Jurassi c WORLD

Dis­as­ter is an ever-present threat in park man­age­ment sim Juras­sic WorldEvo­lu­tion.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

As you play Juras­sic World Evo­lu­tion, Dr Ian Mal­colm (played, of course, by Jeff Gold­blum) will oc­ca­sion­ally chip in to re­mind you that what you’re do­ing – cre­at­ing think­ing, feel­ing crea­tures in a lab­o­ra­tory to, es­sen­tially, sell theme park tick­ets to tourists – might not be to­tally cool. He’s your con­science, and a neat way for the game to ac­knowl­edge the du­bi­ous moral­ity of what you’re do­ing, which the films have made a point of ad­dress­ing. So while build­ing your own Juras­sic World fa­cil­ity is ex­cit­ing, and a dream come true for many fans of the se­ries, de­vel­oper Fron­tier still wants you to think about the im­por­tant philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions it raises.

“Get­ting to write new dia­logue for Dr Ian Mal­colm is just the best,” says lead writer John Zuur Plat­ten. “And get­ting to hear Jeff Gold­blum per­form it? It doesn’t get any bet­ter than that. And, yes, some other iconic char­ac­ters from the se­ries will be ap­pear­ing in the game, too.” These haven’t been re­vealed yet, but the game is be­ing co-de­vel­oped with fran­chise owner Uni­ver­sal, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some­one like Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) or El­lie Sat­tler (Laura Dern) turned up too.

Set on the Muertes Ar­chi­pel­ago, a chain of five is­lands off the coast of Costa Rica, you’ve been hired by the Ham­mond Foun­da­tion as its new op­er­a­tions man­ager. It’s your job to keep the park’s guests happy and, more im­por­tantly, alive. But that’s eas­ier said than done when there are trop­i­cal storms, sabo­teurs and other dis­as­ters to con­tend with. The lo­cals don’t call these is­lands the ‘Five Deaths’ for noth­ing.

“On the first is­land, Isla Matanceros, the weather doesn’t get much more dra­matic than the odd rain shower,” says Michael Brookes, game direc­tor. “But as you progress through the other is­lands, you’ll start encountering other kinds of calamity. So there might be more storms, or your di­nosaurs will break out if you haven’t been do­ing a good job of look­ing after them. But you’ll also have more tools for deal­ing with these sit­u­a­tions as you progress. The trick is learn­ing to pre­dict dis­as­ters and pre­pare for them.

“On Isla Ta­caño you have two dif­fer­ent ar­eas con­nected by a very thin strip of land, so you’ll have to ferry things around and make sure you have the right re­sources to do so. On the small­est is­land, Isla Pena, you have the added chal­lenge of hav­ing to deal with the most dan­ger­ous di­nosaurs. There’s a lot of vis­ual va­ri­ety, and the time of day can to­tally change the mood of an is­land. You’ll be work­ing on Isla Pena at night, which makes mo­ments when storms roll in ex­tra dra­matic.”

FOS­SIL FUEL

My demo be­gins on Isla Matanceros, an ex­panse of jagged moun­tains cov­ered by a thick jun­gle. I start by build­ing an ex­pe­di­tion cen­tre, which lets me send ar­chae­ol­o­gists around the world to hunt for fos­sils and mos­qui­tos en­cased in am­ber. These are the build­ing blocks of what will be­come my park’s main at­trac­tion: the di­nosaurs. I send a team to a dig in South Amer­ica and they re­turn with the re­mains of a Tricer­atops.

If I spend more time and money on ad­di­tional ex­pe­di­tions for

Tricer­atops DNA, I could cre­ate one that lives longer, is health­ier and bet­ter re­flects the ac­tual crea­ture that roamed the planet mil­lions of years ago. Or I could save money by cre­at­ing a clone from the ma­te­ri­als I have. This is one of many calls you’ll have to make as op­er­a­tions man­ager, and you’ll have to de­cide whether you care more about turn­ing a profit or the sci­en­tific au­then­tic­ity of the di­nosaurs in­hab­it­ing your park.

The park is run by three di­vi­sions: Se­cu­rity, En­ter­tain­ment and Sci­ence. As man­ager you’ll have to bal­ance the needs of these three sec­tions, each of which is rep­re­sented by a dif­fer­ent ad­vi­sor. As you play you’ll be given ob­jec­tives by each char­ac­ter, some of which will con­flict, forc­ing you to make tough de­ci­sions. While the Sci­ence team, for ex­am­ple, won’t ap­pre­ci­ate you cre­at­ing fan­tas­ti­cal new di­nosaurs that never ex­isted in re­al­ity, the En­ter­tain­ment guys will love it. Think Juras­sic World’s In­domi­nus rex: a hy­brid di­nosaur de­signed to pull in the crowds at great risk to the se­cu­rity of the park.

