If you’re into simulation games, then there are high chances that you had heard about the tycoon games. Tycoon games put you in charge of a zoo, theme park, amusement park, farm, hospital, and so on. Guess whose name pops up in the Credits screen in most tycoon games? Frontier Developments. Frontier Developments has been the pioneer in the development of simulation games since the dawn of time itself. And this year, they strike back with another new title in the genre, which is none other than Jurassic World : Evolution.
Jurassic World Evolution puts you in command of a “jurassic park”, or rather, an island designed to be a holiday destination for millions who are invited to have a look at extinct animals inside their enclosures. Jurassic World Evolution came out on June 12,2018 and is developed and published by Frontier Developments. The game is available for purchase on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Jurassic World Evolution
The game is playable only in singleplayer mode. There is no form of multiplayer, not even co-op island management. This was a traditional features of the tycoon games back in the day, and it’s good to see that Frontier Developments does not forget tradition when it comes to the developing a simulation game.
The lack of an outright “Freeplay” mode where you design a Jurassic Park without any external interference, is quite noticeable. Apparently, out of the 5 islands in the archipelago, achieving a high enough rating on Isla Matanceros unlocks Isla Nublar, the island where the first dinosaur was brought back to life. Isla Nublar is the sandbox mode of Jurassic World : Evolution, and sadly has the same space constraints as the rest, though you are free from external interference from the several divisions of the Park, who keep bothering you for side missions. “Unlocking” sandbox mode? Really Frontier Developments?
Jurassic World : Evolution is a collaboration of Frontier Developments and Universal Studios, where one is placed in charge of one of the five Jurassic Parks developed by the Hammond Corporation as a scientific research facility for bringing extinct creatures back from the dead, and later as a holiday retreat. The game borrows heavily from the narrative of the Jurassic Park films. The game also features some prominent figures from the films,like Claire, Owen and Dr. Malcolm.
You’re tasked with bringing back extinct creatures, or in simpler terms, the dinosaurs, back from the dead. There are several game mechanics which allow you to bring back fossilized remains of dead dinosaurs and recreate them artificially in the laboratory (and yet it somehow involves “hatching” of eggs, despite the process of creation being described as artificial).
Expeditions and Recreations
The Expedition Center allows you to send Expedition teams to collect fossils from different parts of the world. The expedition brings back a number of fossils (which varies from time to time, most of the time the expedition team brings back 2-3 fossils). Fossils are studied, and their genome data are added to the database in the Fossil Center. While studying fossils, some of them might not contain dinosaur remains, and the only use for such fossils is selling them in the international market (which earns you $$$, one of the only resources in Jurassic World Evolution). The quality of the remains determines how much genome data can be obtained from it. If you’re short on cash, expeditions can prove to be a viable money maker too, assuming that it returns fossils of a decent quality, since any fossil obtained from an expedition can be sold. Yup, you can sell dinosaurs too, and possibly even release a few velociraptors or dilophosaurs to trap your guests and sell them as well .That is, if Hammond decided to go into overdrive to fulfill his dreams of bringing back every dinosaur possible (or atleast 42 dinosaurs, according to the game).
Exhibits (or Enclosures)
The Jurassic Park is basically a zoo with the basic difference being that the creatures are much more hostile and need special equipment as well as trained rangers to be dealt with. You lay down fences, put in a few gates so that the zookeepers, or the rangers in Jurassic Park terminology, can get to the dinosaurs and treat them if they’re ill, or just refill their stocks of food. The bigger the enclosure, more the number of dinosaurs you can keep. As you advance through the game, you get to unlock stuff like Viewing Towers, Viewing Platforms for allowing your guests a better view at the extinct animals roaming around in an enclosure, advanced fences for keeping in more unruly dinosaurs, like Electric Fences as well as Heavy and Light fences, depending on the dinosaur it is going to hold. Ever enclosure needs an attached Hammond Creation Lab, which is used for hatching dinosaur eggs of species with atleast 50% genome data. Depending on your luck, the dinosaur egg will die during the process of incubation, or survive to yield a living dinosaur. In order to change the characteristics of the dinosaur to be hatched, you can replace missing genome data with genes of other animals, which improves certain traits of the dinosaur.
Ranger and ACU Teams
Guests love watching dinosaurs – only while they’re inside their enclosures. In case of a breakout, specialized ACU teams are ready to tranquilize the dinosaurs running amok in the Park. Transport teams with special equipment are used for transporting the creatures back to their enclosures, while rangers take care of the structural damages. The only thing which seems kinda amiss is that when rangers actually repair structural damages, the building starts automatically repairing itself without any interference. In other words, you can’t see the rangers repairing it – they come, do some magical mumbo-jumbo, and that’s that. The Park’s system could have been fully automated, but in that case it would not have required the player’s attention in case of a breakout. The animation is pretty weird in case of healing injured or sick dinosaurs or refilling the food stocks too. Atleast the ACU teams can be seen shooting tranquilizer darts!
Dinosaurs have certain needs regarding the environment, as well as in terms of company of other dinosaurs of the same species. They need food and water for survival too. What’s prominently missing from a simulator of this kind is the ability to create various types of environments – savannah, grassland, rainforest, arctic and so on. The only categories, according to the dinosaur’s needs is forest,grassland, and water. Even the terraforming tools allotted are lacklustre, as they only allow addition or removal of forests or grasslands or addition or removal of water, and a few adjustments to slope elevation. The need for companionship is a decent idea since most dinosaurs, especially the smaller ones, prefer to move together, in packs. However, the concept of dinosaur genders, which could have been done for reproduction, and also cute baby dinosaurs, was lacking. In fact, I was surprised when I clicked on the first Triceratops I hatched – there was nothing to suggest anything remotely close to gender. It may sound extremely weird, but reproduction and the existence of two genders would have added a strategic layer to gameplay. Or maybe the Science Division isn’t so bright to bring back full mating dinosaurs after all.
