It’s safe to say that Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park catapulted dinosaurs as a mainstay in popular culture back in 1993 to the point where the film franchise informed our collective perception of these great animals as scaly lizards despite more recent evidence to the contrary. Nearly thirty years and several films, animated series, and game installments later and we have Jurassic World Evolution 2. Whether you’re a dinosaur aficionado and know your Pachycephalosaurus from your Allosaurus or you’re interested in the park building and management simulators genre of gaming there’s a perfect balance to be struck here.
The main campaign of the game is set after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the 5th installment of the cinematic Jurassic franchise. For those of you who didn’t see J. A. Bayona’s film, Fallen Kingdom sees Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Clare Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to Isla Nublar to attempt to save as many dinosaurs as they can from the island before the imminent eruption of a volcano. Unbeknownst to them, there was a sinister plan underlying their attempts at playing Noah, and the saved dinosaurs are brought back to the US and auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Chaos inevitably ensues and the dinosaurs eventually escape into the wild which sets up both the events of Jurassic World Evolution 2 and the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion which is set to hit cinemas in the summer of 2022 as dinosaurs and mankind face the prospect of having to cohabit the earth together in a neo-Jurassic age.
The aforementioned campaign is the first of four game modes and the best place to start if you’re new to the franchise. It essentially performs as a story-based tutorial mode. In five different locations in the US, you have to create and establish operational facilities for dinosaurs that are running rampant in the wider communities. This mode teaches you the role of all of your staff and the purpose of each of the buildings (some of which are new to the franchise like the Paleo-Medical Facility) that you can construct on site.
The campaign mode is fairly cinematic, with a varied set of locations from the Arizona deserts to the snowy State of Washington and you can explore these areas firsthand by either piloting the ranger’s helicopter or driving their truck around. It’s a great mechanic that allows you to immerse yourself into your world in great detail and make the most of the stunning graphical enhancements that have been made on next-gen and look at your dinos close up. You can take photos of the dinosaurs, administer them medicine or perform a general wellness check. If you’re more of a delegator, you can get your ranger team to do this for you so there’s a nice balance to be found.
Whilst the campaign mode acts as a nice introduction to the game, it’s a little slow in its pacing and doesn’t give you full creative control and subsequently too great a sense of fulfillment as you see your park come to life. It’s very much a pretty enjoyable but glorified box-ticking exercise. It is however essential to play through if you want to unlock all 75 species of dinosaurs to use in the sandbox mode at a later date. Whether it’s a Brachiosaurus, a Velociraptor, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex that you want to be the main attraction in your sandbox park, you need to encounter it in one of the campaigns, challenge, or Chaos Theory modes first.
Whatever your playing style is, there’s a mode to fit. If you like to live on the edge, the aptly named Chaos Theory mode is where the most, err, chaos can be found. Most interestingly, this mode allows you to drop into recognizable and important moments from all five of the films and deal with the ensuing drama and see if you handle it better than the characters did. I’ve only had the opportunity to play the Jurassic Park version of Chaos Theory so far and it’s the most intense way to play the game and I can’t wait to dive into the others. There are storms, broken fences, dinosaurs on the loose, and staff/ guests at risk of becoming the next snack on the menu.
There’s also a challenge mode where you have to work your way through various locations and tasks to unlock more content for your sandbox mode. Sandbox mode is the most complete way to experience what the game has to offer. It offers a combination of all the elements of the other modes but also gives you the freest reign to be your most creative. As mentioned earlier though, to make to most of the sandbox mode, make your way through the other modes to unlock content – nobody wants to build a park without a T-Rex or a certain finned carnivore that appears in Jurassic Park 3 and is in this installment of the game.
The gameplay and user experience are greatly improved from the previous game. The terraforming tools are much better and the interface is really well refined and easy to use without losing any of the detail. Jurassic World Evolution 2 also now includes the ability to speed up and slow down in-game time, which is a great addition. The dinosaur AI is greatly improved as well. Annoyingly, however, the dinosaurs seem to have a greater level of intelligence than the rangers.
You can manually control rangers or delegate tasks to them and their decision-making processes (or lack of) can be a bit frustrating. They will, for example, ignore broken fences that need fixing or won’t perform a wellness check on a dinosaur unless you tell them to. It forces you to be more hands-on but sometimes wanders into the territory of becoming a micro-management game where you spend more time ordering your rangers around instead of creating the best prehistoric park the world has ever seen.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 offers the perfect escape to sink hours of your time into as you try and do what Dr. Hammond couldn’t. Whatever your playing style, there’s a mode to suit, worlds to explore, and dinosaurs to hatch. After all, life finds a way.