Jurassic World Evolution

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Uv3oQNalO4

Name:

Jurassic World Evolution

Platforms:

PC, PS4, Xbox One

Developer:

Frontier Developments

Genre:

Building, Simulation, Management, Strategy

Publisher:

Frontier Developments

Modes:

Single-Player

Release Date:

12th June, 2018

Engine:

Cobra

Reviewer:

Charede

Product Rating:

PEGI:

Review Score:

70/100 (%)

Disclosure:

 

I have been anticipating this game for months now, re-watched the films and had the theme tune running through my head in the moments before the game would finally open. But thankfully the wait is over, and I could enthusiastically dig into all that nostalgia and Jurassic goodness.

 

For those who don’t know Jurassic World Evolution is a park management, business simulation game by Frontier Developments that released to tie in with the release of the film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in cinemas on the 22nd June 2018. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the latest in the beloved Jurassic Park series which started with a book by Michael Crichton and was then moved to being a film by the same name back in 1993 directed by Steven Spielberg. Jurassic World Evolution puts the player firmly in command of the parks of each of the islands that are part of the Las Cinco Archipelago; Isla Matanceros, Isla Muerta, Isla Tacano, Isla Pena, Isla Sorna, and Isla Nublar. Each island features its own challenges due to geographical differences and other factors thematic to the series. Players must also balance out pleasing divisions that act like factions; these require your loyalty and assistance in ensuring the future of the park develops in line with their interests. And of course player has to try and prevent pesky dinosaur breakouts; however, these are inevitable as Dr Ian Malcom says ‘life finds a way’.

 

Visuals, Sound & use of Jurassic Park IP

Jurassic World Evolution makes excellent use of the source material. The game is visually stunning and crisp; textures are particularly good, and the models for each of the dinosaurs are wonderful. To draw you in and immerse yourself into the world of Jurassic Park the game strikes you with its phenomenal soundtrack plucked straight from the films. Overall the game makes good use of the IP to keep this game thematically consistent with the films and the book on which those films are based. It is also important to note that the game features many of the mainstay characters of the film series and even has the actors who voice and perform those characters. There are however a few notable omissions which are a shame.

 

Dinosaurs & Exhibits

Dinosaurs and their exhibits are by far the main crux of the game. As a result, I am particularly keen to focus on this so expect this section to be a bit lengthy, but it is worth reading I promise.

 

The game features an excellent variety of dinosaurs (42 total) with more on the way including another 6 which were released post-launch one week later under the DLC The Fallen Kingdom (22nd June 2018) and with more DLC planned for the future. Dinosaurs felt varied in their behaviour and difficulty to keep compliant and contained, particularly the hybrid dinosaurs of which there are currently two available; Indomnus Rex and IndoRaptor. Interactions between different species are really well done but interspecies interaction is a bit shallower, unfortunately. Of note also is dinosaurs are not proportionate in size to each other per the fossil record. I understand omissions like feather features and the inclusion of the dilo head frill as these are thematic of the films, but I would have at least like the dinosaurs more proportionate to each other.

 

Creature animations although well done are over reused across multiple species and the game would have benefited from additional animation sets for each creature. It is important to note however that some unique creatures like the Indomnus Rex do have their own unique animation sets. A few hours into playing the game, however, it becomes noticeable that dinosaurs such as the Ceratosaur do not have such unique sets and becomes even more apparent the more dinosaurs you unlock. Another important thing of note is also that although dinosaurs such as the Indomnus Rex and IndoRaptor have their own unique animation sets, they do not have a unique combat kill animation for their conflict should they come across each other which was highly disappointing. A further consequence of animations being reused is that kill bites do not line up so it looks like dinosaurs are munching the grass when it should be making contact with the dead dinosaur’s neck.

 

On the topic of combat overall, it looks very impressive. It does, however, suffer from a lack of additional animations to increase variety and make combat more unpredictable. There are also certain uncharacteristic behaviours which make no sense under certain conditions and with certain dinosaur fights. Common is dinosaurs looking away to have a break mid fight and turning their back on an enemy when it would not be wise to etc.

