STAFF REVIEW of Jurassic World Evolution 2 (Xbox One)

Thursday, December 9, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Jurassic World Evolution 2 Box art Few movie franchises can capture your imagination and nostalgic feelings with a simple picture or few bars of music quite like Jurassic Park. That was made obvious to me from the opening menu of Jurassic World Evolution 2, as I was immediately caught up with the music as soon as it appeared on my screen. I was taken back to when I saw the first movie in the theatre and saw realistic dinosaurs on the screen. I was amazed at how far technology had come and the movies have continued to still give me that sense of awe when looking at the majestic prehistoric beasts. Unfortunately, the game offered me little more than dinosaurs in it’s gameplay, and I quickly learned that running an attraction like this really would be no walk in the (Jurassic) Park.

In Jurassic World Evolution 2 players take control of their own dinosaur theme parks. They create their own exhibits, biomes, breed dinosaurs and create a park that caters to every amenity your guests desire. They can be very demanding. Just when you think you have things under control they want more – more shopping, more food variety, more drink options... more everything. It’s a game of balancing building, amenities and budget. Income out vs income in. Like any business, this is about being successful and making the most money.

The campaign is really short, and although designed to be a tutorial, feels unfinished. I finished the campaign and when I jumped into the sandbox mode, I still didn’t know what I was doing exactly. In the campaign, you never deal with marine dinosaurs, or searching for fossils or splicing genomes. You’re left to figure out all of that on your own through trial and error. When you play the Challenge Mode, I found more of what I expected to see in a management sim. It gives a list of things that will make your park a success. Finances, management of staff, a specific list to know if you’re heading in the right direction. In general, design and customization options were limited in game and dinosaurs didn’t have a lot of variety in their behaviours either. This would be a big deterrent in capturing, and keeping, the attention of avid players of the park building genre.

Players are guided on their journey by characters from the movies, including Dr. John Hammond, Dr. Ian Malcolm and others, many of whom are voiced by the same actors who appeared in the films. There was something familiar and soothing about Jeff Goldblum’s voice in the game. He just makes everything better. Between the familiar voices and iconic music pulled from the movies, it’s hard to deny how much audio impacted the game.

When building the park enclosures for the dinosaurs you capture/create, you can pick a variety of things in the design process. Size, location, vegetation, ground cover, water sources, feeding areas etc. One mechanic I found interesting was that certain breeds had a fondness for a particular zone or territory in an enclosure. This means they stick to only one part of their enclosure, and this will allow you to use another area of it for a completely different species with different survival requirements. There was also a mechanic where you could redesign your shops, services and concessions once they were placed in the park. It wasn’t a one stop drop for the amenities. This means you can redefine shops and services to fit the demographic and requirements of your guests.

Breeding dinosaurs is interesting. Very rarely will you get a perfect egg, most batches will have a variety of different genetic anomalies. This will create a number of problems, ranging from shorter life spans, aggression tendencies, susceptibility to disease, etc. Each dinosaur can have a distinctive personality too. I had one that would fight with any others in its pen, but it was a social breed that needed companionship. Every time they were with others they would fight, get injured or cause injuries, racking up the vet bills. Eventually I had to just let nature run its course, stop treating them and let them die. It was a really hard decision, but I didn’t really see another way. From that experiment I learned to destroy any eggs with that personality trait going forward. Trial and error. I guess exactly how it would be in reality. At least I learned my lesson. ‘Clever Girl...’

New To Jurassic World Evolution 2 were avian and marine dinosaurs. While they made for interesting specimens, their enclosures were difficult to incorporate into spaces that included mostly squared off fenced areas. There were a significant variety of dinosaur species in the game, but very few required the avian or lagoon environments, making them fairly impractical when building the parks.

Chaos Theory is a new game mode added to Jurassic World Evolution 2. This mode lets players select scenarios from the Jurassic Park movies and try to fix the mistakes made. It was a fun ‘What If’ mode. These scenarios feel like the true campaign I wanted from Jurassic World Evolution 2, and the experience of building and changing the part based on what happens in the movie and trying to correct it felt rewarding. The Chaos mode demonstrates what makes Jurassic World Evolution 2 stand out compared to other games in the genre, it’s connected to a successful film franchise that is familiar to players. You already know what will happen, so you can try to prevent the catastrophes. The best levels in the Chaos Mode were the ones where you were cleaning up after the mistakes in the movies. Think broken fences, storms, overworked scientists trying to sabotage you, escaped dinosaurs that you chase around in a Jeep to try to tranquilize and return to their enclosures. You’d think a 12 foot tall dinosaur would be easy to find in a park, but that is not the case. This mode is not for those who like their management sim games to be stress free. The clue to that is right in the name of the mode. There are five levels in Chaos mode, one for each movie of the franchise. Sometimes I found that, even with my best efforts, chaos still ensued. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said so eloquently, ‘Life, uh, finds a way.’

From most management sim games I’ve experienced; the sandbox mode normally allows players have freedom of creating without the constraints of finances or asset unlocking. Jurassic World Evolution 2 fails in this aspect. I was excited to jump into their sandbox mode to try things out, only to find that some things were still locked for me. Items are only available to players once they unlock them in Campaign, Challenge or Chaos Theory modes first. This means you can’t build the elaborate parks of your dreams until you've gone through a most of the other modes. Fans of park-builders and management sim games with robust sandbox modes will find Jurassic World Evolution 2 lacking in that respect.

Tasks in game become repetitive quickly and the only way to unlock new dinosaurs is to send scientists out on expeditions. Although these rarely fail, you can only complete one at a time, making the process slow. Despite showing many varieties of dinosaur in the previews and trailers, it takes many hours to unlock them. Once you create the proper biome for each species, they rarely require attention unless they are injured or contract an illness. These are tasks that your team of Rangers can take on with a simple click and delegation. This doesn’t give you much to do other than control your staff and finances in the game. I had hoped I’d be more involved on managing the dinosaurs rather than predominantly HR tasks.

While I can’t recommend Jurassic World Evolution 2 based on it being a park management sim, its real draw are the dinosaurs which are undeniably intriguing and captivating. The large variety of them kept me looking for more species to unlock through expeditions and gene splicing. The Chaos Mode was enjoyable as a fan of the Jurassic Park movies with ‘What If’ type scenarios, but Sandbox mode left me wanting more from the game. I would say this was more geared to fans of the Jurassic Park movies as opposed to fans of park management sims, and there are much better ones out there. For fans of the movies and dinosaurs, you’d be hard pressed to find a game more in line with the franchise.

**Jurassic World Evolution 2 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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