Juras­sic World Evo­lu­tion

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Sci­en­tists have been ar­gu­ing for cen­turies about what drove the di­nosaurs to ex­tinc­tion mil­lions of years ago. Me­teor im­pacts, ice ages, disease, vol­ca­noes and all man­ner of other the­o­ries have been floated, but now, in 2018, Fron­tier has come out to posit a brand new the­sis – what if the di­nosaurs were just too stupid to un­der­stand their most ba­sic sur­vival needs?

We’ve seen her­bi­vores be­moan the lack of trees in their habi­tat, too dumb to turn around and see the lush forests be­hind them. We’ve had rap­tors freak out af­ter nearly dy­ing of star­va­tion de­spite there be­ing mul­ti­ple food and wa­ter sources within easy reach. We’ve wit­nessed usu­ally docile crea­tures go bal­lis­tic on ac­count of be­ing sur­rounded by too many other di­nosaurs while the pop­corn­chomp­ing bipedal hordes that sur­round them are ap­par­ently fine. These crit­ters re­ally aren’t that smart.

In the in­ter­est of equal­ity, though, Fron­tier has also gone out of its way to make hu­man­ity come across as ev­ery bit as dense as the spot­light-hog­ging rep­til­ian anachro­nisms. One par­tic­u­lar high­light was try­ing to iso­late the cause of a di­nosaur es­cape in our park, scour­ing fences for breaks, only to find that a ranger team had just left the pen gate open – pre­sum­ably the first thing these war­dens would be trained not to do when deal­ing with 20-foot preda­tors from mil­lions of years ago. They need con­stant in­struc­tions even when they’re not goof­ing off like that – none of your park staff will lift a fin­ger un­til in­structed to do so, even when it comes to rudi­men­tary tasks like top­ping up dino food sup­plies or try­ing to con­tain escaped crea­tures. It sort of makes sense on a game­play level, since you’d have lit­tle to do as a player if your park staff were ac­tu­ally ef­fi­cient on their own. It’s slow-go­ing at the best of times, so this slightly fid­dly mi­cro­man­age­ment is ac­tu­ally some­what wel­come.

aside from how slow it is in gen­eral, the main is­sue with Evo­lu­tion is how lit­tle it does to build upon the foun­da­tions set by its spir­i­tual pre­de­ces­sor, Op­er­a­tion Gen­e­sis. This is a team that is far from in­ex­pe­ri­enced when it comes to park man­age­ment games, yet still Evo­lu­tion feels like it’s play­ing out in cruise con­trol mode the en­tire time, coast­ing on the core me­chan­ics that made Op­er­a­tion Gen­e­sis a fan favourite while adding lit­tle to noth­ing of its own. Gen­eral park oper­a­tions are oddly hand­soff (you have no con­trol over ba­sic things like ticket prices and pre­cious lit­tle use­ful feed­back from at­ten­dees, for in­stance), lay­outs are pretty lim­ited with no cos­metic op­tions to jazz up your at­trac­tions, pro­gres­sion with the three fac­tions is tied to ran­domly as­signed mis­sions – the list


of odd omis­sions and overly ba­sic me­chan­ics goes on. per­haps this over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion can be traced back to try­ing to ap­peal to fans of the movies, which just seem to get more brain dead with each re­turn to the­atres. Would fans who be­lieve star-lord can some­how talk to rap­tors and some­one in heels can out­run a T-rex re­ally care for more de­tailed crea­ture stats and man­age­ment or more be­liev­able in­ter­ac­tions be­tween them? Would peo­ple who never ques­tion how these projects con­tinue to get fund­ing de­spite al­ways end­ing in cat­a­strophic fail­ure ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate a greater level of con­trol over fi­nan­cials and gen­eral park oper­a­tions? It very much feels like a game aimed at the same au­di­ence as the movies, an ex­tremely ba­sic park man­age­ment sim for peo­ple who just re­ally want to turn their brains off and look at the pretty di­nosaurs.

progress plays out across a hand­ful of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, and there’s the odd glim­mer of cre­ativ­ity here that makes a cou­ple stand out – most are just slight twists on the same for­mat (work­ing with lim­ited space and cash to slowly ramp up your an­i­mals and at­trac­tions un­til you’re mak­ing mega-bucks, but the one that dumps you into a failed park site and starts you in debt and need­ing to pa­tiently and clev­erly sell, re­pair, and re­place fa­cil­i­ties to turn the park around is the clear high­light. a lit­tle way in, you un­lock Isla nublar as the game’s free-play mode of sorts, but it’s crip­pled by the fact that you’re lim­ited to what­ever re­search progress you’ve made dur­ing the main cam­paign, and so is pretty dull un­til you’ve un­locked more or less every­thing, at which point it’s just a big, bor­ing empty map on which to do ex­actly the same thing for the sixth time. re­search car­ries over be­tween maps, but cash ar­bi­trar­ily does not, lead­ing to some odd quirks, like be­ing able to send dig teams on ex­pen­sive ex­ca­va­tions from a suc­cess­ful park be­fore sell­ing the spoils at a new site to get a quick in­jec­tion of cash. Once you have a few de­cent di­nos, cash stops be­ing a prob­lem any­way – pun­ters will gladly throw money at your awk­ward maze of paths, en­clo­sures and shops even right af­ter an out­break has seen hun­dreds of their own kind de­voured. peo­ple just re­ally love di­nosaurs, we sup­pose.

Evo­lu­tion isn’t so much a bad game as a lim­ited and some­what la­bo­ri­ous one. There’s some de­gree of sat­is­fac­tion to be gleaned from get­ting a well­run­ning park set up, but it’s also very easy – with a mod­icum of com­mon sense, the only real ob­sta­cles to things run­ning per­fectly smoothly are ran­dom el­e­ments like storms, ai quirks and sab­o­tage at­tacks. a ti­tle up­date with new Fallen King­dom di­nosaurs soon af­ter re­lease leaves us hope­ful that Fron­tier will con­tinue to add things to the game for a while, though it’d take a lot of up­dates to load it up with all the kinds of fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity that it feels like it’s miss­ing at the mo­ment. Be­tween its me­chan­i­cal sim­plic­ity and pedes­trian pace, Juras­sic World Evo­lu­tion some­how man­ages to make the child­hood fan­tasy of bring­ing di­nosaurs back to life bor­ing, and that’s crim­i­nal when deal­ing with such in­her­ently in­ter­est­ing sub­ject mat­ter. 5/10 Ver­dict Far less EN­GAG­ING than it should be

above: the di­nos them­selves look fan­tas­tic, al­though they of­ten don’t be­have as you might ex­pect – rap­tors, for in­stance, would rather just fight and die solo than work in groups to sur­vive.

left: tak­ing di­rect con­trol of ranger jeeps is ac­tu­ally sort of fun, al­though you’ll of­ten need to take over sim­ply be­cause the path-find­ing is so bad. the Poké­mon Snap-es­que photography mode al­most makes up for it, though. below: you have a lit­tle con­trol over your fa­cil­i­ties, but it’s as ba­sic as pick­ing one of three prod­ucts to sell, set­ting a price and as­sign­ing ex­tra staff if de­mand gets too great.

below: yeah, that pen is way too small for a crea­ture that big. Even peace­ful her­bi­vores will ram­page if they’re not happy with their liv­ing stan­dards, and some of them can be ex­traor­di­nar­ily picky.

Juras­sic Park: op­er­a­tion Gen­e­sis

Zoo ty­coon

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