Jurassic World Evolution
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
LAYOUTS ARE Pretty limited With NO COSMETIC OPTIONS to Jazz UP your ATTRACTIONS
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