong return to reprise their roles as Dr Ian Malcolm, Claire Dearing and Henry Wu respectively
In years gone by I remember playing games like Theme Park and Theme Hospital in which you had to build, maintain and make profitable various parks or invest it better surgical equipment for your hospital. From what I remember as you completed various objectives you were able to get bigger areas to make your parks, more rides, new attractions, or better facilities to treat various patients. Jurassic World Evolution seemed to be very much like this, and I was interested in playing it.
Okay full disclosure before I go on, I haven’t actually finished the game yet, however, considering the time I have had with it I think I have got a pretty good handle on what the game is about.
Now let me give you a quick rundown of the plot...
Ahem...there isn’t one...well I guess that isn’t entirely true. Basically the events of Jurassic World are canon to this game and you are tasked with establishing successful parks, succeeding where “others have failed”. Generally when starting on a new island there will be some facilities already there, such as a Hammond Creation Lab which you use to Incubate new dinosaurs, and generally a couple of enclosures along with a power station or two.
Basically the game is set on one of the five islands (the “Five Deaths” as they are called in The Lost World book and film), and it is up to you to build various enclosures and other facilities to attract guests. Once your park reaches a certain rating the next island is unlocked, and you can choose to go to that new island or remain where you are. If you move you can return to any of the other islands you have at any time and are able to take back anything you have unlocked on new islands. Money doesn’t transfer between islands but there is nothing to stop you from going back to a previous island in order to unlock upgrades that you can’t afford on the current island.
If you are smart (and judging by the fact that you are human, when I say “smart” I mean smart for a human not smart compared to me) first on the list of things to build is a Ranger Station and second is an ACU Centre (if they are not already on the island when you arrive there). The Ranger station is used to refill feeders, fix damaged or broken buildings and fences, as well as treat sick dinosaurs and reset any sabotaged systems. The ACU Centre is the only thing that can tranquilise dinosaurs, either in their paddocks if your intention is to sell or move them or if they have escaped and you need to return them to their enclosures. If you don’t have these two key structures then you have no way to treat sick dinos or recapture any that have escaped.
After constructing the Ranger Station and an ACU Centre, you’re next best bet is to build an Expedition, Fossil and Research Centre. From the Expedition Centre you can send teams off to explore various dig sites around the world to uncover new fossils which are brought back to the Fossil Centre. If the fossils contain DNA then that can be extracted to create new viable dinosaurs for you to create and if they have no DNA or you already have a complete dinosaur genome they can be sold. Getting complete genomes also grants you the ability to create hybrid animals like the Indominus Rex from Jurassic World. The Research Centre is used to unlock cures for diseases your dinos can contract or upgrade buildings, fences and new modifications for the animals you can incubate.
The majority of buildings can be upgraded with things like improving the dig yield for Expeditions Centres; Ranger Teams can undertake more tasks before returning to base or reduced cost when researching, things of that nature. Basically the majority of your functional buildings can be upgraded with new or better abilities.
The enclosures you can build to your own specifications and you are able to raise or lower terrain to create grasslands, plant forests or make ponds and lakes. Viewing galleries can be constructed, and bearing in mind that you want your guests to be able to see the dinosaurs as much as possible, putting feeders close to viewing platforms or fences allows them to see the animals they have come to see. Enclosures will need gates to allow Ranger teams to get in to resupply feeders or treat sick animals.
Other buildings such as hotels, shops or other attractions can be added and help to bring people to the park. The more hotels you have the more people can visit. These don’t serve a function as such, other than keeping guests happy. You can increase the cost of items in the shops or restaurants to gain more money to spend on your park. Emergency shelters can also be constructed to keep the tourists safe in the event that a dinosaur breaks free of its enclosure.
