They do move in herds. . .after over six months of doing fuck all about it.
First gaming review of 2019, I wanted to have a little chat about Jurassic World Evolution.
Unfortunately, this game was officially my most disappointing game of 2018. This really makes me sad, because there are some nice things about JWE and some parts of it really make me giddy with joy. Do you know how many good Jurassic Park theme games there are out there? Not many. When I saw the trailer I was hyped. A dinosaur sim made by the same guys who make Planet Coaster, one of the most happy-looking and fun sandboxes I’ve played in recent years? Where the fuck do I sign? The price tag was hefty, but sure. . .I’ll give it a good go.
Then the game released, and all that hype and joy got sucked out of me. It’s…it looks like a bloody mobile game. It plays like one too. There’s just not much interaction and customization in making your park, and this is a fatal flaw that really drags the game down. No matter how nice the game can look on the face of it. You can pretty up a turd all you want, but it will still be one.
Think I’m being too harsh? Perhaps. I know I’m being brutal, this is emotions talking, but hear me out. I know the game is popular and has sold really well, perhaps for a good reason. Still…let me try to explain my thoughts behind this.
What is the point of a builder/simulation game? Options and ways to create your sandcastles the way you want it, isn’t it? That’s kind of the way Tycoon games function. Management is important as well but for a lot of people, the ability to create to your hearts content is huge for me. If a game restricts you, it’s going to piss a lot of fans off.
Jurassic World Evolution for me just falls flat on so many levels. Sure you can customize the dinosaurs in how they look with minor changes to stats, but it just feels fruitless when you can’t do much else. Building customization is near zero, and there are nearly no options to terraform the park.
The map sizes are also tiny, making it feel very like the universally panned Simcity 2013. You just can’t do much with what you make. Sure there are five islands to do with some different challenges, but to what extent can you make different parks? There isn’t much you can do. The variety just isn’t there and the main problem is how the game limits you to what you can do to make your park look good. This isn’t helped by a terrible Peep AI. Drive a jeep at them and they just jump aside in this stupid glitch movement that’s worse then Rollercoaster Tycoon World. You want to see shitty people AI? Look at that abomination of a video game, then cry as you realize Jurassic World Evolution has things worse. At least the peeps in RCTW do something, even when they move like sausage rolls tap-dancing across ice. There is no interaction with the guest. Zip. Nothing. I get the game is geared for the dinosaurs more then the park, but when games from 10-15 years ago do things better then this one, you can tell you’re doing something wrong. Sure there’s dinosaurs and lots of them, but not much point when you’re constrained to such a small map.
I get it was rushed out by Universial Studios pressuring Frontier in time for the new movie, I get that. But come on, the game was barebones on launch, missing features that were advertised in pre-launch trailers! It felt like a slap to the face, particularly when the game was 50-60$ in the first place. Sure it’s been improved significantly since launch, but I’m quite surprised the game has sold so well when it has had so many problems. The extra dinosaur skin DLC doesn’t really help its fundamental flaws, and the complete lack of modding (not really Frontiers fault on this one) does not help it’s case. When my favourite part of the game is driving the little jeep or Gyroball around the tiny park, you’ve done something wrong. The game just lacks substance for me to keep playing, no matter how many times I come back. There’s so much waiting for the little digging missions to come back. . .just like a mobile game. Thank the heavens they didn’t try charging micropayments to speed that shit up. It just saddens me that the game can be so much more.
The reaction to this game has been divisive, with the fanbase split between extremists on both sides: sheep who lap up the urine of everything the game adds (while ignoring the games biggest fundamental problems) and those who hate on the game for every little thing. I feel sorry for Frontier, I really do. I’m somewhat in the middle. Please keep improving the game, but I’m not going to jump up and down and worship you for fixing and adding mechanics that should have been in the game six months ago. (coughs and looks to the herding AI.) That kind of behaviour is part of the reason all the anti-consumer bullshit in gaming still exists, and how people like Todd Howard can come out with “You don’t like our stuff? Stop buying Skyrim on every platform and we’ll stop making them.”
Despite everything, and all the anger and sadness I have in this game, I still see some good in Jurassic World Evolution. It’s polished, it looks good, and I like looking at the dinosaurs. The core gameplay isn’t too bad either. We just have so few good dinosaur games out there. Is Jurassic World Evolution a good game?. . .it is average, at best. But it might be our best hope for the future, and Frontier supports games for some time. Please try and fix the biggest issues the game has. For 60$ I think it’s a bit much, but a lot of people out there love it. For those, I say good for you! I’m happy its pleasing a lot of people. To me, I’d say it’s worth a lot less. Black Friday and the Winter Sales saw it drop to 20$. It’s worth it at that price. I still think the game is fun in short bursts but the disappointment is real and cuts deep with this one.
Final Score: 5/10. Has potential, but a deep problem remains that will likely never be solved. Pretty to look at but shallow within. Buy on deep sale, but you can have a lot of fun with this one if you’re willing to look past its serious flaws.