Hold on to your butts, I'm going to review the game and its going to be a long one:
Lets just start by expressing the fact that I am a huge fan boy, and though I am in my 30's now, there is still a dinosaur kid from elementary school possessing my body. I cant explain how excited I was for Jurassic World Evolution, we've been waiting a long time for a follow up to Jurassic Park Operation Genesis. Luckily, but also sadly, that is exactly what we got.
"Luckily but sadly," you may be questioning how that could possible be in the same sentence. However, if you keep reading you'll see how I could say that and it make sense.
Lets start with all the great things, the graphics, Jeff Goldblum, the music, Bryce Dallas Howard, the nostalgia factor, the dinosaur sounds, and did I mention Jeff Goldblum? Honestly, the presentation of Jurassic World Evolution is amazing. The appearance of not only the dinosaurs but even the architecture and fences are ripped directly from the films in stunning glory. Even if you switch the settings to the lowest configuration you'll still be awed.
To add to this, even the menus used in game play have a very Jurassic Franchise feel, not to mention how easy it is to navigate the game's many, many menus. You'll be teleport-ed into Jurassic World's control room in essence, feeling as though the movie has come to life and you are managing computer systems at the park. (Also, developers, sell us a DLC that reskins the menus into a more Jurassic Park control room and computer system. I'll pay!)
Lets just wrap it up by saying, on the presentation, Jurassic World Evolution receives an A+ and some extra credit.
However, once you get past the sights and sounds, things start to go a little off track in many regards. While not horrible, its obvious Frontier hasn't quite nailed down the Tycoon style of game play despite having a few titles under their belt to include none other than Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. Speaking of which, a great game if you enjoy managing parks.
Game play gets a little . . . slow . . . boring... overly casual? I'm not sure what I'd like to label it, perhaps all three, but its far from great. At the beginning of your game play experience you'll likely be swept off your feet but it soon tinkers out slightly. Your income will be so slow to build up to purchase required items you may just get up walking away from your PC or Xbox (when its available on that platform) after you realize how long it takes to save up for a $400,000 Research Center. This is the price for just about all the required buildings like the Expedition Center (that sends out dig teams) and Fossil Center. These structure are required to progress and yet can take a massive amount of time to save up for as your income may only be $15,000 to $25,000 a minute. That is 16 real time minutes of waiting to amass the funds to purchase a required structure. I found myself going outside to smoke and even using the bathroom while I simply waited for these funds to build.
Now you may be thinking, perhaps he's not playing it correctly. Maybe his attractions just arent that great and so he doesnt get much money, however, a Ceratosaurus costs $550,000 to incubate when you've recovered 60% of its a DNA. Why mention this dinosaur? Well, its the first and only carnivore you'll get access to but more importantly it has a 74 attraction rating compared to say a Triceratops with 30 and other herbivores with even less. That Ceratosaurus is going to push up your park rating, draw more guests in, and in turn make you more cash than some other dinosaurs combined. Another consideration is that it seems, so far in my experience, no herbivore can be alone. They all require socialization with a member of the same species. This means even creating a herbivore is actually double the cost because you'll require two of each species to keep them contained and not running amok. Add onto this the massive expenses of doing anything, for example darting/tranquilizing an escaped dinosaur can cost you $20,000 or more depending on the species. Refilling a feeder can cost $20,000 to $120,000 depending how depleted it is. Dig sites require you pay each time you send a team, again ranging from $60,000 to $105,000 per run. Heck, even extracting the DNA from fossils will cost you $5,000 or more for each fossil, depending on the quality level.
You will eventually find yourself slowly increasing your funds and overcoming this obstacle, always being broke, and then far exceed it. See, Jurassic World takes a turn from slowly waiting to build funds to having so many available ($250,000 or even $350,000 a minute) you can nearly do whatever you want without hesitation, making the "no funds required" sandbox mode a little redundant. Once you get your park in order while struggling to expand and/or survive being poor, you'll reach a point in which you just create random dinosaurs in an enclosure to watch them duel.
All the while you're playing, you'll receive contracts from one of 3 branches within your company. Fulfill the requirements and you'll be rewarded cash as well as reputation within that field being Security, Science, or Entertainment. In theory it sounds like a good way to keep you goal oriented, but it misses the mark. First, why am I being paid by the divisions of my company to complete tasks, I manage the park so shouldnt I be setting their budget? Its something I can look past but in the realm of realism, its silly. Also, you'll get contracts that are bizarre or really unrewarding aside from the reputation points, for example:
My entertainment division offered me $100,000 to build a hotel for $750,000. In essence, they gave me a coupon for a free drink with my meal. At the time that contract was presented I couldnt afford a hotel, nor did I need one to expand the number of guests able to stay in my park. I, again, can look past this as it could be written off as the entertainment division offering to pay some of the cost of the hotel out of their budget, well more like repay a certain amount. However, it gets worse. You're security division will ask you to complete contracts that include requirements such as setting a dinosaur free in your park or battling a Dilophosaurs ($440,000 to incubate) and a Velociraptor ($660,000). In essence, please spend a $500,000 dollars on killing off assets that make you money. I find this pretty ridiculous. Now add to that the fact that if you complete a contract for any one division, your reputation with the other two drops. Doesnt seem like that big of deal, not until your own employees begin to sabotage your park by infecting your dinosaurs with diseases, opening gates, or turning off your power. This has to be the most cut throat company in the world considering people are willing to put tourists life at risks if you dare to help another branch of the company. Its just ridiculously silly. If i wanted to deal with that I'd go get with a psychotic, jealous ex partner. (Everyones either had or known someone who has, that crazy control freak significant other.)