 

I am highly disappointed that dinosaurs do not interact with visitors outside of getting eaten and ignore park staff. Dinosaurs will not even attempt to overturn vehicles if they get too close if the creature is irritable. It would have been nice to see dinosaurs stomping down trees in frustration and destroying feeders rather than just bashing their skulls on fences or picking a fight when annoyed.

 

Exhibits these are oversimplified and basic in Jurassic World Evolution. The entire focus of exhibits revolves around having a tiny pond of water and then balancing out the rest of the exhibit between grassland and forest. It is not made clear by the game at any point if this is based on the entire enclosure or a fixed amount of area around the dinosaur depending on where it has roamed to within an exhibit. Many players of the Steam forums were also experiencing the same confusion I was but having experimented for many hours, it would appear it is proxy based. I was also disappointed that the game does not punish the player for putting dinosaurs in exhibits clearly way too small. A space factor as a requirement for them to be happy seems like an obvious factor to include. This is particularly impactful for larger dinosaurs or ones who migrate or live in large packs. As an example I had a very small exhibit and within it had almost every triceratops like creatures within it (of which I put 3-4 of each) and yet they were perfectly happy regardless of the fact with was clearly too cramped of a space, gave them no option to roam around and would have lacked the necessary space for them to co-exist happily.

 

There is a lack of available options when it comes to fence types and guest viewing areas. I would have loved to have alternative viewing platforms that could lead to alternative viewing interactions with the dinosaurs such as the log as seen in one of the films or perhaps an area in which guest can trigger an event or impact on something within the dinosaurs enclosure. Another idea is perhaps guest viewing areas in which shops or paid viewing experiences happen. Guest can enter and have their photo taken, get exhibit specific toys etc. It would certainly have helped me funnel guest to where I wanted them and open up more opportunities for monetising my park.

 

When it comes to exhibits particularly disgusting is the lack of customisation. The player only has very limited broad brush tools to add and remove foliage and the ability to raise, lower and level out the terrain. Could we get the ability to add different environment types like a desert, swamp, arctic etc.? The lack of the ability to do this leaves exhibits homogenised and lacking character and was frustrating when I knew certain dinosaurs in the park would simply never have lived in the forced grassland or forest environment I was stuck with putting them in. I would have loved to have been able to even place objects within the exhibits to improve ratings by making the environment more dramatic and perhaps even impact on the way in which the dinosaur behaved. Exhibit choice and customisation is very shallow. The game would have benefited from focusing on developing this more. A great example of exhibit management would be something like Zoo Tycoon which I think was particularly admirable for the amount of customisation and control it gave players when making decisions on how to exhibit the game’s creatures and meet their needs. This was what I was hoping Jurassic World Evolution would have on release but it has clearly fallen very short of this standard.

 

Islands & Gameplay

I have been very pleased with the islands. Each is distinct visually and thematically through clever use of the time of day, landscape, weather and challenges that arise as a consequence of these. I understand the lack of inclusion of a day-night cycle. I know this annoys some players but the design decision behind this makes sense. Part of this being it aid in creating a unique atmosphere and more foreboding where needed. Lighting and weather effects keep the game fresh on each island and keep the game experience as a whole after many hours from becoming stale. I was disappointed the final island is sandbox mode only I would appreciate the inclusion of the option to turn it into a standard play mode and experience the issue of financially balancing things on the final island.

