Jurassic World Evolution was one of my favourite games of 2018. Mind you, I didn’t think it was one of the best games of 2018, but I played it obsessively for well over a hundred hours across multiple platforms, and had way more fun with it than I’ve had with most games in recent memory. Granted, a lot of that is down to my love of dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park franchise- but a lot of it is also down to the fact that it was just a really well-made and addictive game. My expectations from Jurassic World Evolution 2, then, were quite high- and happily, it meets pretty much all of those expectations. In building upon the foundations of its predecessor with smart tweaks and clever improvements, it does what any sequel should ideally do, especially in this genre.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in Jurassic World Evolution 2 will be familiar to anyone who played its predecessor, or has spent any time with management simulators. It’s Zoo Tycoon, but with T-rexes and Velociraptors and Brachiosauruses instead of lions and leopards and cheetahs. You look after the needs and health of your animals, manage the day-to-day workings of your park, and ensure that it’s as attractive as a tourist destination as it possibly can be in order to draw in larger crowds, allowing you to make money and invest further in your very own Jurassic Park (or World). That’s a captivating central premise no matter how you look at it, but especially for fans of the franchise, the idea of taking on the challenge of succeeding where the likes of John Hammond and Simon Masrani failed has an undeniable allure.
Personally, I would have been more than happy to devote dozens upon dozens of hours to Jurassic World Evolution 2 if it had brought over the gameplay of its predecessor as is, but as any sequel should, it makes plenty of iterative improvements upon that formula. Guest features, for instance, was the one area where the first game was a bit of a disappointment for fans of the park building and management genre, and Jurassic World Evolution 2 takes some significant steps forward here. There are now multiple different kinds of guests divided into various categories, and each category is coming to your park looking for something different. Luxury guests want the best amenities that money can buy, while Adventure guests are more about thrill-seeking and witnessing the biggest, scariest, toothiest prehistoric monsters brought back to life. You know, the kind that is essentially responsible for mad scientists like Dr. Henry Wu still having a job.
"In building upon the foundations of its predecessor with smart tweaks and clever improvements, Jurassic World Evolution 2 does what any sequel should ideally do, especially in this genre."
Jurassic World Evolution 2 isn’t very good at tutorializing this particular aspect of the experience, but once you get to grips with the nitty-gritties of managing guest expectations and catering to their varied needs, the new system begins showing its strengths. That, of course, comes with other new features, such as building different kinds of decorations around your park to ensure that the guests who care about that kind of stuff are having a good time. Similarly, amenities and guest attractions are much more nuanced as well. Instead of placing down several different kinds of buildings, there’s fewer building types for both amenities and attractions, but each offers much greater control over what kind of guest they’ll cater to. Instead of just being able to decide whether a building will be focused on food, drink, or shopping, you can now also fill up empty slots to give it various other features and addendums, such as an ice cream parlour or a water feature, with each of these catering to a different category of guests.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 further hones its craft in other areas as well. The biggest improvement, for instance, is to the dinosaurs themselves- and in more ways than one. The obvious improvement, of course, is the fact that the game has far more species of dinos than its predecessor did at launch, which also includes aquatic and flying varieties. More importantly, dinosaur AI has seen crucial improvements as well, and how dinosaurs behave and interact with each other feels much less scripted than it so often would in the first game. A lot of that is down to the concept of territories, because rather than simply setting up an enclosure and then only paying it the barest of attention moving forward, you now have to keep an eye on the shifting territory of each dinosaur, and adjust their enclosures accordingly in order to make sure that their basic needs for food, water, environment, and social interactions are being met.
Another big addition is the scientists, who basically serve as the backbone of your entire operation. Jurassic World Evolution 2 tasks you with recruiting scientists, each of whom specializes in different categories and have unique perks and attributes- for instance, while some might be better suited to looking after the health of your dinosaurs, others are faster at researching and unlocking things for you. That means you have to ensure you have a well-balanced team at your disposal, and having depth in your squad is equally important, because overexerting a scientist can lead to them becoming unrested and, in turn, disgruntled with your management- which, in the world of Jurassic Park, is just another way of saying “the scientist didn’t get eight hours of sleep and is now going to sabotage your park and cause the deaths of hundreds of innocent guests”. So, you know, be kind to your employees.
"Rather than simply setting up an enclosure and then only paying it the barest of attention moving forward, you now have to keep an eye on the shifting territory of each dinosaur, and adjust their enclosures accordingly in order to make sure that their basic needs for food, water, environment, and social interactions are being met."
