Jurassic World Evolution
Released to coincide with the launch of the new movie, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and bringing into the fold some famous names from the movies themselves like the always random and brilliant Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic World Evolution puts you at the helm of the now famous 'Jurassic' islands in a solid mix of resource gathering and theme park-owning goodness. At its core Jurassic World Evolution is a dino-centric take on the Theme Park and Zoo Tycoon template along with a little fossil exploration, DNA genome research and some amusing dinosaur rampages added into the mix.
Set on the series of islands known as Las Cinco Muertes the game consists of a series of small parks strewn across said islands. Each island has its own unique challenges, such as storms, lack of funding, workers sabotaging power and more. Along with the individual unique challenges that each park gives the player there is also the concept of missions for each of your parks and individual challenges which help to increase a science, security or entertainment rating.
The main goal of each island is to construct an attractive park, complete with a mixture of the forty dinosaurs that can be researched and developed throughout the campaign, fill it with rich guests and bring the overall park rating up to three stars. Once this goal has been hit you then have the option to move onto the challenges of the next island or you can stick around a little longer and keep growing your existing park. The pro tip here is that you can, at any time, jump between islands as your previous islands tick along quite nicely, accruing regular income even if you are off on another island struggling for funding to get your next big park off the ground.
For anyone who has played a game of this nature you will find your way around really quickly, mainly as the controller mapping on console is really nicely done and the sometimes fiddly functions of laying paths and power cabling is intuitive and responsive. You build facilities to cater for all manner of park things, such as varying enclosure types, entertainment for the visitors, research facilities to unlock new species, expedition teams to fly around the globe to search for new fossils for your research team and lots more. Later in the game you can invest (heavily) in some more adventurous attractions, again, taken from the movies, such as the monorail around the park or the gyrosphere — such attractions are embraced by visitors and will quickly push your park’s star ratings up, be careful though as every new attraction and in turn type of dinosaur brings its own unique perils.
One of the driving forces of the game is the ability to discover new dinosaurs and then research them to the point where they can be created in your labs and then released into the park. This isn't easy, quick or cheap though and will take time as you progress. As you juggle your existing parks, including the one you are actively building, sending research teams off is essential, if a little slow and sometimes costly. If you are lucky though you will advance a genome to the point where you can introduce a new dinosaur to the park in an effort to wow the crowds. This however leads on to one of the game’s core problems: dinosaurs are total divas! Whether a dinosaur is happy is determined by a number of key factors, habitat, food and so on, however the core issues are usually around social and habitat needs, such as how many friends it has, or how many trees there are in its enclosure. Now these values are represented by sliders and there is an overall percentage score for both health and general happiness — should the latter score dip too low the dinosaur will begin, usually very quickly, attacking fences. This can be really annoying when you start to feel like you have a solid baseline for your park but one or two of these damn divas decide to break fences, letting all the other dinosaurs out, including carnivores. Within sixty seconds you’ve activated the alarms, scrambled a chopper and rangers to sort it out, but as soon as the fence is down it’s too late. Dinosaurs flood the park eating guests as they go and your park security rating plummets. Keeping one eye on all your creations is half the battle with Jurassic World Evolution; who knew that genetically created animals from a completely different place in time would be high maintenance?!
Visually Jurassic World Evolution is solid with some good building and texture work and if you zoom the camera right in to watch the dinosaurs roam around the images are clean, detailed and animated really well. The dinosaurs themselves really are the money shot for what is otherwise a fairly basic Theme Park sim. Sound-wise, the game totally nails it for the most part - the dinosaurs sound fantastic throughout and the park ranger and ACU teams sound suitably militaristic when your park starts going haywire. The voice acting ranges from actual Jeff Goldblum to god-awful impressions of Chris Pratt with very little in between.
For the most part Jurassic World Evolution feels like a decent sim, has an interesting premise, some downright fascinating exhibits and the hours of playing it pass breezily along. It is however not without a couple of fairly substantial issues which hold it back. The missions which pop up throughout each island (science, entertainment and security) are really quite random, in multiple ways. Firstly they often ask something of you that you won't be capable of achieving until you've completed a later island, therefore, pointless when given to you, and even more oddly seem in no way shape or form to relate to the category they are being given in. The security division offering you money to help two raptors fight to the death seems illogical, as does the entertainment division asking you to breed and sell a dinosaur to someone else. Sometimes they just don't add up — luckily you do have the ability to refuse a mission and request another one, hopefully which better suits the park you are currently working on.
Perhaps the biggest gripe we encountered was the overall speed of the game and more importantly your inability to influence it in any way. You often find yourself waiting for things to happen as the growth of your park crawls along at a slow pace. For large swathes of time this can make the game feel plodding and borderline boring for long periods. It does create a nice dino-filled chilled vibe but at a bit of a cost, as you will need to put in an awful lot of hours to see the whole game and all of its islands. This unfortunately presents the feeling of requiring a large time investment with not a lot of pay off.
Jurassic World Evolution is a solid entry into the theme park genre with some excellent mechanics, decent control mappings and a glimpse into the world of dinosaurs. Whilst it looks good and performs well on the Xbox One X the game suffers from a slow grinding gameplay loop and some random uninspiring missions, holding it back from being a must play strategy title. Fun and at times really interesting, but slow throughout.
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