Game Review: Jurassic World Evolution (Xbox One)
From the moment Jurassic Park arrived in 1993 and blew the minds of just about everybody who saw it, we’ve wanted Theme Park style games based around it. The idea of building your own dinosaur park, bringing guests in and dealing with the issues that arise from a rampaging T-Rex has been done but not to the level most would want. We have had the likes of Jurassic Park III: Park Builder on Gameboy Advance, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis for the PC, Xbox and PS2 and Jurassic Park Builder on mobile devices.
None of those managed to quite live up to expectations and unfortunately neither does Jurassic World Evolution. Although it is probably the best management sim Jurassic Park game released so far and there is no denying you can literally lose hours to it.
Set across the group of islands known as the ‘Five Deaths’ (Las Cinco Muertes Archipelago), players are tasked with building a financially successful and safe dinosaur theme park. As well as supporting facilities for guests to enjoy, research/expedition centres for dinosaur fossils to be unlocked and security teams to protect guests from the dinosaurs.
All while dealing with the ever-demanding tasks (contracts) set by the head of the three main divisions; Science, Entertainment and Security. Keep each division happy or they will try to disrupt your park.
In the main campaign mode, players will start on one island and need to complete division missions while reaching a set park rating to move on to the next. Each island brings its own unique challenges. For example, one is very small making building enclosures and facilities tougher while another is subject to storms that can cause major disruption.
That being said, once you have a handle on gameplay, it’s pretty easy to make a successful park. Only by increasing the difficulty will players find a challenge once they have the basics down.
The main focus from the moment you start building your park should be power, an Expedition Centre and a Fossil Centre. The latter two are key to progression as palaeontologists can be sent to find new dinosaur fossils which are then analysed at the Fossil Centre. The more dinosaur fossils that are uncovered and analysed, the more of their DNA is collected changing their statistics and the chance for a successful incubation.
What begins as a few uninteresting herbivores will eventually see your park filled with all manner of beasties. Some way more dangerous then others, especially if you take advantage of the opportunity to mess around with their DNA to make them even more appealing to your guests. It’s an idea ripped straight from the movie Jurassic World and unsurprisingly the Idominus Rex makes an appearance here.
It’s not all about showing off though, you need to care for these creatures too and they all have different needs. Some of it obvious (don’t put the T-Rex with a load of herbivores), some of it not so obvious. Happily a break-down menu that appears when you click on a dinosaur will show you just exactly what they need to be content. It can be food related, water related, terrain based or even how populated their pen is. Getting their needs right is super important though as the unhappier they become, the more dangerous they become. You don’t want a load of dinosaurs breaking out of their pens and rampaging through your park, that’s not the way to be successful.
As management sims go, there is little complaint here as players can also take on a challenge mode or just remove all restrictions and sandbox it. The campaign is hardly thrilling stuff but it’s nice to see it even included. It looks great, a nice zoom in feature really allows you to see your park from a guest’s point of view and the detail on the dinosaurs is fantastic.
No, the issues with Jurassic World Evolution comes from the small details and the infuriating ‘contract’ system. Let’s start with the former, stuff that becomes more and more obvious as you sink more and more hours into the game.
The most obvious is that aside from the dinosaurs, Jurassic World Evolution is a bit bare-bones. A limited amount of facilities and no variations per map mean you’ll quickly follow the same formula used on previous maps. Even with restrictions like space, you’ll find a process that worked and stick to it even if you don’t mean too. There really isn’t any other way to play it unfortunately.
Things like guest satisfaction have very little bearing on your overall park rating, instead flooding your park with dinosaurs galore is way more important. Nowhere is this more apparent then when playing on the hardest difficulty, Jurassic difficulty. The only time the game ever really becomes a challenge and even then, it’s arguably too much as you have little money, calamitous issues hit frequently and contracts are nothing but infuriating interruptions.
Whoever thought it would be a good idea to have you constantly bombarded by three annoying characters vying for your attention and approval like children really missed the mark here. The contracts system is easily the biggest problem with the game and easily the most off-putting element.
As previously mentioned, three factions who want you to complete tasks for them. When you complete one, another will pop up immediately and it’s up to you whose you choose. You must balance the three as low approval with one faction will result in them trying to disrupt your park. They could cut all your electricity for 5 minutes, or open all your pens realising the beasties inside or start an infection that will spread through your dinosaurs like wildfire. Annoying isn’t even the word and it makes no sense, these people work for the park!
Of course, you might be thinking, why not just complete the contracts regularly? After all you’re rewarded with money and the faction’s approval if you do. The simple answer is that it’s not always possible as what the contract actually is won’t be known until you choose it and it’s random. You can be given three near-impossible contracts and be stuck, with your only options either to wait. Thus, affecting your standing with each one as nothing is being completed and you’re losing out on potential cash. Or you cancel the contract for a price. A price that is crippling on harder difficulties.
Near-impossible contracts because they ask you to do something that you’re just not able to do at that stage of the game. Such as create a dinosaur with a specific modification, yet you have no access to that dinosaur yet. Or to increase your profits to a laughable amount when all your park has it a toilet and couple of trees.
While contracts are just one part of the game, they’re so intrusive and so dominating they affect everything. Seriously, you’ll grow to hate each faction head with passion as they repeat the same lines over and over again while causing you nothing but problems.
If you can get past that, and it is worth it, Jurassic World Evolution is probably the best management sim dinosaur game we’ve had. It’s far from perfect but does enough right to make it addictive and enjoyable to play.
Jurassic World Evolution
The Final Score - 7/10