Jurassic World Evolution 2 launched three years after the original game, allegedly. Remember 2018? Of course you don’t. No one does. But I can recall a vague sensation of excitement followed by sinking disappointment that year. Jurassic World Evolution came out, too.
Three ‘years’ later (if the famously corrupt ‘Big Clock’ is to be trusted), we have a sequel. It makes some incredibly welcome improvements, scrubbing away meddlesome mobile game-style timers and offering more creativity. It’s still not the game I was hoping for.
Honestly? I have no one to blame but myself. It’s taken me two games to realise that my imaginary, platonic ‘Dinosaur Park Tycoon’, with Bullfrog charm but Frontier’s gorgeous dinos, is never what these games were trying to be. They don’t want to be quirky nineties management games with modern flair. They want to be cinematic. Reverent. Tense. They want you to love all the JP movies as much, if not more, than the idea of running a dinosaur theme park. To me, that’s a hard sell.
The campaign here is really more of a tutorial. Five or so hours of showing you the ropes, although strangely not all of them, with an abrupt conclusion. The new Chaos Mode, with its ‘what if?’ film-inspired scenarios, is a stronger offering. Structured objectives both teach the game and challenge your management skills. I seem to remember there was a film about trying to control chaos, though. Planet Zoo/Coaster’s creativity here plays second fiddle to rapid problem solving, putting out metaphorical fires and actual dino rampages. Sandbox and Challenge modes complete the set.
Still, I really cannot overstate how gorgeous it all is, again. The greatest joys the game offers still lie in zooming the camera nostril-close to a triceratops as it tussles with its cellmates. In watching flying dinos perch on aviary viewing booths, or velociraptors chase down goats. These are the most beautiful and varied dinos ever to wave their comically tiny arms inside a video game. Sometimes, the sheer joy of being able to care for them, even within a sim that is often tediously workmanlike, is enough.
Elsewhere, nothing feels innovative, novel, or particularly exciting. Expression and creativity give way to min-maxing and micromanagement. Sabotage events and storms pop up, creating problems. You play whack-a-mole, then try to get back to just enjoying your dinos before the next catastrophe rears its fun-hating head.
It is not Frontier’s fault that, over time, the licence has become the Hoover to the vacuum-cleaner high-concept of a dino park, and so anything they could make would always be held up to standards it wasn’t necessarily aiming for. JWE 2 is a faithful JP game that I’m confident franchise fans will get a lot more out of than I did. It makes some solid improvements over the original, even if the end product feels less dramatic than some patches for other titles. But I’d recommend asking yourself if you’re actually a JP fan, or just love the idea of managing your own personal dino park. Turns out I’m not the JP fan I thought I was.
Frontier’s gorgeously rendered and animated dinosaurs are still a stunning achievement, and the descriptions in first-person view of the jeep tour are a lovely touch.
It’s better than the original Jurassic World Evolution. Make of that what you will.
Genre: Life finds a way-’em-up
Format: PC (tested) / PS5 / XB S/X / PS4 / XBO
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Release: Out now