Jeff Goldblum’s iconic Dr. Ian Malcolm uttered these words in 1993’s Jurassic Park and they have typically summarized my thoughts every time I hear tales of a video game based on a movie franchise: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The same is true for movies based on video games, but that is a conversation for another day. However, every once in a long while there is an exception to the rule. Like Dr. Malcolm also said, “Life… life finds a way.” This is our review for Jurassic World Evolution.
Jurassic World Evolution is a park building, resource management game which puts you in control of building, managing, and maintaining dinosaur-based theme parks on each of The Five Deaths… or Las Cinco Muertes. These islands make up an archipelago located 200 miles southwest of Costa Rica with Jurassic Park and Jurassic World’s Isla Nublar at a midpoint between them.
It is within this gathering of islands, with the technology of InGen in your grasp, that you will raise an empire, but you are going to need some help. As you manage the bigger picture of the island, the heads of security, entertainment, and science will reach out to you with objectives that will raise your standing within their division, unlocking perks for your park.
For example, George Lambert, the head of security, might ask you to maintain the island’s power for period of time. Once this objective is completed, you will unlock the Dig Speed perk. This perk will allow your excavation teams to excavate faster!
You will, however, want to be mindful of the missions you accept. Some missions will jeopardize your standing with the other departments. While this does not have a large impact early on in the game, there is a chance that a department might get disgruntled and sabotage your park later.
Along the way, there are guest appearances from Jurassic World’s stars, including the cynical, yet charming Dr. Ian Malcolm, voiced by Jeff Goldblum. BD Wong and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles as well, but it is Chris Pratt that is missing as the voice of Owen Grady. It is a highly unfortunate omission because the voice actor Frontier Development commissioned does not do him justice. In fairness, Pratt, though, is a hard act to follow.
But you are not here to hear about the people alone.
Jurassic World Evolution give you dinosaurs and lots of them. Over the course of your time in game, you will be able to research an engineer over 40 different dinosaurs. Some of these dinosaurs are unlocked through progression while others are discovered in fossil digs. On each island, you are able to build an expedition center which will allow you to study dig sites from all around the globe. Each site can yield fossils, amber, and minerals that can either be studies or sold.
As you discover and study fossils and amber, your knowledge of that particular dinosaur will increase. You will also have the opportunity to research compatible DNA strains that will allow you to engineer those traits into your creations. Tampering with their DNA does come with a cost – that cost being a reduction in their viability. The higher the viability, the higher your chances are of incubating a living specimen. But what is science without the risks?
Two failed parks might hold some wisdom to answer this question.
After successfully incubating a new dinosaur, you have some options. You can release it into an enclosure, allowing your adoring public to gaze upon their majesty, extolling the magnanimous miracle of life or you can call in a helicopter, tranquilize the beast, and sell it to the highest bidder. It is in moments like these where Jurassic World Evolution takes on a unique level of immersion.
Here is what this could look like:
Let’s say that you choose to send the helicopter in. From here, you can make the choice to take control of both the helicopter and the sniper to hunt down your prey. The helicopter enters a third-person mode while the sniper engages from a first-person perspective. It isn’t a perfect system and I found the first-person element to be a little unwieldy, but it allows you control that I am not sure I have experienced in other park builder or management style games.
The same goes for choosing to care for your dinosaurs. Occasionally, one of them might get sick or hurt. You can send a ranger team to heal them by assigning them a task or you can hop into the driver’s seat and rush to their aid. While you are there, you could refill feeders or take some pictures for profit.
While this next element isn’t quite as exciting as taking care of dinosaurs, taking care of your park’s infrastructure is no less important. Each building requires both power and roadway access. Power is provided through power plants which supply that power to stations by power lines. Each station has a circular area in which they provide coverage. There are also shelter bunkers for your guest in the event of a hurricane or enclosure breach happens.
While Jurassic World Evolution’s construction is fairly straightforward, it does have some odd elements. Each building costs a set amount of money but can cost more without giving you a reason why this is the case. It makes sense for things like power lines, which might span a greater distance. However, these cost penalties are not clearly explained. It isn’t game breaking and it is entirely possible that I missed that portion of the tutorial while giddily incubating dinosaurs.
Even if you don’t like resource management games or park builders, Jurassic World Evolution brings a fresh sense of immersion into the genre that is worth trying. It provides you with just enough freedom to play how you want to while still maintaining order over what the game itself is.
And in a Jurassic park, a sense of order is pretty high praise.