Jurassic Park Evolution
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
There are ideas that instantly sell based on a single sentence. Imagine playing a game based on running your own dinosaur park. Back in 2003, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis released on Playstation 2, Xbox and PC. Never before had the concept been realised to such an extent. Fifteen long years later, a spiritual successor was released.
Jurassic World Evolution is a management simulator. Available on Playtstation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game involves running parks across islands referred to as 'the five deaths'. Visitors will happily exchange money to witness the giant lizards that your hatcheries produce. They don't, however, take kindly to running through the park screaming at the sight of an escaped T-Rex.
That my friends describes this game in a nutshell. Keep the consumer happy but also alive and there's a steep learning curve into learning how to maintain a balance to secure both. What makes matters worse is that the tutorials leave a lot to be desired. Certain processes such as distributing electricity and creating additional transport options are not explained clearly. I found myself searching online, even sourcing videos to find people figuring some of these mechanics and sharing their wealth of knowledge.
In the campaign, for instance, you're tasked with running a park on each island. These offer unique challenges to face, essentially serving as an additional method to familiarise the player with certain conditions. One level, in particular, starts you off firmly in the red. Not a great place to start, drowning in debt. The solution for getting back onto your feet in the allotted time is neither explained or hinted to you.
You must initially pass the first campaign level to unlock the creative mode. There's, unfortunately, a catch here. The vast majority of dinosaurs need to be unlocked. Not only must you commit to the campaign, but you must also achieve four out of five stars for the privilege of using new species in the creative mode.
As campaigns go, these levels become draining. I found myself in a flux of varying star ratings that took hours, constantly aiming for above four stars. Often, without rhyme or reason, it would spike up to four stars. Almost of though I'd dedicated enough time that the game refreshes the data and determined I could unlock the next batch of dinosaurs. That may not have been the case. I must argue that it felt that way for three out of those five islands.
Running a park is all about preparation and coordination. There are tasks that can be automatically delegated to the various teams or you can take them over manually. After creating life from your hatchery, they need an enclosure. A habitat tailored to suit the species you intend to place in there. An unhappy dinosaur is a threat. They can breakout, harm and kill one another; and your visitors.
Your lack of experience is certainly an enemy in the beginning. In addition to this, the weather can have adverse effects to your operation, potentially plunging your park into turmoil, unless you take the proper precautions. Sometimes eagerness can be a bitter regret. Being excited for introducing your first pack of Velociraptors feels immense until you realise the hard way that they aren't fond of their new home. Suddenly owning a dinosaur park descends from a dream to an absolute nightmare.
Visitors, on the other hand, are less threatening. More annoying to tell you the truth. Not to the extent that they drain your enjoyment. The mechanics for boosting customer satisfaction is relatively straight forward. Solid yet nothing overly ambitious. This is practically the easiest method for contributing to a high overall park score.
There are also three team members that offer contracts to help improve your park. These are tasks that offer rewards that range from not helpful or plausible, to vital for progression. They each represent science, entertainment and security. Committing to their requests helps unlock more upgrades. Be warned, there are requests that play with morality. Such as pitting dinosaurs into intentional fights and those that mean placing your park at a severe security risk.
On the topic of graphics: all species of dinosaurs are realised with impeccable detail. The water effects look outstanding, along with the grass, trees and foliage. The weakest aspect visually has to be the character models, yet that is nitpicking at such a gorgeous presentation.
I'm glad to report that beyond the impressive dinosaur models, their mannerisms and movements are incredible to see. Through observation, you'll each species unique traits and characteristics play out in front of you. Whenever there is more than one of the same dinosaur, you'll witness their interactions. One amongst them is decided as the alpha, while certain dinosaurs cannot stand company and will fight to the death to establish their territory.
It must also be noted that the soundtrack captures the mood beautifully in every situation. As a franchise, Jurassic Park/World franchise is critically acclaimed for producing stunning music. This quality remains true here, with great audio that hooks you into hearing a lost world that sounds very much alive.
Jurassic World Evolution looks the part, sounds the part and plays the part. There's no doubt about that. Unfortunately, it's not player-friendly with a lack of guidance and direction. It also requires many hours of grinding through the campaign to achieve a level of free-reign that allows you to explore what the game has to offer on the creative side. In short, it's a real chore getting through, just so you can play how you desire initially.
I strongly recommend picking this up or at least trying out. Players may become frustrated because of the rigid accessibility regarding unlocking features and lack of crucial guides that elongates the steep learning curve. Patience is needed, and that will lead to a payoff. Frontier Developments created a truly remarkable game, that's deserving of your intrigue.