Speaking of how oddly this company operates, lets dig a little deeper. I completed all my objectives to unlock the second island and eagerly loaded into the second island ready to see what new dinosaurs and attractions would be unlocked. I had 6 million dollars in the bank and all the research completed. With Matanceros complete, I jumped into Muerte. I had 2 million dollars, none of the buildings required to send out expeditions, collect DNA from fossils, or continue research. I had to build them all again in a nearly empty park. Though there were two paddocks pre-built, neither had a dinosaur inside. I carried over all my research to include the dinosaurs with their genome levels but basically had to start from scratch with the same dinosaurs I had just left and no support structures. Needles to say I was left in that slow build up mode, just waiting for enough funds to construct the basic buildings that enable you to do anything aside from watch the dinosaurs walk in circles for 16 minutes at a time. Again, I completed my objectives with enough points to move from Muerte to Tacano. Here I began with a main street much like that seen in Jurassic World, but -$800,000 in the hole. it was suggested I sell buildings to get the funds to start the park, buildings I hadnt yet unlocked or had access to at this point. Needless to say, I saved the game and began writing this (no I havent completed the game yet). Now, what I did realize while on Muerte was that I could go back to my original park on Matanceros and everything I unlocked on Muerte was available there. I researched every unlocked technology and flew my expedition teams out to the new dig sites. I gained some new dinosaurs, increased the genome levels of those I already had, and set myself up for success. I returned to Muerte as set as I could be, and simply waited for money. Its a very awkward system like that, a company that wont use money to expand their park but will let you use everything else. It just seems really unrealistic and unrefined as a gaming experience. Its just very awkward, to be able to share certain aspects like they do but not fully. The concept is sort of decent but just not to the level it could be. Why not allow me to borrow money from the first park to build the second? Its not as if every time someone expands a business they do so from scratch, instead they use the profits from their first store to build their second. Again, its just a strange and awkward to play a Tycoon style game.
Finally, the game play is just sort of mundane overall. The dinosaurs lack anything very exciting behaviorally, guests dont really count for much of anything unless they die (Which costs you money), and a lot of the experience of running the park is silly. For example, you must send out ranger teams to reload all your feeders by simply right clicking on them. However, the jeeps and the rangers inside are immune to damage or death. In fact, your employees never seem to be in any real danger unless you take control in the third person perspective. Carnivores will chase your jeep, awkwardly due to poor AI patching, but again you wont be damaged. Speaking of the third person manual control, its pretty horrible. The jeep drives like it belongs in some other sort of game. The momentum and crazy turning radius are just out of control. You cant stop quickly and your jeep always wants to drive 100mph every where, its just silly. The helicopter is somewhat better though. Also, the manual control of darting the animals to tranquilize them is odd, the dart falls insanely fast while the reload (despite upgrading the reload time) is very slow. Its like implementing a horribly bad first person shooter into a strategy game, its clunky and sluggish. Its actually easier to simply have your AI handle break outs.
Oh, one last thing, buildings like the Clothing and Gift Shop are either bugged or one of the most horrible aspects of the game. They dont add any real income, instead costing you a considerable amount to run, but do make guests happier. After placing a fast food joint and gift shop on Muerte, I had to crank up the cost of a 6 dollar meal to 52 dollars in order to break even. A $10 barbosall can trinket had to be set a similar price to keep the shop from costing me money. As my park rating grew, I was able to drop the prices into the 26 dollar range to simply keep running expenses at zero but make no profit. There seems to be some bizarre economic system at work on Los Cinco Muertes that makes little to no sense but somehow makes your patrons happy.
Needless to say, I've spent every available minute playing the game. I love it but because Im a fan boy of Jurassic Park/World. Despite the rather mundane game play, I cant help but to want to keep going, to see every feature. However, as a Tycoon style game fan, I find myself feeling like this is little more than a graphically enhanced JPOG. As a huge fan of Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 and 3, as well as Zoo Tycoon 2, I find myself more drawn to play those games now, games in which I can build my own buildings from scratch, I can place individual trees and flower gardens, and my animals require more than a certain ratio of trees and one social friend of the same species to remain happy. Dont misunderstand me, JPOG and Jurassic World Evolution are great games in a certain measure, but in others both are lacking. Mind you, I skipped out on mentioning a lot of things I've seen complained about, like how no matter the fence type, even the most advance fence seems to be made of wet paper. These are just issues that really stick out to me.
My final verdicts:
Fan Boys - Rejoice! We have an updated JPOG that delivers beautifully in ascetics and nostalgia. If you love the Jurassic Franchise, this game is a must and no matter the little issues, you're going to see right past them and play to your hearts content. Enjoy!
Tycoon Fans: Wait and see what happens. You'll feel like your simply playing an early 90's Tyooon/Park Simulation game with a real lack of features and no polish outside what looks and sounds good. I see a ton of potential but that doesnt mean it will be capitalized on. You may still enjoy the game but, dont expect anything to exceptional from it aside from a really easy to navigate menu system.
Casual Gamers that might just want to give it a try: For the price, I would probably find something else. Moving from something like Call of Duty, Fortnite, PUBG, or most any other game isnt going to leave you happy with this purchase. There just isnt a lot to do for those that arent fans of the franchise or the game style.
Jurassic Role Play: Live The Legend Redux