Steam Cleaning #19: Jurassic World: Evolution

I ended my last post thinking that I would like to try Planet Zoo. But I don’t have Planet Zoo, so I rolled on my random PC game list instead. And I got Jurassic World: Evolution. A licensed ‘zoo’ game by the same company. What are the odds?

At least, those were the expectations I went into the game with. My experience might have suffered for it.

I’m not sure how to describe my time with this game because I didn’t get very far in it. But for starters, here’s how the experience stacks up against the normal zoo experience.

In a zoo, let’s say you want an animal. You’d have to build an enclosure, buy the animal, make sure the habitat is reasonable, and then hire workers to manage it.

In Jurassic World: Evolution, let’s say that again you want a dinosaur. You first have to build a power grid, then certain buildings on that power grid: a station for launching research expeditions, a fossil research station, and an incubator/hatchery. The enclosure you build for the dino needs to be attached to the hatchery. If you want anything here to be profitable, you need to build viewing stations on the enclosure and a research station to improve all of the above. You also need an emergency response building for dino escapes or transport and a ranger team building for feeding and disease treatment, and a gate on the enclosure for ranger access. Then, with buildings under construction, you can send out multiple research teams to get fossils, analyze the fossils for DNA, then take your chances with incubation. After waiting for each of these to complete, voila! You have one crime against nature walking the enclosure!

This isn’t a knock against the game, but I did not expect it to take me ten to twenty minutes to have a dinosaur in my zoo. And that’s because Jurassic World: Evolution isn’t a zoo simulator. It’s a genetic research/public relations/security simulator. And that isn’t really what I wanted to play.

There is so much overhead to deal with. And on top of that, the park doesn’t get good ratings without carnivores. But you need good ratings to build carnivore enclosures. The game actively tries to push you into a guest-murdering catastrophe, and it isn’t shy about it at all. This is a Jurassic Park game, after all.

Since this is not a zoo sim, there is no interacting with the guests or hiring individual staff. There is very little focus on the customers at all, just a basic rating and a moving crowd of dino chow waiting for accidents to happen. Instead there are more systems for researching and evolving dinos, which is interesting, if not as personable as dealing with people.

Does the game perform well? Yes, I think so. It’s not intuitive like Planet Coaster was, and the power grid is a pain, but the design seems intentional in each area. Does that mean it’s a good game? I don’t know. It isn’t what I wanted to play, and every added bit of complexity seems designed to allow another failure point for the system. That’s not my idea of a good time. Zoo Tycoon might have done the same thing to me, but I’d like the freedom to customize and get around these failures.

And really, to close this out, I’m not sure I like the flavoring of the game. The awe of dinosaurs walking the land is cool, but the snarky voiceovers and serious contractor business takes away from what I’d like to experience from the game. In interface isn’t intuitive or aesthetically pleasing. And in the end, it’s really about the dinosaurs, isn’t it? If I don’t have time to manage them because I’m building more buildings and taking more contracts, then why am I even playing?

Verdict: Only 1.5 hours played. Well-made game, but I do not care to stick with it any longer. I’m sure the genetic research and upgrades make things even more interesting later on, but getting stuff done is so slow I can’t justify the time investment.

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