 

I really enjoyed the factions and unlocks associated with factions; it gave me something to work towards on each island. However, I found that different departments would offer the same missions that other departments did at various points of the game which seemed counter-intuitive and in some rare cases they overlapped. Doing a mission for one faction raises your rep with them but depletes reputation with the others which in turn can lead to those neglected factions throwing their toys out the pram and sabotaging you in a toddlers attempt to get your attention but with the horrific consequence of people dying and apex predators getting loose. But you know safety isn’t that important. Especially when the security department throws a hissy fit, open all the gates and complain they are not getting enough attention and cause the very problem they complained about but had not happened in the park’s history until they went out of their way to cause it. No thanks security team I am quite happy over here with the science department making the things you are letting loose for the sake of it. On a positive note, factions do contribute nuggets of story and background as to how the parks operate and the conflicts going on between individuals, but this lacks the level of detail I would have liked to see. It almost feels like the tip of the iceberg for what could have been much further embellished.

 

Islands are restrictive in space, but this lends to the players being forced to make hard choices and utilise the space to the absolute maximum and plan ahead. The lack of space also challenges more advanced players to take on the task for mixed exhibits, work out which species will get along with each other peacefully and balance the environment around this. To get around the islands being restrictive and reward players who go out of their way to achieve a high rating on an island and tackle the task for mixed exhibits would be to have an option on achieving 4/5 stars to open up some more of the island to build on outside of the standard border.

 

A little side note the game offers various skins for vehicles with the game. Particularly the ACU helicopters and the jeeps rangers use. I was very pleased to see that the classic film jeep skins among others are amongst those included. But the method by which to unlock this skin and others is very obscure and unlikely to be something you would do in normally gameplay and therefore something you need to target specifically. The game offers zero information on how to get them without looking online. Seems a tad unfair, just a subtle hint on what to do from a voice over or in the menus would have been nice.

 

Technical Issues & Glitches

The game is generally a glitch-free experience bar a few weird experiences with shop placement and vehicle physics.

 

In the case of shops (which happened repeatedly) regardless of price (even if set to zero), location etc. the building would not get rid of any product. I had to resort to deleting and replacing the building over and over on the same spot, and it would eventually work fine. Another thing of note about shops is a recent patch introduced an issue where the shop management style option is completely broken. Every time you set it, it will reset on leaving the menu for that shop. You cannot use anything bar the default option. Hopefully, this has been fixed since I last played.

 

As noted in the dinosaur section of this review it is important to note that animations often do not line up for kills and eating from a dinosaur corpse after combat. This is a consequence of animations being reused and not adjusted for all the potential variants. Not exactly a glitch but certainly something that is clearly wrong and was not intended.

 

Guests & Staff

All in all guests and staff are among the biggest disappointments of this game. Guests frequently get stuck in exhibits and do not have the brain power to understand that an open gate is an easy escape option. You are not provided with the option to launch a rescue mission to save the idiots either so expect to get bombarded constantly with ‘dinosaur is a threat to guests’ message/alert over and over until the silly morons get eaten.

 

Outside of the issue of guests being eaten and getting stuck they do not feel alive; they are empty husks. Guests have limited behaviour as a consequence of very restricted animations for behaviour and reactions. Visibly guests comprise of very few clothing, hair and facial options. I was disappointed to find out that you cannot get to know your guests either. There is no way to learn about their needs or see their thoughts; a system like that of Zoo Tycoon or Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 would have been nice. All the feedback and interaction I was hoping for didn’t exist, and as a consequence, I gave zero care if they died or not. When I looked at the guests all I saw was robots beeping and booping about their determined path with zero care for what was actually going on around them.

 

Staff essentially amount to the same issue. Without names or personality, I didn’t care when my T-Rex chomped up a few scientists for dinner. It wasn’t like it was going to stop or hinder my ongoing research project unlike the films with the raptors and the training research tied to one of the lead characters which are important to the plot.

 

Genetics, Research & Dig Sites

Overall genetics, research and dig sites are good but dig sites specifically are a major let down.

 

The genetic modification system is fun, well laid out and engaging. However, it was lacking when it came to implications it had on your dinosaur’s behaviour and only really influenced the star rating of the dinosaur on creation. The game does offer one genetic modification for aggression which leads to dinosaurs being more prone to attack others and more likely to try and escape. More implications like the one described would have been nice. It would have forced me to take extra security measures, research additional technology and also potentially mean the game could offer more types of buildings, fences or building modifications to negate risk involved with these genetically modified dinosaurs.