On that note, a dinosaur breaking out of their paddocks is not generally something you need to worry about as long as you’re mindful of their statistics. Helpfully you can simply click onto any animal you want to reveal everything from how hungry or thirsty it is, to its terrain requirements, and even how many dinosaurs of its own and other kinds that it can tolerate. For example the T-Rex likes mostly grassland with a bit of forest area, and does not like to be housed with its own kind. If you fulfil these requirements then it will not try and break out of its enclosure. The first time I incubated a T-Rex it was in a massive paddock with electrified fences surrounding it. However, I soon realised that it could be in a much smaller enclosure and as long as I made sure its stats were all in the blue rather than the red, it wouldn’t try to break out. I ended up replacing the electrified fence with a simple heavy steel one because I didn’t need to worry about the Rex trying to escape. Raptors want a group of at least five or six animals, and again as long as they have that then they too will not try to get out of their paddocks.
You do need to pay attention though because if you put one too many dinosaurs in a paddock you might end up with a dinosaur breaking out, if this happens repairing the fence and putting it back in will not solve the issue, it’ll just break out again. If animals that need others of their own kind die, then the surviving members of that species might start breaking out because there are no longer enough of them to keep them happy. If that happens the weaker fences will not contain them and you need to determine why they aren’t happy and either enlarge the enclosure, incubate a new member of their species, or cut your losses and just sell them. Basically if a dinosaur isn’t comfortable then it will keep trying to escape, and I don’t think even the strongest fence will keep them contained if they keep trying to break through an electrified concrete barrier.
In addition, herbivores and carnivores can be safely housed together as long as you’re sensible about which species you put together. A brontosaurus or diplodocus can safely be put in an enclosure with a pack of velociraptors simply because they are too big to be threatened by the smaller carnivores. A bit of forward thinking is all that is needed to prevent your attractions from eating one another or the guests.
The main purpose of a game like this is to make money, and you mainly make money by attracting more tourists to the island. You earn money per minute and generally when you start off on a new island have to just wait for enough money to accumulate before you start incubating more exciting dinosaurs. The early stages of each island will generally be the same with you waiting for enough money to building bigger enclosures, better dinos and new attractions, fortunately because you get money every minute you seldom have to wait long to buy what you want.
When running your parks there are also three factions that you must deal with, the Science Division, Security and the Entertainment Division. Now curiously if you do a job for one of these groups then your popularity with the others will decline, if you ignore a group completely then you run the risk of acts of sabotage being carried out against your park. As each group’s popularity increases new unlocks are given for your loyalty, personally I tended to see which unlocks were best and favour going after those first by doing the corresponding loyalty missions. These unlocks might be things like better power stations or fence upgrades, or new fossils to find and dinosaurs to create. Each faction will also have a mission on each island for you to complete, which again grants you various rewards, now whilst you can move to new islands if those missions haven’t been completed you can’t do that island’s mission until you have completed the one on the previous island. The heads of these divisions will also contact you with missions, which might be simply like incubate and release a dinosaur to something a bit more elaborate. You can go into the menus and cancel any of these missions whenever you feel like it but if you choose not to take an offered mission, you have to wait two minutes before you can request another.
The acts of sabotage that they conduct tend to be more annoying than anything, I was focussing on the Security Division’s missions as I wanted one of their upgrades, so had to put up with the Science team poisoning some of my dinos. Thing is that all I needed to do was send my Ranger Teams in to cure any affected dinosaurs and no harm done. Ditto when the Entertainment division sabotaged power stations, as all of the fences were just steel nothing got out as I sent the Rangers to reset the stations to bring power back online. No biggie on either act of sabotage, however, the worst act I have encountered was when the gates were all opened, allowing everything to escape. I had dinosaurs running amok through the island and couldn’t help but think, this wasn’t sabotage; this was murder as numerous guests were killed by the marauding predators before I was able to bring things back under control. I guess that the competition between different factions is to keep things from getting dull but when they open all the gates that changes from simply sabotage as people will end up dead, I hope those factions can live with themselves after that.
Islands can be susceptible to storms and the last thing you want is a tornado tearing through your fences allowing your dinosaurs to go for a wander.
Like I said above key actors return to voice characters we’re already familiar with. Dr Malcolm keeps popping up to lecture you about the dangers of creating dinosaurs and comments about some of the ones you let out. Claire Dearing from Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom also comments about some of the enclosures you build and about general animal welfare with Henry Wu increasingly sounding like a Bond-villain as he talks about modifying genomes or pushing the boundaries for the greater good or whatever. These actors do help to add to the canon of the game. Bizarrely though whilst Owen Grady appears he is obviously not voiced by Chris Pratt and the actor they got is jarringly not even trying to sound like him, it seems strange to have the others coming back but not him.
For the majority of the game you float above the island as a kind of omnipresence, but you are able to manually taken control of Ranger jeeps and the ACU helicopter, allowing you to drive through enclosures or manually tranquilise or medicate dinosaurs. The graphics are very impressive and you can see the scales on the dinos as you draw in closer to them, they look and sound like they do in the films making you feel as though you are running your own dinosaur park.
Since I have been playing a couple of updates have happened, one of which allows you to build paths more effectively. When I first started playing paths turned in curves so often I’d have a squiggly path connecting to others because the game wouldn’t let me put it down any other way. The minor niggles that I had seem to have also been patched out of the game so I don’t really have an criticisms that I can think of.
I have sat playing this game to the small hours of the morning, long after telling myself that I would stop. I must have poured twenty-off hours (probably more) into the game and I am still not finished yet. I am giving the game a Thumbs Up, and in all honestly even though I know the formula I still want to play it until I have unlocked all the dinosaurs and other things the game had to offer.
8/10 – Any game I am still playing hours after promising myself I would stop is always going to rate highly with me. Yes, the game is rather samey. But it is doing enough to keep me interested as each island I go to unlocks new possibilities as well as new dinosaurs to incubate and set loose in my various parks.
I have recently finished Jurassic World Evolution and as I finished my playthrough I did notice a few issues that I did not mention when I initially did my review so I am going to talk about them now...
The AI of the dinosaurs is generally alright, as I said as long as you keep an eye on their statistics and comfort levels you generally won't have any issues with them escaping their enclosures. Bizarrely though whilst you can happily house a Spinosaurus and a group of Dilophasurus in the same enclosure where they won't try to fight one another, if they break out then suddenly they become mortal enemies. I don't understand why in an enclosure they happily live side by side but the moment they break out suddenly each other are fair game.
The AI on the part of the Ranger teams on the other hand is awful.
During many a storm of Isla Sorna (the island from The Lost World and Jurassic Park III) the dinosaurs would break out, fences would be damaged and you'd need to dispatch helicopters to neutralise the dinos so you can put them back in their pens. Ranger teams can fix fences but unless they are specifically instructed to repair something they will sit at the Ranger station until they are given instructions. In games like Command & Conquer I remember there being an option to set units to seek and destroy, allowing them to happily drive around the map, and fire on any target they found. Alternatively they could be set to scout only so if they encountered an enemy unit they'd flee from a fight. Sadly there are no options to set your Ranger teams to simply patrol the park, resupplying feeders, repairing damaged fences or curing sick or unwell dinosaurs. If you haven't given them a specific task they will sit at their base waiting for you to tell them what to do, this hadn't really been annoying me until I watched a Ranger vehicle drive past a section of missing fence on its way back to base because I hadn't told it to fix it. You'd think that if you worked as a Ranger on an island full of dinosaurs and you spied a broken fence, you'd use your initiative and repair it not assume that because no one directly asked you to fix it, then it wasn't your concern.
The AI of the guests is also pretty dumb.
In the game guests will remain on the paths, so you can guide them around your carefully constructed enclosures and park. Thing is if a dinosaur breaks out they will naturally panic, so building enough emergency shelters will keep them out of harm’s way. However, after a dinosaur had escaped and been returned to its enclosure the amount of times I’d get a message warning me that it was a danger to guests became too many to count. I’d zoom in on the offending animal and find it running around in its pen...then I’d realise that guests were in the pen as well. During their panic they would run into a dinosaur’s enclosure even if there were other animals still inside, and if they are in there, then there is really no way to get them out. The Ranger Teams cannot be sent in to pick them up and bring them back out. So all you can do is attempt to isolate them in the enclosure and destroy part of the fence allowing them to return to the path. Or just let the dinosaurs eat them which is the easiest option and what I tended to do because if someone is dumb enough to run into the velociraptor pen they deserve whatever they get.
