So recently there was a new Jurassic Park movie. This piece isn’t about that. This is about the tie-in game: Jurassic World Evolution. Jurassic World Evolution is a Jurassic Park theme park builder game. Those of you who have been around a while may remember that I’ve expressed my fondness for Jurassic Park Operation Genesis in the past. That game was also a Jurassic Park builder. While I am enjoying the new game, I do have some issues that I’ll explain by comparing the older game and the newer game. Hopefully, the developers of Jurassic World Evolution have plans to expand on the game and address some of the critiques of its shallow aspects. In that regard, this comparison might point them in the right direction.
Jurassic Park Operation Genesis begins with John Hammond announcing that you work for inGen and you are given the opportunity to shape the island that will house your Jurassic Park by adjusting land mass, foliage, rivers and mountains. While decidedly anti-canon that inGen can create islands, it does give you a sense of ownership over the island. Jurassic World Evolution starts you on one of the five islands from the films. Isla Nublar (location of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Isla Sorna (location of Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III) come later in the game. You begin on Isla Matanceros with basic park functions and buildings active. The game certainly allows you to build on top of existing infrastructure. However, it’s hard to feel ownership over this particular set-up. You feel like incoming management rather than building it from scratch.
You think the game will start proper on Isla Nublar. It does not. Isla Nublar is a sandbox with unlimited money. What I wanted from this game would be a system similar to Jurassic Park Operation Genesis. I want to build the park from scratch and make it mine. I want to start with a small investment and turn that into a running and profitable park. Instead, I feel guided around something that I don’t feel ownership over. It feels like I’m inheriting something that I didn’t earn. Appropriate that it’s named after Jurassic World rather than Jurassic Park then.
That does seem rather bleak for the game. I do like the game. It’s building elements and DNA meddling that you can do are genuinely genius ideas. They feel like an evolution from the geometric squares of the previous game. I’m willing to bet that a deeper delve would reveal a wealth of dinosaurs. However, the island-hopping nature of the game leaves me feeling detached from my creations. Building a Jurassic Park is about more than just creating a playpen for dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs and building a successful park. However, part of the appeal of the game is feeling a sense of ownership over the park as it develops. I want to feel like a John Hammond. I want to get giddy when I release my first T-Rex because I brought it to fruition.
Jurassic World Evolution has another element that I don’t think is fully explored. This element has no comparison in Jurassic Park Operation Genesis. Jurassic World Evolution has three factions that you can earn favour with: Science, Entertainment, and Military. In the game itself, you merely increase reputation with them to unlock buildings that relate to their field. However, the path I thought the game was going to take was that you could alter the dinosaurs to fit these moulds. With science, dinosaurs begin to look more like our modern research suggests they look like, feathered and such. With entertainment, they look most like the public thinks they look like. With military, they all begin to look dangerous. That way you could choose a path and it could feel meaningful.
This is my big issue with Jurassic World Evolution. While it is an enjoyable game, it feels like it never achieves it’s potential. It feels like there was potential to create a game that had meaningful choices and polish. At the moment, the game feels shallow. I think Dr Ian Malcolm put it best in 1993.
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