For those who grew up with dream of running their own Jurassic Park or just wanted a well put together Jurassic Park video game, Frontier Development’s Jurassic World: Evolution is a solid realization of that dream and perhaps the best use of the license in a video game. While it may lack depth and creative building opportunities for players, Jurassic World: Evolution gives you the chance to manipulate life once thought extinct.
Chaos Theory tells us that life finds a way. Those familiar with the Jurassic Park films will know that life usually finds a way thanks to scientific breakthroughs funded and motivated by capitalistic greed, and Jurassic World: Evolution allows players to take part in this cycle by asking them to create five functional and profitable parks on five islands: The Islands of Death. On this adventure you will also have characters from the films communicate with you to give you advice, with only Jeff Goldblum returning to reprise his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm. Yes, he absolutely nails it here at and adds a distinct flavor to the game.
To make a good park you need dinosaurs, and to make dinosaurs you will need to send expedition teams across the world dig up and discover genome samples. Once you have at least 50% of a desired dinosaur genome, from over 40 different types to discover, you can get to cooking. Dilophosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor and more are here to choose from. Each dinosaur has specific behaviors and needs that have to be taken into account if you want to house them safely. It can be difficult to prepare for what that dinosaur is going to need ahead of time and often you won’t know until you incubate and release them; this is minorly frustrating. Since these dinosaurs aren’t one hundred percent natural, you can also splice in different genomes to affect traits of your dinosaurs and make them bigger attractions to get more guests. Like a zoo, having a variety of dinosaurs is an essential key to your park’s success.
Of course no operation is sustainable without capital, and one of Evolution’s main ways of measuring progress, that will also get you the funding, is its contract system. This system has you doing tasks for the science, entertainment, and security divisions of each park. These assignments vary; the science division may want you to breed a dinosaur with an 80% genome or security may motivate you to open the gate and let a triceratops loose in the name of testing security. Accomplishing these contracts gives you cash, but also unlocks new buildings, upgrades, and more. Keeping every department satisfied and happy with you is meant to make you think about which contracts to take on, but I never found an issue choosing one over the other apart from missing out on some unlockables.
An issue I kept coming across with these contracts is that the way the game balances the difficulty of contracts assigned always feels off. At best, when I was far along with my park I would get a contract that was way too easy to accomplish and felt more appropriate for a player just starting off, and at worst I would get a contract early into a new park where there was no way I could reasonably accomplish it in my current status in the game. When you have no contracts that you’re working towards finishing, you suddenly have lost a major revenue stream which then limits what you can do around the park. When I found myself in these situations, I just sat around and waited to get enough cash through ticket sales or found other, less effective, ways of getting money.
Evolution also measures progression through a five star ratings system, which is affected by things such as accommodations, park safety, and dinosaur variety. After reaching a certain number of stars on each island, a new one appears. Each island has their own weather, objectives, and specialties. You can even revisit the failed island from Jurassic World and pick up the pieces to try and make it work under your watchful eye. An unlockable sandbox island where you have unlimited resources and can manipulate the weather is also available.
In the early hours of Evolution I spent it trying to fully understand the elements that would lead to success and enjoyed my time with my dinosaurs. There’s something almost magical the first time you incubate a creature and then release it. By creating a ranger station to attend to tasks around your park, you can also get up close and personal with your attractions by taking control of a ranger crew to take photos, distribute medical care, and just roam around your park. You can also fly around a helicopter through taking control of your security team. These aspects of Evolution are very bare bones, but it allows you to get a close look at your park and helps give it the feeling of an actual place. Playing a PlayStation 4 Pro, Jurassic World: Evolution also looks really sharp and detailed without sacrificing performance. There’s plenty of pop-in textures and shadows, but I expected that in a game where you always have an aerial view of a large park. After getting over the learning curve and once the miracle of creating life becomes pedestrian, you quickly realize the limitations of Jurassic World: Evolution.
Each island you unlock is isolated, meaning they do not communicate with each other and more importantly do not share revenue or contracts. This leads to situations where you may have over $10 million dollars on one island, but only a few thousand dollars on the next, meaning you’re starting from scratch multiple times. Some things are shared, such as unlockables, and you can research new unlockables on one island that can be used on another, but that doesn’t make this any less annoying. This makes the islands feel less like neighbors and more like separate individual levels and it also takes away the fantasy of feeling like you are a Jurassic Park tycoon.
What you can do on these islands also have their limits. While each island provides enough space to make moderately sized parks, you’ll often find yourself butting against many invisible walls when you get high ambitions or are struck with creativity. The island from Jurassic World is one of the biggest, but that’s primarily because this is the island where you’re motivated to install the Gyrospheres seen in the film the island is based on. Those Gyrospheres are also one of the most creative and fun things you can fill your park with, as there isn’t a lot unique things to fill parks or ways to customize what is made available, although I do enjoy charging folks $12 for Dino Bites that cost me $2. I played Jurassic World: Evolution on console, but it’s disappointing to hear that there is no mod support for the game for those playing on PC. There are no future plans for it either. Letting the community get creative with their own works really could spice the game up.
While a lot of the entertainment to be had in Jurassic World: Evolution is on the surface, I keep coming back to how fun and novel the fantasy of running your own Jurassic Park is. It’s limited in scope, but it’s great to see a talented and experienced team like Frontier Developments, whose credits include Rollercoaster Tycoon, to get a full-blown opportunity to do right by this license. If given another opportunity, Evolution is a solid foundation to build a more fleshed out sequel from. For those who find the pitch of a ‘Build Your Own Jurassic Park’ interesting or perhaps know someone young who would love a well put together Jurassic Park video game, Evolution is well worth tinkering with.
Jurassic World: Evolution was provided by a PR Representative for the game for coverage purposes and reviewed on a retail PlayStation 4 Pro.