Jurassic World Evolution 2 – Life Finds A Way
PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PC
In the famous words of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in the original Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way”. To this day that line remains one of the most iconic, and its relevance has persisted through the film franchise as it has learned to evolve with the times. That evolution continued into video game land many moons ago, but while initial attempts had met with failure, again, as Malcolm said, “Life finds a way”, and so here we are, in 2021, and life has, in fact, found a way. Frontier’s first Jurassic World Evolution title was divisive but most called it a strong step in the right direction. Consequently, they’re having another dip at it, and so Jurassic World Evolution 2 is here. Have the Dinosaurs found life in games at last?
The previous Evolution title was conceptually masterful but rough around the edges in a few key areas that significantly held it back. Despite being a demonstrable improvement on the previous entry, Evolution 2 is an evolution in both name and nature. Where the original Evolution title failed in its execution, the sequel excels, where the original lacked in quality of life options and diversity, the sequel rectifies the situation. There’s nothing revolutionary about this title, but it’s as though developers at Frontier have compiled a checklist of the most common concerns from the original release, and one-by-one proceeded to tick them off. Not all is quite right, with there still being some items to address in a (seemingly inevitable) third entry, but we’re absolutely on the right track.
Players have two story opportunities to pursue in Evolution 2. The standard campaign really acts as a tutorial for players to get their heads around the inner machinations of the park builder. A wafer-thin plot connects five, 45-60 minute long levels where players are introduced to many of the basic options at their disposal, from establishing dinosaur enclosures to conducting research, maintaining dinosaur comfort levels, and much more. Weirdly it is only the tip of the spear though, with numerous additional features, including the installation of guest amenities, accommodation, tour rides, and even fancy, dino-DNA splicing is all reserved for when you enter the ‘Chaos Theory’ mode. Chaos Theory is an opportunity to course-correct for the mistakes made in the films. Players have five Chaos Theory scenarios to rectify, in the moments where things went off the rails in the films, and the likes of Ian Malcolm, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, and a really poor take on Chris Pratt’s Owen help to guide you through it.
The balancing act, regardless of the mode, is in keeping the dinosaurs happy, and they’re particularly fickle masters. Not enough greenery, water, the enclosure is too crowded, there’s conflict between dinosaurs sharing the same enclosure, or seemingly any number of other things can all upset the temperamental state of your Jurassic giants, and massaging all of that is the primary challenge of the game. Customer or staff satisfaction brings about its own challenges, but nothing compares with the threat of an angry Velociraptor escaping its confines and making a meal out of your clientele. With over 70 dinosaurs in the game, it can take quite some time to go through the loop of sending researchers out on an expedition, extracting DNA from what you find, then growing your next generation of Triceratops, which you can then provide a new home too. The process can be quite tedious, and even counter-intuitive at times, but it’s a fun challenge to overcome, especially as your park’s size expands. In a response to feedback from the last game, enclosures to house both avian and aquatic creatures have been added, granting a nice bit of diversity for the paying customer.
There are still a number of elements that players don’t have control of that hold the simulation back; you can’t adjust your prices for your food and drink, only navigate a weird balancing act that ensures a combination of customer satisfaction, price, and more. Entry fees cannot be modified either, it’s just a static amount that inflates or deflates based upon the state of the park. Even the rangers running the park are faceless and irrelevant – only the scientists have faces, and keeping them on board is the only staff priority because if they’re slighted, or just not given enough rest, they will actively sabotage the park. Disaster will ensue, and millions of dollars will be lost, crippling your park build.
Not only has the playable feature set expanded in Evolution 2, but in terms of quality of life improvements, there are numerous additional changes present as well. Previously players would bemoan how long some tasks would take to play out, but some speed-up options are present in this sequel to circumvent that, as well as to help calm your nerves when dinosaurs or a storm tear up the place and you’re in desperate need of some quick repairs.
While the faceless customers and staff underwhelm, the way the dinosaurs have been rendered on-screen is quite fantastic. They buckle and flop in weird, unrealistic ways when lowered into an enclosure or tranquilised, but aside from this, they’re fascinating to lock your camera on and watch them as they explore their environment (and find ways to try and escape it). Iconic musical themes are littered throughout the title and while the voice-cast hits the highest of highs with some original cast lending their time and effort, those highs plummet when an unauthentic response comes back the other way.
“Life finds a way” as Ian Malcolm once said, and in the world of video games, Jurassic Park/World is finally starting to find a way. There’s still plenty to improve upon, but with some further refinements made, it’s not hard to see how a Jurassic Evolution 3 couldn’t finally achieve the dream that kids and adults have had since John Hammond introduced Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler to Jurassic Park. For now, enjoy the best Jurassic Park game we’ve had to date.
Jurrasic World Evolution 2 was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher.