The 25th Anniversary of Jurassic Park took place this week, and in order to continuily promote hype and excitement for the newest addition to the film franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, that will see release on June 22nd, Frontier Developments released a business-simulator that would put players in the position of a “new” John Hammond with Jurassic World Evolution.
Jurassic Park will forever go down as my all-time favourite movie, and it’s subsequent sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park follows closely in my rankings. Point being, this franchise is a personal favourite, and one that embraces it’s science-fiction side more than most. Ofcourse, being a childhood fan of the JP franchise meant that I would imagine my own park, with my own creation of dinosaurs. Despite many developers best attempts, even with an expansion pack for dinosaurs I remember playing for Zoo Tycoon, nobody has yet to capture that authentic InGen experience… until now.
The campaign of the game places the player in a position of complete power and control; you are tasked with developing ‘Five-Star’ review parks amongst the islands off of Costa Rica, Las Cinco Muertes (“Five Deaths”), and you eventually progress to a sandbox mode on the big island after completing four-stars on your initial island.
With 40-plus dinosaurs (more if you count deluxe edition, and more to follow in DLC) there are many possibilities when piecing together a complete park, and this is enhanced further when you realize the DNA sequencing that takes place individually specializes dinosaurs from their appearance, to their stats and behaviours. To obtain the scientific information required to progress the Expedition Center is a facility set up on the island dedicated to designating scientist across the globe to gather any possible breakouts in the field, whether it be an improved dinosaur, or a new one altogether. The Hammond Research Center is where you incubate, breed, and improve upon the dinosaurs and their DNA.
Finally, there is the aesthetic additions. The park and island is almost completely left to your own imagination, and the game can nicely challenge you to create the park you want. From sourcing water, to organizing a monorail or Gyrosphere track, Evolution gives you everything you want to make your park… well, yours. There is also the option to aboard either a classic Jeep that fans have become familiar with, or a helicopter in the need to tranquilize and transport either an escaped, or aggressive dinosaur. Or, you could enter photo mode and spend some time chillin’ with your creations.
Franchise veterans Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard, and B.D Wong each reprise their character roles and it makes for a much more engaging experience than just a cool voice cameo. Especially Goldblum’s, as his character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, plays a pivotal role in guiding you on your campaigns.
The game follows the classic game park mechanics as pleasing a few factors: Entertainment, Security, and Science. Each of which can either benefit or loss from the other factor performances, for example, security may place an extreme responsibility on ensuring guest safety, yet you may be pushed by the science (or military) to give the dinosaurs “field tests”, in a way. And there cannot be a building game without the inclusion of weather patterns, which can cause many issues to the parks, such as power outages, and guests need to reach specialty bunkers in the case of a bad storm. These are some of the main reasons I was having such a difficult time moving to a different island or game mode, because I would be hooked by the variation in upkeep for each park that is needed.
That’s not to say this game does not have any glaring problems, if there is any genre that has caused more frustration from gamers over inexplicable reasons, it would be building simulation games. Constructing the land around your island site can be challenging, and it forces you to make aesthetic changes that may not fit your desire, such as those issues with building sidewalks, or adding foliage. The A.I in the game ranges from average, to weak in rapid succession. The guests are dumb as hell, but more frustratingly is the dinosaurs themselves; an escaped T-Rex could spend upwards of five-minutes roaming before it notices a herd of panicking functional idiots causing chaos in the park. And, while it is not the worst hinderance, the Jeep and Helicopter operation modes in the game feel like there is little risk as there is not the most immediate danger from the dinosaurs.
You can see that this is a game that is the first in it’s franchise. There is the hope for more expansive DLC for the game in the future, but there is no denying that there are limitations you would commonly see in a first instalment. One that could benefit from a story mode furthering the tensions between InGen, and their canon competitors, Biosyn.
I have played close to 8-hours in this game, and while that is a elongated time to play for a gamer such as myself, I haven’t had a reason to put it down. The Jurassic franchise is special, and this is one of the very few times I ever got that feeling back, especially in a game feature. There are many dinosaurs that will make your jaw drop, exciting sounds that will throw you in for a loop or down memory lane, and an experience that truly feels authentic to the world written by Michael Crichton in 1990, and brought to life by Steven Spielberg in 1993.
Finally… the Park is Open.