 

Like with genetics the research path and options are clear and well defined. I felt rewarded when I obtained something after a research project, but I would have appreciated more options and variety particularly late into the game.

 

As much as I am reasonably happy with the genetics and research systems I cannot, however, say the same for dig sites. Dig sites as a mechanism are very lacking but functional. The main purpose they serve is to provide a way for you to get genetic material to then process and improve the viability and authenticity of your dinosaurs. This in itself is a good foundation but needs expanding on as it rapidly becomes tedious to do. Also of note is that each dig site and its labelled dinosaurs do not match the reality of where they are found which although not a major problem was a minor nuisance as someone who loves dinosaurs and historical accuracy.

 

The process of getting fossils essentially amounts to open a menu, look at a map, and find the dinosaur you want and click once and wait. All in all, it amounts to lazy mobile gaming level of mechanics. I would have far rather been more involved in excavations. I would have liked it if they had given me the option to hire individuals whose stats impact on the potential success of the dig. Let the availability of staff be impacted on the park’s rating. I would also not have made it obvious which dig sites have which fossils in them, maybe hint but not blatantly list what is where straight away. Perhaps tie this to research, which if invested in, over time can give more hints/indications of which dinosaurs are in which dig sites. I would also perhaps included the possibility for sabotage of excavations or accidents happening on transport resulting in fossils being returned to base but perhaps not as viable as they were as a result. Another consideration would be what about the possibility of rather than just selling off excess fossils what about displaying them in the park (perhaps in a dedicated building or as statues) to boost ratings and education of guests.

 

Conclusion

Jurassic World Evolution is an amazing experience from the same developers behind awesome titles like Planet Coaster. Frontier Developments have made a good execution of a game I have been highly anticipating. However, it is clear some corners have been cut. The world of Jurassic Park and its IP is very well used which utilised as part of the voice acting, visuals and audio drew me into the world and my role as the park manager across each of the islands. The game has a good variety of dinosaurs available on release with the new free DLC already. Although the dinosaurs generally look excellent they are however lacking in some areas of interaction and of particular note are animations which do not line up correctly and are far too predictable. This was one of the biggest let downs of the entire game and something that really took me out of the experience. Next to animations falling short the lack of exhibit customisation left me very disappointed due to how oversimplified it is. The Genetic modification system is good but could benefit from impacting interactions and behaviour more. Dig sites were highly disappointing and amount to click a button and wait mobile gaming mechanics, being more involved in dig site exploration and management would have made this far more interesting and engaging. The game does not have many bugs but the ones it does have like shops not working on placement and the management menu being bugged are annoying. Hopefully, these will be rectified in future. Story is lacking in the depth I would have expected but what story is available is executed well. Guests feel like husks; lack depth, homogenized and lack in feedback to the player when compared to games like Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and Zoo Tycoon which was highly disappointing. Again comparing to games like Zoo Tycoon it was disappointing exhibits were nothing more than trees, water and grassland. Where is the option for savannah, swamps, rocky outcrops and perhaps even environmental items to place in exhibits to impact on the behaviour of dinosaurs? A really glaring omission in my opinion.

 

Regardless of its faults, the game is still an awesome experience and a great way to engage with the Jurassic Park IP outside of the films and a good opportunity for anyone new to Jurassic Park to get an introduction to the franchise. I have already put many hours into the game and I am sure will continue to do so over the coming months. I do however yearn for more maps and scenarios to improve the longevity of the game further, again much like how Zoo Tycoon did. Consequently for a solid all-round experience that has a few flaws and glaring omissions I am giving this 70/100. If a few glaring omissions are addressed in future patches, I can see this getting into the high 80s to mid-90s but I cannot justify that it its current state.

 

 

 

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