JURASSIC PARK EVOLUTION
“So you call it a world, when it’s quite clearly a park?” “… Yes.”
Frontier has been chipping away at the park-and-animal based games on Xbox formats for over a decade now, but we might finally have its magnum opus with Jurassic World Evolution.
Yes, even though it’s a movie tie-in, and yes, even though it calls itself World but has you build a park. It has to be named for the movie it’s releasing alongside, after all.
Evolution is the culmination of the British developer’s efforts, combining a console-friendly control system, deep and engaging park management mechanics (much more fun than that sounds), and some of the best dinosaurs we’ve yet seen in a game. As well as, of course, the ability to set the beasts loose in your park, if you’re a psychopath in waiting.
Players build up their park-world empire from humble beginnings – or at least as humble as they can be when you’re literally playing god – placing facilities and paths, building enclosures and cloning low level, low threat herbivores to release into their glorified cages. It’s a straightforward, almost serene beginning and soon lures you into a false sense of security.
While it looks like nothing can go wrong in these early stages, even we were surprised to see a usually nonthreatening herbivore tear through a fence and terrorise the guests, before being swiftly tranquilised by our helicopter-based on-site team. Turns out we’d neglected her social needs, and a creature so completely alone as only one separated from its own kind by 66 million years can be has every right to get upset.
This is where things start to snowball in complexity – you have to manage the needs of individual dinosaurs, you have to make sure there are fully equipped facilities on site to deal with anything that may arise, you have to research and upgrade your park and its attractions (ie dinosaurs), and you always have to remember that the entire point of this escapade is to make money. So build t-shirt shops.
It’s a lot to take in, and that’s before even thinking about the impact chaos can have on proceedings. A key tenet of the movie (and book) series, this underhanded blighter of a concept gets stuck in at times, bringing storms and sabotage your way, and threatening not just the simple running of your park but the human lives located inside it. Our experience with a herbivore escapee was one thing, but change that to a couple of Velociraptors and you’re talking a whole other level of threat.
And that’s the key thing – this isn’t a sedate, friendly, typical movie tie-in with no bite. It’s a proper management game from a developer with the chops to carry it off with gusto. It’s a game that you can play as a sandbox, where you can stick with the easier islands from earlier in the game and just build a haven for your peaceful beasts. But it’s also a game with a dark edge and a proclivity for escalation, should you take your eye off the ball – or dinos – for a time. Naturally there are no guarantees
Jurassic World Evolution will be a great game, and our time with it was both limited and from an early version. All the same, the ingredients are a fine mix – the right developer, the right genre, an incredible license – so our enthusiasm is high for this one. There are always going to be chaotic elements at work, trying to make sure things don’t come to pass as you expect them to – we’re hopeful in this particular instance the chaos will be looking the other way.
“A proper management game from a developer with the chops to do it”