Reviewed on the PlayStation 4, purchased copy.
“Do you remember the first time you saw a Dinosaur?” These words were uttered in the official Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom trailer by Claire Daring. Since then I have taken these words to heart in order to apply it towards my review of Frontier Development’s Jurassic World Evolution. This ambitious title is the organic successor to the ever popular, Jurassic Park Operation Genesis (JPOG from here on out). It takes us back to the wonder, excitement and amazement we all felt upon seeing John Hammond’s original, Jurassic Park. The power they wield is a magnificent one and doesn’t come without failure. Is Jurassic World Evolution a beautiful new entry or is it an utter failure?
The gameplay is a cut above everything else we’ve had since the original releases of JPOG. That was over 15 years ago and I have got to say- it certainly has improved; drastically. The aesthetic and ambiance are magnificently increased with this entry. Using a customized variant of the Cobra engine, last seen in Frontier’s Planet Coaster. It is stunningly beautiful and frankly speaking it is just dazzling on the eyes. The system, on my 2015 PlayStation 4 is absolutely smooth, although not without issue. Terrain adjustments are here but they aren’t as flexible, creating outlandish looking hills which the paths sometimes don’t work around. Good thing everyone of your park guests participates in leg day. I have noticed performance stutters when using the terrain edit tool, it’s most obvious when you have guest walking by as they tend to freeze in place for a split moment. Still it is massively impressive seeing how great the game runs on a stock PlayStation 4.
That being said I have experienced sections of massive lag, almost where the game seems to be struggling to show everything on screen. Out of my 28 hours of play I have yet to see it again. Whether that was due to me live streaming, I am not 100% sure. The core bulk of the gameplay experience eis centered around the Five Deaths (Las Cinco Muertes) plus Isla Nublar. Each island offers a different scenario and opens up more of the games punishing mechanics i.e. tornadoes or hurricanes. These can quickly sink a park, as seen with the official and unscripted Frontier Live Stream yesterday at E3. These mechanics add layers to your gameplay to encourage planning and managing chaos on the fly.
The Dinosaurs are of course the stars of the show so as such they have to be a believable addition to our Jurassic World’s. I’m thankful to say that this is fully achieved. The look and feel of said creatures is absolutely one to one with the film’s. The majesty of the largest Brachiosaurus to the sleek and elegant Struthiomimus is evident through the animation work that has been done with them. Each creature has a weight to them seen only in modern mammalia. Each one is model after latest scientific finds, while also still holding true to the standards set with Jurassic Park. The cinematography aspect to them is just as important as the scientific backing behind these ancient beings.
Nick Rodgers leads the animation team with the tall task of giving life to these virtual beings. I would dare to argue that this is wholly achieved by the firm dedication of the animation staff at Frontier Development. They have such a character to them that players will fall in absolute love with them each time they are released from your Hammond Creation Lab. While the initial majesty is indeed overwhelming, there are still some slight issues that will need future addressal. Issues that stem from a lack of herding mechanics to reused animation assets can present a sense of sameness to the larger title. This becomes more prevalent when you sit and stare at your creatures. They often mimic each other’s animations and while animations are there for grazing, it does nothing to sate their appetite.
While this issue for me is an entirely miniscule one, I know many players have voiced their frustrations on the matter. With that being said, Frontier has been quite vocal with the community about continual support for the title well beyond release. So these small issues, may very well be addressed in future patches; potentially. For the current time being these are some glaring daggers for some players within the community and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Take the size of the Spinosaurus as an example of how angered the fan base can get. That and the lacking herd mechanics, fleeing and general variation of creature interactions are among the biggest issues for players.
The longevity of play is something if another matter entirely. A game that can only be played for few hours is hardly a game at all. Thankfully, providing you favor management simulations like I do, then you will find a ocean of countless hours. Perfecting each island will add a layer of replayability and the Isla Nublar sandbox opens the door to infinite park layouts. Now of course redundancy, same buildings and such, will present an ever gnawing factor to most players. The game sadly lacks the customization that Planet Coaster offered, but that’s alright. The main attraction in this game are the Dinosaurs, not the stores. Their variation is outstanding, especially when you add on a genetically modified skin on top of them. While variation of Dinosaur is King here, building variance is not. Again a disappointing addition, but for myself it is far from a hindrance.
I would enjoy seeing support of additional avenues of attraction later down the road. Whether that be a throw back DLC to the old Ford Explorer based tour or maybe a classic building pack for use on Isla Nublar. There is a ton of room for potential expansion, it really relies on Universal’s cooperation in that matter however. The one who holds the license work, controls the addition of liscensed assets. Still Frontier has a delightful track record in bringing both new and unusual support for their titles and this is a company that really cares about the games they make. Bear in mind that long gameplay and periods of waiting are almost a necessity when taking into account the nature of ‘tycoon’ style of game. If you aren’t making fat stacks, don’t worry about it. The name of the game here is patience.
Contracts and missions are what make up the bulk of your narration and provide you with a set of redundant challenges, often giving you an item or lump sum reward. This is critical in early gameplay for the player to get better buildings (i.e. medium or large power stations) or faster dig speed or research. It’s all a balancing act between the divisions too (Entertainment, Science and Security) as favoring one over the others will spell dissent and sabotage. These variables are but a hinderance on your overall progression through the game and they will stay present, long into your second or third play through.
In conclusion, Jurassic World Evolution brings back the charm of running your very own Jurassic World. With cheerful nods to older games and movies, plus free DLC on the way-the game is surely shaping up. What I would love to see implemented to the game is a suite of quality of life improvements. Things like being able to entirely rename food and shop items. These tiny, minute additions will go a long way in providing the players a larger sense of personalization and care over their park. Better optimization for core consoles is also on this list, I would love to see how the game actually performs on consoles like the PS4 Pro. Some limitations of core gaming consoles have to be taken into consideration here as nothing will compare to a PC running this game. With that being said, Frontier has made an impressive leap in performance support and stability for consoles.
All gameplay related videos are courtesy of BestInSlot. Please give this lady a follow and a shout out for letting me use hit footage for this review! The game is now available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One!
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