“Be­ing bal­anced and keep­ing ev­ery divi­sion happy is an ef­fec­tive strat­egy, but re­quires a lot more ef­fort,” says Brookes. “You can fol­low one path, but the oth­ers will get an­noyed. And that can even lead to sab­o­tage.” The spe­cific de­tails of this have yet to be re­vealed, but I can’t help but think of Den­nis Nedry try­ing to sell stolen di­nosaur em­bryos on the black mar­ket in the first film. “You will get a loy­alty bonus for stick­ing with one divi­sion, how­ever, so there’s an el­e­ment of risk and re­ward to pick­ing a side.”

“I wanted to give each ad­vi­sor an arc, and I wanted them to be peo­ple you would care about,” says Zuur Plat­ten. “As char­ac­ters they’re very nat­u­ral ex­ten­sions of the Juras­sic Park fran­chise, and feel like they fit into that uni­verse nicely. As well as watch­ing the movies for in­spi­ra­tion, I also had feed­back from the film­mak­ers and the studio to make sure it was right. We’re be­ing en­trusted with a jewel here, right? This se­ries is worth bil­lions of dol­lars, and I’m very aware of that. So when I’m cre­at­ing new char­ac­ters and con­cepts, I’m do­ing it with re­spect.”

De­cid­ing I have enough DNA to cre­ate a Tricer­atops, I choose the non-ex­tinct animal that will be used as a base for its in­cu­ba­tion. I go for the stan­dard, a frog, but I could have cho­sen a lion, which will directly af­fect the stats and tem­per­a­ment of the di­nosaur when it’s born. A par­tially com­plete DNA pro­file also comes with the risk of the di­nosaur dy­ing be­fore it’s born, which can be both costly and time-con­sum­ing. The di­nosaurs are the heart and soul of your park, and the va­ri­ety and qual­ity of the clones you bring in will have a direct im­pact on its suc­cess.

I use the ter­rain tool to cre­ate a flat stretch of grass­land, which is where I’ll be hous­ing my new Tricer­atops. I cir­cle it with a steel fence, which is the cheap­est kind. For more money I could build a stone wall or elec­tri­fied fence, but for my

“So when I’m cre­at­ing new char­ac­ters and con­cepts, I’m do­ing it with re­spect”

start­ing bud­get this will have to do. I add a sprin­kling of trees, then I fin­ish the en­clo­sure off with a small lake and a feeder that will au­to­mat­i­cally send bun­dles of food into the pen. Tricer­atops are her­bi­vores so this feeder will only dis­pense plants, but for meat eaters a live goat will oc­ca­sion­ally be set free in the pen – roam­ing around and bleat­ing un­til the di­nosaur it shares the space with gets hun­gry.

Chaos Theo ry

Di­nosaurs in the game have very spe­cific needs when it comes to their en­clo­sures. You have to con­sider space, veg­e­ta­tion and other fac­tors, other­wise their hap­pi­ness and health will suf­fer. And an un­happy di­nosaur will be in­creas­ingly likely to break out and cause havoc. If that hap­pens, you’ll wish you paid a bit ex­tra for elec­tri­fied fences. Di­nosaurs are also so­cial crea­tures, and some will be mis­er­able if they don’t have a play­mate. With this in mind, I cre­ate two Tricer­atops and send them into their new home.

“Some is­lands have start­ing lay­outs,” ex­plains Brookes. “They can be di­lap­i­dated or worn out, though, only giv­ing you a very ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture to work with. Power can be more dif­fi­cult or ex­pen­sive to gen­er­ate on some is­lands. And some is­lands will be cov­ered in veg­e­ta­tion, so you’ll have to clear space. Isla Sorna is the fi­nal is­land, with the big­gest play space, and at that point we’ll be throw­ing ev­ery­thing at you.”

My newly cloned Tricer­atops emerge into their en­clo­sure. I click on one them and the cam­era swings down to their level, show­ing off the in­cred­i­ble de­tail that has gone into their de­sign, sound and an­i­ma­tion. Fron­tier’s de­vel­op­ers tell me sev­eral times that the studio’s goal is mak­ing the best videogame di­nosaurs ever, and when I see these huge beasts come to life I find it hard to ar­gue with them. I pull up a menu and see the animal’s stats, which let me know how healthy and happy it is, or if it has con­tracted any dis­eases. Dis­eases can spread rapidly, so mak­ing sure you med­i­cate your di­nos is vi­tal.

