Jurassic world evolution
Jurassic World Evolution looks like it could well be the rarest species of all: a good movie tie-in
What could be cooler than creating your own dinosaur park? Watching it all fall apart, of course. Find out more in our huge feature…
The core appeal of a Jurassic World (and Park) game has always been the parks themselves: about building your own fenced off-part of the world to keep prehistoric beasts cooped up and hoping they don’t get loose. Or hoping they do, depending on how your brain is wired up. Jurassic World Evolution, coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC in June from Frontier Developments, looks set to realise that fantasy in a more complete fashion than has ever been seen before. Fortunately, what’s come before – both from the dev team and within the wider Jurassic franchise – hasn’t been forgotten or ignored. “I’m a fan of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis and I think we’re probably inspired by a lot of the same things that inspired Blue Tongue back in 2003,” explains Michael Brookes, game director on Jurassic World Evolution. “That dream of running your own Jurassic island hasn’t gone away, and in fact I think it’s only grown stronger since Jurassic World became one of the biggest films of 2015.”
With the aim of ‘capturing the dream’ and letting you build and run your own Jurassic Park, Evolution takes cues from the likes of Frontier’s own Planet Coaster – an excellent game in its own right – and tasks players with making an appealing, interesting, unique park full of dinosaurs. And it goes deeper than that, too, with Brookes namechecking the Jurassic franchise in all its forms all the way back to its original guise as a Michael Critchton novel in 1990.
“We want to reflect the huge scope of the story and world surrounding the Jurassic series,” he says, “The varied interests and challenges inside Ingen, the threats presented by the island’s location and division rivalries, the day-to-day challenge of running these islands and caring for the animals, and the way a few events can spiral into disaster if you don’t react to them in time. We want to put you in charge of your own Jurassic World, but we also want to let you experience the same kinds of excitement, peril, and dread you feel watching the movies by putting you into the thick of the action and letting you handle breakouts directly if you wish.”
You can also make your own dinosaurs, we shouldn’t forget. While there’s a lot of management going on – placing shops and facilities, making sure your power grid is robust enough both to provide juice to all of your buildings and to stand up to the inevitable devastation wrought by a tropical storm, and setting the price of chips – there are systems layered on systems behind the scenes, and one of these involves tinkering with dinosaur DNA. Well, it wouldn’t be Jurassic without that, would it?
But you’re not going to be creating Frankenstein’s dinosaur/monster abominations, nor will you be going down the route of Spore and making… questionable… creatures. “This is Jurassic World science,” Brookes says, “so we want to keep it grounded. We’re not going to let you unleash a swarm of a hundred duck-sized T-rexes (or even one T-rex-sized duck) on some unsuspecting tourists, but as you advance through the game your ability to manipulate the dinosaurs’ genomes will improve. Certain physical characteristics can be tweaked and changed along with attributes such as attack, lifespan and cosmetics.”
Yes, you can tweak the very building blocks of your dinosaur attractions in order to make them hardier, look better, get into more fights, or whatever it might be you want from them. Even though you are bringing back creatures from tens of
“we want to reflect the huge scope of the story surrounding the jurassic series”
millions of years ago and blowing plenty of minds along the way in doing so, people are fickle, and they’ll get bored of the same triceratops ambling around after a short while.
That’s where your old-school approach to dinosaurs comes in, in the shape of setting out on digs. It’s menu-based, you’re not actively out there chipping away at a New Mexico desert, but does involve sending teams away to find more samples for genetic use. The purer a specimen, the more money it can bring in, the more you can tinker with your dino-designs, and the more cash you can make on top of that. Playing god’s all about profit, right?
Morals (and dinosaurs)
There’s a real moral grey area surrounding all of the Jurassic franchise – those sparing no expense, such as the original movie’s eccentric park founder John Hammond, are in essence bringing back a group of creatures that to all intents and purposes no longer exists. It is at very best a vanity project, and at worst a cruel way to squeeze money out of the general public just to let them see your dino-attractions. So… well, are you a bad guy?
“Well, John Hammond wasn’t a bad guy,” Brookes tells us, “The idea of Jurassic World is essentially a noble one, but one that’s perhaps been corrupted by competing interests – the scientists who want to push the boundaries of bioengineering, the commercial executives who want more tourist money, the security interests who want to see just how dangerous these creatures can be…”
But your goal is one of essential good – you house your beasts and care for them, making sure they have food and space and social interactions (and naming them, though maybe not all ‘Barry’ like we did). “Your goals are noble,” Brookes continues, “But we’ve made sure your morality is tested in the assignments you’ll receive along the way, and that Dr Ian Malcolm is always around to remind players of the moral ambiguity of their activities.”
