Jurassic World Evolution Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Managing a park full of animals that might try and eat each other requires finesse and knowledge. Jurassic World Evolution asks for both from you fairly shortly after you've been through the tutorials. It isn't just as simple as filling the park with dinosaurs, but with making sure that all of their needs are met and that they will play nice, both with each other and the visitors to your park.
Your job is to run the park, but as well as dealing with the customers and the scaly attractions, you have to manage the three divisions under you. Each one will vie for your attention and each one will have an opinion on you based on who you favour. All three of them feel a little exploitative but ultimately that is what this game is about, it is hard to be a force for the betterment of the world when you are trying to turn a profit.
In order to get those punters come in you need to actually have some dinosaurs to see, which is where this game stands apart from most of the other management games. In order to create a good dino you need to extract DNA from fossils you dig up from various different places in the world, sending a team out to do the hard work for you while you keep the park going. Once you have these you can set your fossil centre to the task of decoding what they can from each one, steadily building towards increasingly pure version of the creatures you are making. This is how you increase the variety in your park, and variety is both the spice of life, and a damn good source of income.
To manage your ancient friends and keep the gawking masses safe you need to keep your security trained, and the power on. See, if one of your attractions decides it would be much happier amongst the adoring public, well then there is a chance they will, uh, find a way. If they manage to break out then you need to make sure you have a security team to tranquillise them and take them back to their enclosures, otherwise you customer will find themselves becoming part of a well balanced diet.
It is these moments where the game takes a turn for the more cinematic, it is rare that a game all about managing a park ends up with all of your visitors being mauled and eaten, but here it is a real risk. It makes the game so much more than the competition, having such an immediate risk occur really helps to keep your attention. While the moments in between are generally a nice relaxed affair, the risk of something catastrophic happening really helps amp things up.
When you aren't stopping the escapes you get to lovingly manage the dinosaurs that you have made. You can track their happiness as they wonder around and build an environment for them that will make them genuinely content, which is paramount to your success. A happy dino tends to be a healthy dino, and they tend to keep people coming back. One of the best features in the game is the chance to zoom in and follow one running around its home, maybe watching it meet up with a pack, or just drinking down at the lake. The work that has gone in to the behaviour really shines through and makes these the highlight of running the park itself, just watching them trotting around is genuinely relaxing.
The voice acting is another highlight, the voice actors do a fantastic job and landing Jeff Goldblum just makes the whole experience fit together so well. You actually feel as though it is in the same world as the films, which is a feat many games don't accomplish. The characters all feel interesting and their motives fit them like a glove, more often than not Jeff is the voice of reason and caution, constantly reminding you of the things that have gone wrong before. The rest of the cast push you forwards, onto bigger and better discoveries and potential uses for all of the research you gather. It is a great dynamic that helps to keep you hooked into the game, never leaving it feeling too stale due to a lack of personality.
This is a great looking game that is strong across nearly every front. There are still a couple of little bugs, but they aren't game breaking, just kind of annoying when the occur. While the game doesn't do much to blow you away, the small touches help to give it more warmth than you would expect. The gameplay is fun, the dinosaurs are entertaining to watch and heartbreaking to lose. It all ties together to be a solid management game that will keep you entertained for a long time. The fact that dinosaurs are great helps, oh, and everything in the world can be improved with Jeff Goldblum, everything.
Console Impressions (reviewed on Xbox One)
While most strategy games like this are better to play with a mouse and keyboard, Frontier Developments have already proven with Zoo Tycoon that they're adept at making the console controller work well and once again they've done a great job in creating a really playable game on consoles. Moving around the map and rotating is all achieved with the two analogue sticks, while zooming in and out is via the triggers. Access to the various game menus is achieved via the d-pad.
The game really benefits from the extra power of the Xbox One X too with crisp 4K visuals and buttery smooth gameplay. It's a gorgeous game to look at and suffers from only minor pop-in. Similarly other than the lower resolution textures the game feels pretty lovely on the basic Xbox One, with a couple of minor moments of lower frame rate when there is a lot of action on screen.