Builders are genre that this writer is fond of. From the first time I picked up Theme Park on PlayStation to reviewing Cities: Skylines for my other job and the bigger builders in-between, the genre tickles my narcissism like no other. Except god-sims obviously. As a builder based on a beloved dino-horror franchise, Jurassic World Evolution should be my thing.
The first problem a player will notice is how much work goes into a single dinosaur. Not literal work, just clicking stuff dozens of times after arbitrary waiting times
“Welcome to Jurassic Park”
JWE is visually and aurally impressive. The menus, music and in-game interface are all excellent. Refined, laden with licensed detail and seamlessly executed. The in-game graphics are also of high-quality with special care taken with the stars of the show, the dinosaurs themselves.
The build system, while very derivative, is simple to utilise. The tutorial is as long as it needs to be and leads into a viable game so you don’t feel like you have wasted a quarter-hour. Paths, power lines and substations are all easy to lay down and connect. There are no mysteries in Jurassic World Evolution; players are given excellent info in real-time. Menus for in-depth stats and analysis are easy to navigate and the information is usually useful.
The game itself is simple. Link a monorail station to a pathway system, build amenities and utilites, power everything. Of course, a player will also need to build something to see.
For the first few minutes, a player will be forced to save up for amenities while dinosaurs are being researched and that is height of the economic difficulties in JWE
The first problem a player will notice is how much work goes into a single dinosaur. Not literal work, just clicking stuff dozens of times after arbitrary waiting times. This mechanic is dressed up as discovering dig-sites, digging there and extracting dinosaur DNA but it’s so obviously a method of prolonging the game’s meagre challenge.
The fashion in which dinosaurs are unlocked is very restrictive. It will take many hours of an unsatisfying and unchanging game-cycle to unlock a few dinosaurs and, of course, the best-known ones are doled out every few hours to try string players along.
Like the bus constantly pulling to the side on Desert Bus; the devs decided that dinosaurs will fight or get depressed constantly
For the first few minutes, a player will be forced to save up for amenities while dinosaurs are being researched and that is height of the economic difficulties in JWE. Patience will make you all the money you need – during my inexplicable 50+ hours with the game, I cannot remember making a loss. Only by omitting to build a single dinosaur could I imagine a player dipping into the red.
I often let the park return to nature, just for the craic. When I returned there were human corpses and quite a few velociraptors dead strewn upon the footpaths yet my 1.5 star rated park continued to make money.
Players are never really held accountable for negligence. Rather than being penalised for allowing someone to be ripped in half by a triceratops, players are rewarded for people not dying by giving them a measly few bob. Keeping the body count under a certain number even counts towards fulfilling a park specialist task.
Similarly, the park’s patrons aren’t fussy at all. Once you have dinosaurs and can fit the punters in, they will keep coming. Rather than leave angrily for a lack of facilities, they simply reward you for offering stuff by buying whatever food, drink and souvenirs you decide to eventually build. It really feels like whatever hare-brained schemed you hatch to make money will definitely make money.
This combination of economic easiness and lack of real penalty in a builder is unforgivable.
Players could just walk away, come back every few hours to click along the dinosaur acquisition and amass all the wealth a 64-bit integer can hold
Similarities to Desert Bus
If I had gone to bed with my park humming along as it usually does, I would be confident I could wake up to a small fortune were it not for the periodically-dispensed tedium. Like the bus constantly pulling to the side on Desert Bus; the devs decided that dinosaurs will fight or get depressed and try break out constantly. It feels artificial and yes, I acknowledge that this is a video game about dinosaurs.
One doesn’t have to be cynical to see why strong walls to keep moderately-sized dinosaurs comfortably penned aren’t unlocked for what feels like days. Players could just walk away, come back every few hours to click along the dinosaur acquisition menu and amass all the wealth a 64-bit integer can hold.
Unlocking islands seems like a fun diversion until you realise it’s just a menu. You have to unlock more difficult islands and the sandbox island. That means that whichever type of game you choose to play when you unlock all islands, you will be on the same island as per that particular mode.
The game also lacks a fast-forward option – this is borderline criminal in a game as languid as JWE.
Not an Insult to Children but…
Jurassic World Evolution is for children. While it’s wholly expected that grown men and women will like messing around with dinosaurs for a bit, this game is just not deep enough. The countless hours one has to slog through to get one more dinosaur is seldom worth it.
There is also a dearth of things to concern a park owner. It’s all just a matter of attracting larger numbers of tourists and milking them. There is nothing wrong with a simple mission statement like this, it has worked before.
But aforementioned Theme Park let you adjust salt content to thirst a few bucks from people. Rollercoaster Tycoon had relatively complex economic systems to support the coaster challenge. JWE just doesn’t make you work for anything.
Only God-Sims Can Judge Me
Jurassic World Evolution gets so many superficial things right but fails to maintain any level of challenge. In the face of sheer boredom while waiting for the next dinosaur or island to unlock, JWE loses any real reason to play.
Often the least-penetrable genre, builders that stand the test of time tend to be intuitive but difficult in the medium-to-long term. Jurassic World Evolution aims to be too accessible and forgets that an emergent challenge is one of the reasons that builders are played for years after release.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on Pro), Xbox One, Steam
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: 03/07/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 16+