‘Jurassic World Evolution’ – I’m not Mad, just Disappointed.
I’ve always held to the belief that, before sitting down to write any review be it good or bad, one should have a good night’s sleep, a long shower and strong cup of tea.
I’m refreshed, my mind is clear, and my mug is empty so without further ado, I best get on with damning Jurassic World Evolution and adding my voice to the choir of disappointment.
What is it?
At its heart, Jurassic World tries to be a spiritual successor to Zoo Tycoon 2’s Extinct Animals expansion. It aims to give players a big old world, or in this case six separate islands, on which they can build and manage a park filled with big and terrifying dinosaurs.
The issue is that while it succeeds in replicating most of the mechanics and the general idea of that classic title, it fails to capture any of the wonder and magic that Blue Fang Games managed to bottle back in 2006.
When launching a career, players are dropped onto the starting island with a partially constructed park, given the basic VA tutorial and then left to their own devices to figure out what they’ll be doing for the next few hours.
The answer, of course, is waiting. Lots and lots and lots of waiting. Honestly, there have been times when I’ve simply gotten up to go make a cup of tea and come back and nothing has changed.
There are elements of Jurassic World: Evolution that I like despite the many issues I have with it.
The animations and character models for the dinosaurs are stunning, they’re just gorgeous and I really do love them. During all that endless waiting I’ll often just spend time with the camera locked to a dinosaur in 3rd person, watching it lope around the enclosure.
While I take issues with the amount of work required to reach a 100% complete genome and therefore a completely authentic and yet heavily genetically modified dinosaur, there is something incredibly satisfying about seeing one exit your creation lab.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy playing God, messing with the DNA to get the highest rating or creating particularly savage beasts for my dinosaur gladiator pit.
There are a lot of minor issues with Jurassic World: Evolution that I feel really cheapen the overall experience.
Chief among these is the inherent repetition. You only have a certain range of buildings you can put into a park and really once you’ve built one park you’ve built them all.
The intrusions by the various advisors range from mildly irritating to downright annoying, especially when Dr Ian ‘Moral Grandstanding’ Malcolm pops up to tell you off for playing God and criticise your very existence.
The balancing act that is keeping all three divisions, Science, Entertainment and Security, happy. It’s just a pain to advance in any of them because completing the small side missions known as ‘contracts’ for one will hurt your reputation with the other two.
It reached a point where Security wanted me to have 4000 people in the park, which would be easy if they weren’t sabotaging my power facilities every 2 seconds preventing me from completing the contract and making them happy enough not to sabotage my power facilities.
Oh, and if you’re going to try and use a Chris Pratt’s cameo, maybe find someone who sounds like they’re actually trying to pretend to be Chris Pratt.
Right here we are the meat of the various issues I personally take with Jurassic World: Evolution. Really, they all come down to one thing, the price.
Jurassic World: Evolution currently retails for $60USD for the ‘Deluxe Edition’ (a normally $11USD upgrade containing all of five dinosaurs).
The game is worth maybe $30USD at best. For the amount of content that’s available at launch, there is no justification for charging a full $60USD. When there are incredible games on the market for far less than this, why would you consider dropping $60 on a fairly average park sim?
Gameplay boils down to sending teams to get fossils, extracting DNA from said fossils, waiting 6 hours until you have a complete genome for one species, incubating a few of that species and then moving onto the next.
There are occasional disasters, but they’re fixed with the press of a button and the only real danger comes when you have a dinosaur escape and don’t manually take over your incompetent ACU (Asset Containment Unit) and tranquillize the rampaging dino yourself.
At no point have I ever been concerned that the status quo of getting a fossil, get DNA, get dino, would be threatened by anything more than a minor hiccup in the power supply due to sabotage. Once I built up some steam I was rolling in money, to the point that I was actively trying to spend it all just to see if I could get myself below 10 million.
The final nail in the proverbial coffin? The fact that, in a park management sim, the park management is essentially an afterthought. Players can, if they choose, tweak the pricing and staffing of their restaurants and shops to maximise attendance and profit. Or they could just ignore it because it makes no real difference to the bottom line.
Where Jurassic World: Evolution truly fails is its content and mechanics. There isn’t enough content to bait me into continuing and the mechanics are so incredibly simple that at times I struggle to stay awake while playing.
At the end of the day, Jurassic World: Evolution is another example of that increasingly frequent phrase: ‘as wide as an ocean and as deep as a puddle’. It suffers from what I have dubbed The Skyrim Complex: incredibly nice to look at, undoubtedly many things to explore but at the heart of it, after a few hours, there’s nothing really new to actually do.
When I was told I’d be receiving a review copy I was over the moon because I saw the potential for this game, I saw what it could be, what it still can be. With some decent mechanics and new content, some sort of story even, anything to grip me so I have a reason to keep playing, it could be an incredible game.
As it is now? It stands as a monument to the industry today. Shallow games that could be so much more with a little risk taking. But of course, when we’re dealing with a movie franchise game, well risk taking just isn’t on the table.
If you like Zoo Tycoon, go play it, you can find it somewhere I’m sure. If you’re still interested in Jurassic World: Evolution, then my suggestion would be to wait until it comes on sale for a more reasonable price or until there’s a healthy injection of free DLC.