If the original Jurassic World Evolution felt like an ethereal grab at the shroud of nostalgia, then its sequel catches hold solidly and yanks it toward the player.
Developer Frontier makes it clear from the off that Jurassic World Evolution 2 promises a full-on dinotastic buffet of dream scenarios for Jurassic Park and World fans in ways the original never quite managed. In doing so, it does end up suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a Jurassic Park sim that lends itself to chaos a little too well when a little more order could have helped.
The game offers up dual story modes. One for the original film that shifts history with an intriguing ‘what if?’ scenario of a Jurassic Park that didn’t end before it started. The other acts as a continuation of the more recent Jurassic World series, and picks up from the events of Fallen Kingdom.
Both still mainly deal with running a successful prehistoric theme park, but manage to pepper that experience with scenarios and scenes that try to capture the cinematic essence of the films. Several key actors are involved, including Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcom.
“The constant internal battle between wanting to run a successful park full of historical wonders, and playing to the strengths of the films by ‘accidentally letting a few carnivores escape during the busy season is one that never truly gets reconciled”
The gameplay cycle is familiar enough, even if you didn’t play the first JW Evolution. You start with a modest budget to create a modest tourist attraction, and fund its continuing expansion by luring in more and more guests.
Obviously, it’d be a little too zen for a Jurassic World game if that was the sum of it, and it wouldn’t be fair to have this license and not have a few escaped dinosaurs and meddling conspirators to deal with alongside setting the snack prices and stocking up on merc.
So naturally, there’s some of that sweet, sweet chaos that Dr. Ian Malcom loves so much. But as I alluded to before, there can be such a thing as too much chaos, and there’s a double-edged sword at play in JW Evolution 2’s park management where that proves to be its biggest source of entertainment and most frustrating drawback.
The constant internal battle between wanting to run a successful park full of historical wonders, and playing to the strengths of the films by ‘accidentally letting a few carnivores escape during the busy season is one that never truly gets reconciled. It probably doesn’t help that the park creation tools and mechanics are hardly the greatest encouragement for law and order, given how light and ambiguous they can be.
“Whatever else might be right or wrong with JW Evolution 2, there’s no denying Frontier got the stars of the show spot on.”
While undoubtedly improved from the original game, JW Evolution 2 still relies on the same kind of trial and error approach to park management. As with the original, it’s actually somewhat beneficial in creating emergent moments of enjoyment, but pushes it too far into the realms of fussiness. Some scenarios in story mode require very particular completion requirements and the game’s relative ambiguity towards explaining the game to the player leads to some drastically unfair failures that don’t even come with the compensation of dino carnage.
There’s a strange idea of what park strategy is, with the game weirdly high on getting the player to perform menial, but necessary, tasks manually. I don’t know about you, but I’d be much happier making devious decisions about where best to place a merch stand for maximum profit than having to click on vehicles to manually refill them. Things like that don’t offer anything to the player beyond packing the game with needless busywork.
It’s these moments that threaten to sour the Jurassic love-in Frontier has going on in JW Evolution 2. What’s worrying about that is that the sim management stuff gets in the way of the really enjoyable, and that’s supposed to be the whole point of the game.
The best thing you can do is embrace the chaos and just ignore any attempt at running a successful park long-term, move on from the story modes, and hit sandbox mode. After all, why else would we be here if not for the temptation of a park full of people-eating dinosaurs running amok?
As before, JW Evolution 2 lets the player get down to ground level to marvel at the panic and terror (or just casually go dino-watching, if that’s what you’d prefer). It’s here you can gain an appreciation for the detail of the dinosaurs. The way they move, the way they look, and in some cases, gape at just how huge and intimidating they are. With a greater variety of creatures to cultivate from land sea and air, it serves as a far more interesting experience. Whatever else might be right or wrong with JW Evolution 2, there’s no denying Frontier got the stars of the show spot on.
Controller support, the standard options for subtitles, audio, graphics, and the like. The game lacks a proper tutorial and doesn’t offer up helpful hints all that often.
Sim games can suffer in terms of performance because they have to handle so many complex, intertwining systems at once, causing frame rates to drop, textures to pop in and out on a whim, and generally, games sometimes get a little crash-heavy.
JW Evolution 2, possibly because it breaks up into manageable chunks, or because the systems are relatively simplistic, performs pretty well. There’s the occasional small jolt when switching between park management and actively engaging in activities within it, but otherwise, a pleasingly issue-light package.
JURASSIC WORLD EVOLUTION 2 VERDICT
As a celebration of all things Jurassic, Jurassic World Evolution 2 serves as a worthy successor to the original. As a park management game, it struggles to find a meaningful focal point. Given Frontier’s expertise in this exact department elsewhere, that’s more than a little disappointing. A light, messy sim that acts as a tribute to the prehistoric pandemonium of the Jurassic Park/World series.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Accidentally’ letting a hungry carnivorous dinosaur escape and go on a parkwide human buffet.
Nods to the films in Story Mode
The dinosaurs, obviously
Some improvements to park management
Confused and relatively shallow park management
Frustrating scenario requirements
Overly ambiguous explanation of what mechanics are there
Needless menial work