Meanwhile, there’s also a new Paleo-Medical facility, which, as its name suggests, is dedicated to ensuring your prehistoric attractions are in the best of health. This building is the hub for identifying any sicknesses or injuries incurred by your dinosaurs, and while minor injuries like lacerations or less serious illnesses are still dealt with by your park rangers, more serious cases like concussions and fractures need you to tranquilize the dinosaur in question and transport it to the medical facility.
And of course, there are various quality-of-life improvements here as well, as you may have expected. Rangers and capture teams, for instance, can now lock on to dinosaurs when aiming, which means manually controlling them is much less annoying than it used to be in the first game. Speaking of rangers, they now operate on recurring patrols that see them automatically checking in on all the enclosures they’ve been assigned to, which means you no longer have to manually keep ordering them to check on your dinos.
The biggest quality-of-life upgrade, however, is the ability to pause and speed up time. The first Jurassic World Evolution had a lot of downtime as you waited for things- waited for some research to be completed, or waited for dinosaurs to be hatched, or waited for a building to be constructed. The fact that you can now speed through that downtime, or that you can pause the game when things are going horribly wrong just so you can take a breath and set things in motion for your recovery plan, is a huge, huge improvement over the first game.
"The fact that you can now speed through that downtime, or that you can pause the game when things are going horribly wrong just so you can take a breath and set things in motion for your recovery plan, is a huge, huge improvement over the first game."
The one area where Jurassic World Evolution 2 is a bit of a disappointment is the campaign. One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact that the game is set after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which means (spoilers for Fallen Kingdom) that there are dinosaurs out and about in the whole world now, running freely through civilized and uncivilized locations alike. The campaign is set across a number of scenarios that essentially see you dealing with the mess that has created in a number of areas- and that central premise ends up being a bit too limiting.
There is absolutely no focus on the guest side of things in the campaign – how could there be, given the central conceit? – and each scenario is essentially just a variation of “build enclosures to keep dinosaurs safely contained”. It’s too limited in scope, and the fact that the story being told here, such as it is, doesn’t really go anywhere doesn’t do the experience any favours either. The characters, too, are effectively little more than just audio logs (though Jeff Goldblum, who once again plays Dr. Ian Malcolm, is as delightful as ever). On top of that, it’s a pretty short experience as well- I finished the campaign in a little over four hours. Ultimately, where the campaign in the first game was a packed, dense, and full-featured experience, Jurassic World Evolution 2’s campaign feels like a restrictive tutorial that ends up ignoring some of the best parts of the game.
Offsetting a lot of that disappointment, thankfully, is the new Chaos Theory Mode, which is a collection of five “what if” scenarios, one from each movie, that you’re tasked with managing in order to successfully avoid the failures that doomed these situations in the movies. Each scenario is long and densely packed full of interesting challenges and unique situations to deal with. Chaos Theory Mode allows the full gamut of the game’s systems and mechanics to breathe and shine, and ends up becoming the highlight of the entire experience.
"Chaos Theory Mode allows the full gamut of the game’s systems and mechanics to breathe and shine, and ends up becoming the highlight of the entire experience."
And of course, I’d be remiss not to praise Jurassic World Evolution 2 for its production values. This doesn’t come as a surprise, of course, considering how good the first game looked, but Jurassic World Evolution 2 deserves props here nonetheless. The game is brimming with love and adoration for the series in everything from its core mechanics to something as cursory as the loading screens displaying recognizable quotes from the films, while the dinosaurs, as ever, look and sound excellent as well. More than a few times, I found myself simply zooming in on an enclosure and watching the dinos just go about their business.
So yeah, I’m quite happy about how Jurassic World Evolution 2 has turned out. As someone who loves dinosaurs, the Jurassic Park property, and the first Jurassic World Evolution game, the sequel does almost everything I could have wanted it to. The campaign is a little disappointing, sure, but thanks to a number of smart and meaningful gameplay improvements and the addition of the excellent Chaos Theory mode, the package in its entirety is still significantly more packed, polished, and enjoyable than its predecessor. So I’ll end this review the same way I ended my review for the first game, and gladly congratulate the developers for succeeding where John Hammond failed. Frontier, after careful consideration, I’ve decided to endorse your park.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Dinosaur behaviours and interactions are much more organic; Guest features have seen meaningful improvements; Recruiting and managing scientists adds another layer of complexity; Several quality-of-life improvements make for a significantly smoother and more enjoyable experience; The dinosaurs look and sound excellent; Brimming with love for the movies; Chaos Theory Mode is excellent.
The campaign is disappointingly short and limited in scope.