“There are build­ings de­signed to help counter the var­i­ous dis­as­ters you’ll face,” says Brookes. “Ranger teams are es­sen­tial, re­sup­ply­ing food, re­pair­ing dam­aged build­ings, and med­i­cat­ing sick di­nosaurs. They can be sent on mis­sions, but you can also con­trol them directly, and that’ll of­ten be quicker than when the AI does it. So when things are go­ing bad in the park you can roll your sleeves up, jump in, and be­come the hero.”

Other build­ings in­clude shops that sell mer­chan­dise, re­strooms, view­ing plat­forms, and food stands. This stuff isn’t as ex­otic as the di­nosaur en­clo­sures, but you need it to keep your guests en­ter­tained and spend­ing money. Your ad­vi­sors will in­form you if the park is miss­ing a build­ing that serves a par­tic­u­lar need, re­flect­ing their own in­ter­ests. If you don’t have any merch stands your En­ter­tain­ment ad­vi­sor will pipe up and sug­gest you get one, be­cause that’s a lot of profit you’re miss­ing out on. And your Se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor might be happy if you build stronger walls or in­vest in more rangers to keep an eye on the your dan­ger­ous di­nosaurs.

Later, with­out think­ing, I cre­ate a Cer­atosaurus – a car­niv­o­rous di­nosaur – and re­lease it into the same pen as the Tricer­atops. The en­clo­sure is big enough that they don’t im­me­di­ately meet, but if I leave them in there, there’s gonna be trou­ble. I send a he­li­copter into the air and take con­trol of it my­self. I could let the AI do this, but it’s more fun be­ing a hands-on man­ager. I fly over the en­clo­sure and switch to an over-the-shoul­der view of a ri­fle­tot­ing ranger, let­ting fly with a tran­quiliser shot and send­ing the Cer­atosaurus to sleep.

Next I send a trans­port chop­per in, which scoops the heavy di­nosaur up and flies it over to an­other en­clo­sure I’ve built nearby. There’s some­thing hi­lar­i­ous about the way the snooz­ing Cer­atosaurus’ floppy limbs hang in the air as it’s carted from one area to the other. Mov­ing di­nosaurs around is some­thing you’ll be do­ing a lot in the game as your park ex­pands and your goals evolve, and this is how you do it. That tran­quiliser ri­fle will also come in handy if an un­happy di­nosaur ever gets loose and starts mur­der­ing your ter­ri­fied, scream­ing guests.

TALL TALE

Juras­sic World Evo­lu­tion is a sand­box fa­cil­ity-build­ing sim, but there is some struc­ture to it. You’ll be told a com­plete story, but the pace and fre­quency of the events that oc­cur will de­pend on your playstyle. And how the story un­folds will also de­pend on the divi­sion whose path you choose to fo­cus on. A player who leans into Sci­ence will ex­pe­ri­ence a very dif­fer­ent story to some­one who prefers Se­cu­rity, and vice versa. While this does limit your free­dom, I like the idea of a sim­u­la­tion game with a strong story that lends your ac­tions some con­text and con­se­quence, rather than be­ing to­tally open-ended.

“I look at it like I’m set­ting the ta­ble, then let­ting you pick what you want from the buf­fet,” says Zuur Plat­ten. “There isn’t a lot of beat-to­beat nar­ra­tive, but the game does have cam­paign el­e­ments. The three di­vi­sions have their own char­ac­ters and sto­ries that are unique to those paths. And if you com­plete all the mis­sions for a divi­sion, they’ll tell you a com­plete story. So the game is both freeform and scripted.”

Although Juras­sic Park sim­u­la­tion/strat­egy games have been at­tempted be­fore – in­clud­ing 2001’s

Park Builder (weirdly, a Game Boy Ad­vance ex­clu­sive) and 2003’s

Op­er­a­tion Gen­e­sis – this is the first one that re­ally feels like it might make the dream a re­al­ity. With the back­ing of Uni­ver­sal and a studio as tal­ented as Fron­tier work­ing on it (whose ex­pe­ri­ence with Planet Coaster should come in handy), this is shap­ing up to be some­thing pretty spe­cial. Play­ing god and fill­ing a theme park with dan­ger­ous pre­his­toric crea­tures might be a morally ques­tion­able en­deav­our, but it sure as hell is a lot of fun – even if Dr Mal­colm dis­ap­proves.

“I’m set­ting the ta­ble, then let­ting you pick what you want”

MAIN: Up close, the di­nosaurs have a huge amount of per­son­al­ity. FAR LEFT: A peace­ful scene, but dis­as­ter is al­ways around the cor­ner.

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