Ah yes, Dr Malcolm. Making his second appearance in a Jurassic game (and third in the movies), the iconic Jeff Goldblum is back in the role of the chaos theory-wielding scientist/absurdly charming man. More than just a celebrity guest, though, Goldblum’s character offers you the chance to pause and really consider what it is you’re doing: “[He acts] as a conscience of sorts. He’s the one who advises you on the morally ambiguous tasks you’ll be handed, and the one who’s always there to remind you that life can’t be contained.”
Because, ah, it, ah, wouldn’t be, ah, the same, ah, unless, ah, you were able to say, ah, life… ah… finds a way.
Chaos, then, plays a big part in Jurassic World Evolution, and we can’t help but welcome that with open arms. Aside from it being a core concept in the Jurassic franchise, with the inability to actually control what’s going on front and centre from beginning to end, it’s going to make the game itself a lot more fun (and challenging) to play.
“One of the key themes of the series is chaos, yeah,” Brookes says, “Disasters in Jurassic movies rarely come out of nowhere, or from one source. In the first Jurassic Park movie it’s right there at the start of the film – Dennis Nedry makes the decision to steal dino DNA from Jurassic Park, which leads him to shut down the park’s security systems. It’s in the middle of a storm, so any staff who might help contain a disaster have been evacuated. The power is shut down, the electrified fences switch off. Dinosaurs escape. It’s lots of problems, not just one, and they compound each other so chaos ensues.”
This feeling of escalating calamity, of cascading waves of chaos smashing
“We want you to feel that creeping sense of dread as things spiral out of hand”
against you as you try to hold back the dino-tide, is present throughout Evolution. “We want you to feel that creeping sense of dread as things begin to spiral out of hand,” Brookes adds. “You might be able to handle one power failure, a single storm, a lone theft or an escaped dinosaur, but any one problem left for too long can cause chaos. A rough storm can cause power outages, power failures can shut down electrified fences, broken fences can allow dinosaurs to escape, escaped dinosaurs can damage other enclosures, and so on.”
In short, you need to keep on top of plenty of small crises as the game progresses, or they can – and will – escalate into much bigger issues later on. It’s important not to be put off by this challenge, mind you. If you’re looking for a simpler life, you will be able to stick with earlier islands where dinosaurs are
calmer, the weather is predictable, and the chance of a Dennis Nedry stealing tech is… minimised, let’s say.
“No matter how you play, your goal is to expand your empire across the whole of the Muertes Archipelago,” Brookes explains. “Jurassic World Evolution’s campaign will take you around the five islands – each with their own climate, terrain and other unique challenges – as you develop new dinosaurs, new technologies and complete objectives for Ingen’s Science, Entertainment, and Security divisions.” Aside from the challenges that come with managing dinosaurs in differing environments (and dealing with those massive storms), you also have to manage the human element. Again, it’s something that can contribute to the chaos of Evolution, but it’s something that – if carefully managed – will provide you with boosts to your park, however you choose to run it. Just try not to work too closely with one of the three divisions (Security, Science, and Entertainment) without paying the others any attention, as lopsided development can and will lead to negative consequences.
Because, when all is said and done, it’s the people of the Jurassic franchise who are the true monsters. The beasts they bring back from extinction are just that – animals in an unfamiliar world, doing what it is animals do. They don’t climb all over each other just to get a bit of praise, or a bit more money, or for the glory and recognition. They just hang out and eat stuff, sometimes chattering to their own kind, sometimes fighting, and sometimes getting too stressed and breaking out of their enclosures to make a meal of some of your visitors.
Making sure the animals are happy and not causing unchecked devastation should be a walk in the park (excuse the pun) compared to making sure the people around you aren’t out solely for their own selfish gains. Walking that tightrope between morality and making the business as profitable as it can be: that’s a challenge. Making sure the people are happy and aren’t screwing each other over: that’s a challenge. Putting some recreated 65-million-yearold gigantic animals into a pen and keeping them fed, watered, and out of trouble? That’s the easy part!
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It’s nice to see any fence in the Jurassic franchise actually committed to doing its job of being a fence. So many over the years have slacked off, with deadly consequences. You can leave it up to the AI to handle tranquilising out of control (or sick) dinos, or take direct control of both chopper and shooter.
These two look like they’re about to drop the year’s biggest mixtape. They aren’t, though – they’re just eating grass and stuff. Here’s an example of a bad time to hit that button in your wheelyball marked ‘ramming speed’. Taking things out of the dino paddocks, the park itself is customisable enough to be interesting and engaging. Yes, you can drop different dinosaurs in the same pen just to watch them fight. And yes it is awesome.
These colourful corythosaurus are herbivores. However, even if they’re not going to eat you, they can still cause you a whole world of trouble.