Interest in dinosaurs is at times considered a childish pursuit. Dinosaur movies are predominantly aimed at a younger audience. That does not stop me from absolutely loving the fossils out of the Jurassic Park/World series… scientific inaccuracies and all.
Now, I am not an ‘active’ gamer… the quotes are because I do play games a lot but not much of which involves a lot of combat/driving around for my character(s). Squishing multiple keys on the gamepad or key-combos on the keyboard isn’t really my forte. I am too old for that but even before that, I have been more of a fan of RTS and simulation games and management tycoon sort of games.
I was super excited when I saw the game Jurassic World: Evolution on Steam the other day. It had been launched a while back and by now it has a few patches and DLCs to its name. I also realised that it has quite a cult following in the paleo-gaming world. 😀
Jurassic World: Evolution is a simulation game involving the creation of a park with dinosaurs and then managing the park. Frontier, the game developers have worked closely with Universal Studios to match the dinosaurs to the film series. Most of the aspects of the game line-up with the films, especially the Jurassic World series. We even have the very quote-worthy Ian Malcolm voiced by Jeff Goldblum in the game… so is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the eccentric Dr Henry Wu (a laconic B.D. Wong). Owen Grady is there in likeness but is voiced by A.J. LoCascio. The use of licensed music adds to the whole ‘am in the movie’ feel.
The game is set in Las Cinco Muertes (The Five Deaths) of the Jurassic canon – Cinco Muertes is composed of five main islands forming a long crescent. From north to south, the islands are Isla Matanceros, Isla Muerta, Isla Sorna, Isla Tacaño, and Isla Pena. From the DLC – Secrets of Dr Wu – there are a couple of hidden areas, one is Muerta East in Isla Muerta and the other is the Tacano Research Facility.
The whole idea of the game is to get your park to a 5-star rating, keeping the dinosaurs and people happy. Each island has a separate park.
The game has two modes – a campaign mode and a challenge mode. The challenge mode has difficulty levels ranging from Easy to Jurassic and you unlock certain dinosaur skins for completing them. These skins are otherwise unavailable.
The campaign mode is the more laidback form of play. You start with Isla Muerta where you get a tiny on the job training to start you off and soon you are on your own. There are three departments – Science, Entertainment & Security, whose Heads give you optional contracts and mandatory missions. The contracts earn you cash and reputation ‘rep’ with the management. Higher your rep with a department, the less likely that they sabotage your efforts to run the park. You also get loyalty bonuses if you keep favouring a particular department, of course, at the risk of being sabotaged by the others.
The missions are mandatory and reward you with certain fossils, buildings, genetic research items etc. which are required to complete the game. The campaign mode at times requires you to jump island to island to get some of the things you might need to complete missions.
You unlock dig-sites (that exist in real life) and collect fossils by sending out expeditions. DNA is then extracted from these fossils to complete the genome of a dinosaur. Once you have a viable genome (50% complete) you can create that dinosaur, but if you need to modify your genome it is better to first complete the genome because it gives you more room to play with the viability.
Each island comes with its own backstory, some pre-built buildings and its own challenges in the form of space constraints, terrain constraints and even weather threats. There are some lovely storms and twisters which are a delight to watch even when they endanger your dinosaurs and guests and inevitably dent your ratings.
The Challenge Mode has no missions but the three departments will give you contracts which are not optional. You would need to pay to cancel them. This is at times an issue because each island in Challenge mode starts with a sum of money in your account and if you are not careful you could soon go bankrupt and fail the challenge. Also, each island starts from scratch in this mode with no buildings and no research completed. You try to get the park to 5-stars as early as possible in this mode, preferably under the par time.
The game has a sandbox mode on Isla Nublar which unlocks when you reach 3 stars on Isla Matanceros. Here you have no budget limitations and you can have all sorts of fun with the park design. Everything you unlock or research on the campaign islands will be available on Isla Nublar. Nublar also has a whole set of special sandbox settings to play around with including a day-night cycle. The day-night cycle settings on the other islands are available only when you have attained 5-stars on all the other islands – otherwise, they have default time settings, for example, Isla Pena conducts operations only at night-time.
The game is absolutely gorgeous. The dinosaurs may not all be scientifically accurate, but they follow the film franchise and they have had scientific advisors for the development. The animal behaviours and animations are really something you would enjoy watching.
The game does have some issues especially the lack of park decorations, considering that it is, after all, a park tycoon of sorts with dinosaurs, of course.
All in all, if you love the movies and you love the Jurassic franchise then you would absolutely love this game… provided you play games.