Jurassic World Evolution 2
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
As Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm noted in The Lost World, “Taking dinosaurs off this island is the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas.” Frontier is more optimistic. Set after the film Fallen Kingdom, which saw dinosaurs escaping into the US wilderness, the returning park-management sim shifts its focus, at least in its campaign. You come expecting to gouge punters with overpriced chips, but discover a more noble cause: in this demo, a poaching ring to demolish and its Carnotaurus captives to cheer up. Such is the work of the Department Of Fish And Wildlife, an organisation title that really buries the lede.
“You’re not building theme parks any more, you’re building facilities to rescue the wild dinosaurs,” game director Rich Newbold explains. That pitch sounds dry, but it makes for a neat showcase for expanded welfare systems. Herbivores are pickier eaters, requiring new vegetation types, making enclosure design a more delicate balance of aesthetics and nutrition. Then within those fences, dinosaurs dynamically claim territory, based on proximity to habitat that serves their needs and neighbours they find antagonistic. Where in the first game it was easy to max out satisfaction, there’s a spark of unpredictable life here that promises far more
complex ecosystems. In theory, there’s nothing stopping you from putting everything in one enclosure and running it as a nature reserve.
Most aspects benefit from added complexity. You now hire the scientists to work on tech trees, dinosaur creation and medical bays, the latter used to heal ailments that medical units in the field can’t. Those units themselves are new, removing first-aid duties from the rangers, who play a bigger role in tracking the happiness of your creations. As Newbold explains, “In the first game you have constant information on the dinosaurs, but we’ve added a ‘fog of war’ – that data vanishes over time, so the ranger team has more things to be doing than fixing fences.”
This focus on logistics and manpower certainly suits the harder edge of the campaign’s governmental remit, although it’s not without its simpler thrills. At one point we hop into a jeep and leave our fledgling dino hospital to bound across Washington State on the hunt for an Allosaurus. Taking control of
vehicles let you enjoy parks in the flesh in the original game, but this shows cinematic ambition, a rare jolt of narrative specificity on a map traditionally held at arm’s length.
The concern is that with a conservation bent, the game becomes more utilitarian. Without punters to dazzle with beautiful resorts – our slapdash layout is barely nicer than the poachers’ – is Frontier straying from the winning fantasy of running a dinosaur park? This is countered by pointing to the park-building challenge mode, while Newbold questions the idea that the appeal was ever that simple: “It’s not just about having a dinosaur park, it’s the path you take to get there.” In this light, layering on more concerns makes that path more memorable.
On top of workforce management there are now guest types to cater to. Carnivores draw more bloodthirsty adventurers to their enclosures, so customising nearby amenities to suit those appetites (burgers cooked extra rare, perhaps?) allows a pursuit of profit way beyond the first game. And with each of those big spenders comes the risk of a bigger lawsuit. Rampaging dinosaurs, extreme weather systems, disgruntled scientists: as Newbold says, “It’s not just building a dinosaur theme park, it’s building a ‘Jurassic’ theme park, and in the Jurassic universe building a theme park is prone to error. It’s calamity management – are you prepared for the problem and how do you come back from that?”
Whether it’s parks going wrong or husbandry going right, the common thread is the virtual pets at the heart of both. If Frontier can deliver on that illusion of life, there’s no reason Jurassic World Evolution 2 can’t appeal to showmen, environmentalists and everyone in between. Even Dr Ian Malcolm.
A spark of unpredictable life here promises far more complex ecosystems