Overall - 55%
If you enjoyed the original game, Jurassic World Evolution 2 is sure to bring you hours of entertainment (not including the "campaign"). However, for players hoping for more than a full priced DLC, disappointment is unavoidable.
With the likes of Planet Zoo and Planet Coaster under their belt, the team at Frontier Developments had the perfect pedigree to knock it out of the park with the release of the original Jurassic World Evolution. What should have set the bar for the sim management genre going forward instead delivered a lackluster, unimaginative, and rather boring experience that relied almost entirely on the Jurassic Park IP to stand out.
Three years on and the sequel, Jurassic World Evolution 2, is now upon us. With a few years more development time and no shortage of feedback on how to improve on the original game, I once again allowed myself to get excited at the prospect of actually managing a simulated Jurassic Park.
That was a mistake.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 Review
At it’s very core, Jurassic World Evolution 2 is a glorified expansion pack for the original game. While it does make some much needed leaps forward in certain areas, it fails to encapsulate nearly anything that makes a simulation management game exciting and engaging. Before we dive into the mechanics, or lack of, let’s take a look at the variety of game modes.
There’s a good selection available, catering to both narrative driven players and those wanting a more dynamic approach. The campaign mode, which is nothing more than a lengthy tutorial, lasts about three to four hours, and most of that time is spent waiting for one of many different timers relating to building, upgrading, and managing the park. The narrative follows on from the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as dinosaurs roam free in certain parts of the world. You arrive at each location, need to control the local population, build a couple of pens, research a couple of technologies, drive around in some vehicles, then move on to the next area and repeat the process.
I could forgive the lack of creative content throughout the campaign if the story was worthwhile, but it’s nothing more than poorly imitated voice overs discussing the dinosaurs place in the world. Even Dr. Ian Malcolm, one of the few members of the cast voiced by the actual actor, struggles to make any real impact with dialogue that just falls flat. To call it an “original story” is a stretch. It functions well as an introduction to the core mechanics of the game, but anyone going in expecting a worthwhile expansion on the lore and setting of Jurassic Park will leave disappointed and confused.
There are three other modes that add far more to the game than the pointless Campaign: Chaos Theory Mode, Challenge Mode, and Sandbox Mode. Chaos Theory Mode, easily my favorite of the bunch, puts the players into various parks and locations seen throughout the movie franchise, with the option to do things differently. What would have happened in the original movie if things went right? Can Site B on Isla Sorna be saved? It’s an interesting premise, and one that does more for developing a story than the Campaign will ever achieve.
Challenge Mode, as the name suggests, is the more difficult option, challenging players to build parks that reach certain achievement thresholds within the allotted time. I’m not one for time restrictions, so I didn’t invest much into this mode, but I still spent more time there than the Sandbox Mode. At a glance, the Sandbox Mode should be the games crowning achievement. Offering a massive open space, dozens of species of dinosaurs, new attractions and buildings to construct and customize, it sounds great, right? Unfortunately, almost everything is locked. If you want to have the option to build anything and everything in the Sandbox Mode, you will need to unlock it all by playing the Chaos Theory and Challenge modes. Not sure I understand the decision behind allow players to have infinite money, infinite power, disable dinosaur deaths, and all these great options, only to completely restrict what can be built.
Whatever mode you decide to explore, the gameplay in each is very much the same as the original, with some great improvements and some questionable additions. More automation has been added, allowing the player to choose vehicles to patrol certain sections of the part, with the goal to automate much of the care the dinosaurs require. Although a worthwhile gesture, it struggles to deliver. Ranger vehicles, those in charge of scanning dinosaurs regularly and resupplying food, get stuck on objects, crash into other vehicles, and can’t navigate past any dense woodland – a requirement for a lot of the pointless needs each dinosaur needs to have met. You can set helicopters to patrol, but they don’t seem to automatically tranquilize and move injured dinosaurs – or much of anything, really. Some frustrating areas of micromanaging have been removed, only for others to take their place.
I had two major complaints when I reviewed the original game: the superficial nature of the guests and the pointlessly stupid contracts system. Thankfully, the latter has been completely removed (hurrah), but the former is as ever present as it was before. The guests are stupid. They serve no further function than to make the park look populated; that’s it.
I could have a gorgeous enclosure built housing several species of carnivore living in harmony, each dinosaur delighted at the various flora and fauna scattered throughout the enclosure; where are the guests? Walking around my Staff Building as my Scientists take a much needed break. The AI walks around aimlessly, there are only a handful of models, and they hardly interact with anything. When they enter a building they simply walk through a solid door and disappear. There are certain placements that aid with the flow of guests in the park, but none of it feels organic.
Some minor improvements have been made; there are now different guest types that prefer different attractions, but in my experience, this has absolutely no effect on the visual behaviors and patterns of guests. Part of the joy of these games is sitting back and marveling at your creation, fascinated by how the guests behave and interact. It’s a key component that is completely overlooked in both games.
Despite failing to fix most of the shortcomings from the original adventure, there are some fantastic additions to Jurassic World Evolution 2. Each mode allows you to recruit Scientists, staff members that oversee the basic running and functioning of the park including everything from extracting DNA from fossils to healing injured dinosaurs, and they add some rewarding micromanagement aspects to the game. Each Scientist has specific skills and a trait and can be further trained through various technologies and upgrades to maximize their potential. It’s a very simple system, but one that stands out in each of the modes as one of the few rewarding aspects of the management sim side of the game.
There are also a lot more options when it comes to entertaining and engaging guests, even if they all still walk around in the same coat looking at pointless buildings. Various hotels, shops, and attractions can be built, customizing each to fit the specific needs of the guests in that area. The iconic jeep ride can be constructed and built within any enclosure and the gyroscope ride is a lot of fun. Some attractions can also be experienced first hand as you jump into the backseat of the jeep and enjoy a first-person perspective of your creation. These are all great and welcome additions to the game, but they don’t do much to warrant the price of a brand new release.
Playing on the PlayStation 5, I was disappointed with the performance. While the environmental and dinosaur visuals are still fantastic, areas of the interface are a cumbersome mess and trying to navigate the world map to find new fossils is like trying to run through quicksand.
If you enjoyed the original game, Jurassic World Evolution 2 is sure to bring you hours of entertainment (not including the “campaign”). However, for players hoping for more than a full priced DLC, disappointment is unavoidable.
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