Guest specializations are added to the Park to help the guests get rid of their hard earned money. Toy Shops, Gift Shops, Fast Food Shops, Cloth Shops are some ways to ensure guests spend their money in the Park. Hotels allow guests to stay in the Park for another day, and is an useful way for increasing the guest capacity of the Park. Emergency Shelters help the player contain the guests in case of violent weather or a dino rampage. Or simply construct means of transport,like the Monorail, for your guests to move from one part of the island to another easily. One prominent feature that I would have liked was to check out how each guest was feeling, but there is no way to determine that. You get an aggregated version of their thoughts in the Island Management screen.
The Five Deaths, or the five islands which are marked for the Jurassic World projects, themselves are extremely susceptible to occasional violent weather. Violent weather disturbs the dinosaurs’ mental equilibrium, who cannot quickly escape to artificial shelters because the game doesn’t allow construction of shelters for dinosaurs for some unknown reason. An angry dinosaur is more likely to break out of their enclosure. The islands are also extremely limited in space,limiting the number of exhibits in the Park. This does add a strategic depth to managing creature variety in that small area, but it does limit player freedom.
The Research Center allows you to research technologies and make dynamic scientific progress. This means that technologies researched on one island carries over to the others. Research new guest specializations, improvements for your ranger and ACU teams, new and better enclosures, new genes for replacing the missing gene data in the dinosaurs, or new ways of treating sick dinosaurs. In order to keep your Park running to maximum capacity, scientific progress is necessary. Without scientific progress, you, as a manager, cannot prevent dinosaurs from dying from unknown diseases, improve their characteristics, or simply find out sneaky ways of ensuring guests spend their money in the Park.
Power and Money
Everything on the Park needs Power and Money to function. Power Stations and sub stations ensure that power reaches the corners of the island. Power is one of the important resources in Jurassic World : Evolution, as without power, the game kind of comes to a standstill. Electric fences, doors, buildings – everything stop functioning. And a malfunctioning enclosure means a mass dinosaur breakout is just moments away. Money is generated from ticket sales as well as guests’ spending in shops, hotels, etc. Staff payments, research and expedition funding – everything comes from the Park’s fund, so it is necessary to keep a green cashflow at all times, or ensuring that whatever you spend is lesser than whatever your earn. Sadly, the game lacks complexity here too, as it is very easy to maintain a positive balance. Or maybe the tickets are so insanely high priced that every industrialist and superstar in the world decides to blow their monthly savings in the Park. Because most of your revenue comes from ticket sales, anyways.
Factions and Contracts
There are three Divisions operating in the Jurassic Park – the Science Division, led by Kajal Dua, the Security Division, led by George Lambert, and the Entertainment Division, led by Isaac Clement. Contracts completed for the Divisions increase their respect for you, besides granting you a steady amount of cash and technologies in reward for your efforts.
The game does allow some degree of micromanagement, as you can monitor island finances, the island rating, guest happiness, guest satisfaction with the various aspects of the Jurassic Park in order to react accordingly, and capitalize on their needs to improve the rating of the island. The higher the rating, the better, because it is necessary to progress to the next Island.
You can also see the spread of the power around the sub stations, the revenue generated by each building, as well as expenses through the in-game menu. The map is another viable way to jump to faults which damage the reputation of the park, like an unpowered facility, or an open enclosure, or a sick or dead dinosaur. The micromanagement options are pretty decent, but sadly, there is little to no difficulty in establishing a viable island with a positive cashflow. In my playthrough, there were very few times the cashflow was negative, which also points out the lack of difficulty options for customizing your experience.
The game also allows you to take control of the ranger or ACU teams and manually do the work they would do. Tranquilize escaped or rampaging dinosaurs, refill the stocks of food, treat injured or sick dinosaurs, or repair damaged facilities manually. The possibilities are endless. You can also take pictures of dinosaurs, which also adds to your revenue.
Graphics and Optimization
The game’s graphics is one of the areas where it truly scores. The game is beautifully designed, with realistic foliage as well as building textures. The game has a pretty huge draw distance, which allows you to zoom in close and see what the dinosaurs, your guests, or your staff might be doing. The dinosaurs in particular, are pretty well designed, and their behaviour is well scripted too, making them feel like they’re real dinosaurs.
The game was run on the following system :
CPU : AMD FX 8320
GPU : GTX 660
RAM : 6GB DDR3
The game ran without frame drops on medium-high settings, with small drops in high. Considering such a decent framerate on such an old machine, the game is really optimized well.
Sound and Music
The game’s sounds are pretty realistic, and even better if you experience them using a headset. Hear your chopper carrying out your Expedition team in search of new fossils. Hear the dinosaur’s sounds as they move about in their enclosure. Hear the wheels of the ranger team making their way to refill the automated food trays in the enclosures. Everything feels realistic, like the Jurassic Park films.
The game uses the same track as the Jurassic Park films. The track makes you fall in love with the dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park even as you admire how dangerous they might be up close, sharing John Hammond’s passion for bringing them back from extinction.
The game isn’t really a bad one, but considering the profound lack of features that any mainstream simulation game should have, the price tag isn’t worth it. Definitely worth getting in a sale if you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park series, and of the simulation genre in general, or are trying to get into it.