If tropical storms are approaching then you're better off opening every emergency shelter you have to keep the guests out of harm’s way because numerous dinosaurs will break out during storms. Naturally the elements are stressing them out but curiously there is no way to build cages or enclosures to keep them contained during a storm. You are almost better off just sending out your helicopters to tranquilize every dinosaur in the park just in case some decide to break out during storms. Tornadoes can still cause chaos as they rip through fences and sever power lines meaning that the only way to combat the elements is to have several ways in which buildings connect to paths, and various power lines.
If a dinosaur has been tranquilized then it will remain unconscious until it is airlifted somewhere else. A couple of times I put a dinosaur out just so it couldn’t escape only for it to abandon trying to break the fence, resulting in me airlifting it to somewhere else in its pen just to wake it up again.
Aside from paths and the monorail there isn’t any other means of your guests getting around, no busses or even laying down a track for cars to travel along like in the original Jurassic Park film. It is a pity that there wasn’t a bit more imagination put into how guests get around as parks like Disney in Florida have numerous ways and means to get around so people aren’t constantly walking.
It might also be a bit crude to mention it but there is no poo mechanic in the game. You have to feed your dinos and provide water, plus give them an enclosure they feel comfortable within, sometimes with others of their own kind or a population so they don't get lonely. But at no point do you have to clear up their droppings. It may be something strange to worry about but if manure can be used as a fertilizer then why is there not a mechanic that involves someone going into the enclosures to clear up dino droppings. It would have given you something else to micro-manage because basically as long as your dinos have food and water then you can pretty much just forget about them, until a storm and they break out again, or they die and you need to incubate another one. Tasks like having to clear enclosures would help to immerse you in the fact that you are running a dinosaur zoo rather than making animals that you release and then pretty much forget about until they have escaped their enclosure or died.
I talked about missions in my review which are set by the Science, Security and Entertainment Departments, and I finished the final mission the other day...at which point the game kind of just faded to black, the game’s logo popped up, and the credits rolled. It was as if the game was saying “right, that’s the end, nothing more for you now”. I clicked off the credits and the game resumed with me able to continue playing. It is obvious though that the game has nothing more (apart from DLC) up its sleeve. I can naturally continue to play it but there is no real reason to do so apart from trying to get 5 star ratings on all five islands.
The thing is I have absolutely no idea how to get 5 Star Ratings...I have a variety of different dinosaur species, numerous shops and restaurants, monorails, and other tourist attractions yet my parks only seem to get maybe 4 stars. I really have no idea how to up the ratings. Each park was beginning to look much the same, I had the same species, similar enclosures and don’t know what to do to improve the rating. As a result I am not too concerned about upping the Ratings and unlocking the stuff that comes with the 5 Star Rating.
The controls also irritated me as the game may have suited being a PC game rather than having a console release, trying to put down buildings often resulted in them being red meaning they couldn’t be placed. Move the stick a fraction and it’ll flash blue for a split second so it can be placed, but if the stick moves even the smallest amount it will turn red again. I have spent ages trying to move the controller’s stick just enough so that I can place a building without it going too far the other way. The controls can be too sensitive and you cannot simply slot a building into a space big enough for it.
New patches and updates are still coming out which generally make the menus a bit more user friendly, as well as easier to manage.
There is not really much more to say, none of the above affect my previous rating and the game is still fun. I think, however, now it will become one of those games that I pop on for an hour or two whilst killing time. I can trophy hunt if I want to and none of them seem to be too tricky, perhaps at some point I’ll look up the criteria to get 5 Star ratings, but for the moment I’m happy just playing as and when. Although, now there are no more objectives or missions to complete, I wonder how long the game will hold my interest.