As a gamer who is fond of a variety of video game genres as well as pretty much being an all round nerd for films, it is always a very lovely surprise to see those very things combine in one video game that not only ticks all those boxes but genuinely contains some very nice surprises. With the hype building for the next big screen instalment of the Jurassic Park film series with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hitting cinema screens, a new game has set its sights on delivering the very original concept of Jurassic Park, creating your own dinosaur theme park with Jurassic World Evolution.
The moment the iconic theme music plays I was immediately transported into the world of Jurassic Park. Evolution provides the opportunity to build and run your very own Jurassic Park but what came as such a surprise to me was the incredible depth and focus on the science behind building a dinosaur theme park just as much as the management needed to make the park a success. The presentation is the first thing that grabs you as real effort has gone into making this a tremendous addition to the wider franchise by using as many references to both the original films as well as the more recent ones. Starting off by having the great Jeff Goldblum himself voicing his own character Ian Malcom in the game, it was areal fanboy moment to not only having him warn me of the dangers of messing with nature to bring dinosaurs to life but also in just the interaction you have with him throughout the game.
Now it must be said that either he was the only actor from the films willing to bring his voice to the game or perhaps all the developer team could afford as the moment you are enjoying Ian Malcom speaking you will then meet the game’s version of the more recent main characters of Owen and Claire from Jurassic World and it is a little disappointing to hear different voices after the nostalgia boost from Ian Malcolm though thankfully the inclusion of Owen and Claire are simply to remind you of the newer films and characters and just having Goldblum, the theme music and the dinosaurs themselves are more than enough nostalgia factors to give the game the fan service it needs.
Building your park takes far more work than you would think and it is for me the strength that makes this game a real joy to play as the science behind bringing dinosaurs to life is just as important as making the guests happy. Before you can create a dinosaur you must first discover, research and complete a stable and viable genome structure for the species. To do this you must build two important buildings starting with the Expedition centre from which you can send out teams to fossil dig sites around the world to collect fossils and then the Fossil Centre which is used to extract the dino DNA depending on the type of dinosaur fossil you have found. Luckily to make things easier the dig sites will identify which species of dinosaur can be retrieved so you can focus on a particular type. You will need to create the minimum of 50% viability in order to attempt to create a dinosaur with the higher viability giving better chances of success as it is possible to have a failed attempt meaning you will need to start over so spending time and money to continue to collect fossils to extract DNA to strengthen their genome.
It is very important to understand the needs of each dinosaur species as well before placing them in the park such as what kind of environment they prefer, food and water requirements as well as their social aspects. For example some of the herbivores will prefer wide open spaces and trees and a small social group of their own species but will not be too happy in smaller spaces or being near too many other dinosaurs. It is vital to understand these requirements when you begin to plan the holding area for them in the park not to mention the strength of the fences needed to make sure they stay put as unhappy dinosaurs tend to try and break out and some of the more aggressive and intelligent carnivore species such as the Velociraptors will go right for your guests.
To maintain the dinosaurs you have Rangers and the ACU centres to help you maintain them and the park. Rangers can be used to repair buildings, fences and to resupply feeders and the ACU helicopter unit can tranquilise escaped dinosaurs and transport them back to their enclosure or to sell dinosaurs should you need the extra cash which you will because both building and running a park is rather expensive which is why I recommend being patient when starting out as it is very easy to spend all your money just researching or creating dinosaurs before the park is capable of sustaining itself. Understanding the requirements for both the science and the business side of having a park will help you be successful and is a factor of the game I really appreciate as it focuses on the micro management of so many things and all of which are satisfying gameplay mechanics.
Now in total there are five islands or parks that the game will ask you to build or save through its campaign. To unlock the next island and park you have to make the current one a success through making money and keeping guests happy and by completing critical missions given by the three Sections of the park consisting of Science, Entertainment and Security. These range from collecting a particular fossil and completing a species genome to making a certain amount of profit per hour and number of guests in the park. The only missions I had an issue with were from the Security section which at times made the request that I put two types of dinosaurs to fight against each other so they could monitor the results. This is the darker side of the game and one which I never really enjoyed but understood that just like in the films, this is a part of the Jurassic Park lore to an extent. That said getting access to another island is achievable without completing all the main story missions but for completionists this will be an aspect to consider.
Once you have the option to move to the next island you will give given the choice to go there immediately or to remain to finish things off or to improve that park. What did come as a lovely surprise is how every park is connected in that even after you have moved on, that park remains open. This comes most into play when it comes to researching new upgrades for the park and dinosaur DNA as it requires multiple Research centres at each park for example, in order to unlock the more advanced upgrades which means the more parks you have open, the more you can upgrade the parks with options for both the science and the guest sides. A nice tip is that when you do open the next island park; make sure you go back to a previous island which may have more spendable money as you can still do the research at the previous islands that will then become available to all the parks.
Each new island will offer new challenges such as tropical storms that can damage buildings and more advanced requirements such as guest needs and the missions each section will request you complete. I can spend hours just managing a single park until it gets that five star rating before moving on but then to find myself returning to an earlier park to make improvements to them even though I have already moved on. There is a real thrill to creating a dinosaur and watching the cut-scene as they are released and also some sadness when one of your original dinosaurs dies of old age. The panic when a carnivore dinosaur breaks free and you rush to get the emergency shelters open to protect the guests as you send an ACU in to tranq the dinosaur only to then have the guilt when it gobbles up a couple of guests. So many things have to managed and events that have to be prepared for that this feels like a genuine job to do and that is perfectly fine with me.
Having played and really enjoyed Aven Colony, another building game which had a control system that worked superbly well with the controller and I can say that and no pun intended, but Jurassic World Evolution evolves that to the next level with a user interface so slick and responsive that moving around the park is really fluid not to mention the genius short cuts with the controller bumpers servers as quick access to the Rangers and ACU teams which believe me you will celebrate the first time a dino breaks a fence and makes a run for it. The really impressive thing is the engine that delivers amazing visuals with lovely construction animations for all the building and dinosaur movement animations and unlike other similar games such as Aven Colony; I never suffered slow down when after working on a park for over four straight hours. Even the biggest parks I had with dozens of dinosaurs in there and thousands of guests with monorails running throughout the park never suffered stuttering or slow down at all. It is an impressive game throughout and with a clever save system means you can spend as much or as little time you can playing making this a real gem to drop in and out of.
Jurassic World Evolution is the best franchise experience yet in a video game and it delivers everything you would want from it. Whilst some may find the micro-management side a little OTT perhaps which could slow down the “PUT ALL THE DINOSAURS IN THERE” temptation, for me it delivers a sensible and well thought out game experience for this genre not seen in other games especially on console. This is perhaps a tough experience for the younger fan but it is a fully enjoyable building game that highlights everything you would want as a fan of the Jurassic Park franchise.
The very moment you release your first T-Rex and to hear it roar to let every other dinosaur and human in the park that it is still the king of the dinosaurs in everyway is a real goosebump moment, and one of many this game can provide as the more time you invest to it the more epic the whole experience becomes. Not just a must have for fans of the films but a must have for any fan of building and management games.