Jurassic World: Evolution Review DEALS
Ok, so London Philharmonic aside, the game does a good job of world building. You do feel in charge of an island, filled with dinosaurs, and all the problems that brings. What it doesn’t quite do as well, is make it easy (although given the outcome of the films, one could easily argue that’s the point).
For fans of dinosaurs, and the genre, this game will evoke comparisons with Operation Genesis, the 2001 original Xbox classic. By and large, it feels the same. It does capture that enjoyable feeling of channelling your inner John Hammond, although as with the modern take on the series, Hammond is course absent as a character. I would easily consider this a sequel, although apart from the IP it is officially separate.
The game takes place on the fictional archipelago of Las Cinco Muertes, ‘The 5 Deaths’ as referenced in the second film, about 200 miles west of Costa Rica. You can eventually progress to each of the different islands, each with their own unique setups and challenges to overcome. An unusual gameplay aspect that wasn’t immediately apparent (more on that later) is that research and development is shared across all the islands (so unlock a fossil on one island, you can build the dinosaur on any island), but money is not. This leads to several irritating issues later in the game.
You start the game on Isla Matanceros, with a partially built park, and a handful of advisors (with awful voice acting) to point you in the right direction. There is no ‘skip tutorial’ button, so each time you play you need to sit through the tutorial (and the tutorial isn’t even particularly helpful). I know this because I messed up on my first run through, as the only ways to earn money are through ticket sales, and completing missions/contracts. The issue is that if you expand too quickly, before you’re turning a profit, there isn’t much you can do to stop the money completely running out. For example, I built too quickly and only had a few thousand left. My park wasn’t turning a profit as the tutorial hadn’t yet reached the point where the park opens, so I wasn’t getting money from the dinos it had told me to build, and losing money keeping it all running. The only contracts I had involved building a $400,000 facility, which obviously I couldn’t afford. I then restarted the island expecting to start over, only to find that although I started with the same seed money and layout as before, I had kept all of my fossils and research I had already done. This seems a bit of a cheat, as I was able to autocomplete a lot of the tutorial contracts as I had already done them on my last play through!
Once I got to playing the game properly though, I did really enjoy it. If you like business and park simulators, this is definitely one to play. It’s far from perfect, there are a lot of control, management, and UI issues, but even with all that it’s still fun enough to keep you playing. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and you are able to get right up close with the dinosaurs with the fantastic ground camera, letting you cinematically track a specific dinosaur. You send out research expeditions to collect fossils, which you can then use to unlock more more dinos, or sell them to finance further expeditions, buildings, or research. You manage the park as you would any other business simulator; by creating attractions which draw people in, and also building amenities where you can flog t shirts, hats, and even night vision goggles to make even more money.
The dinosaurs themselves are spectacular, with realistic looking motions and behaviours, and a solid happiness/health system that is easy to manage and understand. Tying in with the films, the game also offers gene modification as an option, allowing you to tweak and customise your dinosaurs, which is really fun. You can unlock new genes through research, or have them unlocked through in game events, and due to constant editing, this allows you a huge amount of diversity in your parks main attractions.
You can also drive around the island in a jeep, or fly around it in a helicopter, with specific missions or tasks often requiring you to do so. You are able to automate some of these tasks, so you can tell the ranger team to resupply a feeder rather than having to manually drive to it yourself. The accuracy of the helicopter is awful though, at least until you’ve upgraded them, so when it comes to taking down escaped dinosaurs (something that should obviously be done very quickly), you would be well advised to do this manually.
The buildings run on power, and once your power capacity is exceeded your buildings will stop working. You need to build power stations to increase your capacity, and. Then you need to connect them (via pylons) to substations, which can then supply power to buildings within a certain radius. Fairly straightforward on paper, but very weird in practice. On several occasions I would find a building that said it was out of power, but I would have a station near it with unused power, but if I cut the pylons connecting that station to the rest of the grid, everything would be fine.
Once you reach a certain point, you are able to expand to other islands, with the game telling you each has their own challenges and requirements. This is a good concept, and I like it, but it is (as with a lot of stuff in this game) sadly let down by its implementation. The game seems to imply you can use each island as a specific development (eg have a public island to make money, a research island to… well, research etc), but this weird half-separation causes problems. You can’t make your main park solely research based as you need to have multiple research centres to unlock later dig sites and upgrade options, but you are limited to one of each type on each island. You also can’t focus entirely on research on one island as you can’t share money from your profitable island, so even your research island needs an income stream of its own. This odd system leads to a lot of annoying island hopping, where you launch an expedition from your profitable island, dig out the fossils there as well, and then hop over to your struggling island to sell the fossils.
Unfortunately, as you may have surmised from the diatribe above, it’s not a perfect game, and I do have a few gripes. I cannot put my finger on it but the camera system, and controls in general just feel off. I’ll be honest, it’s a testament to this game’s concept and beauty that it’s still so enjoyable to play, because the controls are remarkably unintuitive. The action sequences are marred by the unresponsive vehicles, the menus are poorly laid out, and the upgrade/research system is poorly implemented. Even the automation I mentioned earlier feels a bit like what you’d expect in a free to play game, where you can upgrade the amount of tasks you can assign to a team, but you still have to manually tell them to do stuff. The feeders for your dinos are a prime example, they regularly run out of feed and require resupplying, and each time it requires you to manually instruct the team to go and sort it, there isn’t a ‘restock all feeders’ button. This sort of micromanagement comes up in several areas of the game, and quite frankly feels unnecessary.
Placing buildings is also annoying, as the snap/layout system isn’t quite up to task, and is very punishing. Quite often I’d be told a building wasn’t working because it needed about 20cm of path built to connect it, or when the game let me build a $2m monorail station in the (arbitrary) corner of the map, when it actually needs several meters of space to connect the track at the other end before it can be functional.
This is another issue; the arbitrary borders. Many times I would run out of space for a building because I was at the edge of the map. The problem is, the edge of the map looks just like the rest of the park, except that you can’t build there. For a game set on a series of islands, with their own naturally occurring borders, this feels overly frustrating, and I think it’s a big mistake to limit the play area (because it does feel limited). This space limiting causes problems when you’re trying to squeeze as much as possible in as small a space as possible, and you end up having to completely rearrange clusters to make space for new buildings, which again, might appear to fit together in the real world (restaurant and gift shop sharing the same plaza for example), but due to the arbitrary grid lines, if it’s 1cm too big the game won’t let you place it, forcing you to tear down the entire area and rebuild 1cm to the left. No, I’m not cross, why do you ask?
Jurassic World: Evolution Review
For all it’s faults though, Evolution is a thoroughly enjoyable game. It has all the hallmarks and trappings of a really great game, but is let down by a poorly designed UI and park management systems. So many things feel like they could be really good, but in practice are clunky and difficult to use properly. It feels like the developers spent all their time developing the dinosaurs and their interactions, and then put the rest of the management system in as an afterthought. None of it is a deal breaker though, and doesn’t make the game *not* fun, but it does rather leave the player with a sour taste in the mouth when one considers how much fun this game actually is, and how much more fun it could have been.
- Really pretty graphics
- Surprisingly enjoyable despite the shortcomings
- Lots of micromanagement
- Poorly designed UI
- Squandered potential
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0