If you’re an old-school PlayStation fan, then Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis probably holds a special place in your heart. The park builder launched in 2003 and was a huge hit on PS2, offering a simulation experience set within the universe of Steven Spielberg’s legendary film franchise. It took nearly 15 years for a spiritual successor to release, but Jurassic World Evolution was worth the wait: Frontier leveraged the blueprints of its Planet Coaster series to deliver an accessible management game that felt right at home on the PS4.
Fast-forward a few years and the UK studio is back with Jurassic World Evolution 2, an expanded sequel that’s very much built using the same DNA as its predecessor but naturally refines the action. Earlier this month, we were able to go hands on with the management sim for a couple of hours, testing out both its single player campaign and sandbox Challenge Mode. While we were able to start a new game, we were dropped in with very little instruction or guidance, so it took us a few moments to familiarise ourselves with the systems – but by the end of the demo we already had a fledgling park.
One of the big alterations to this instalment is that it’s no longer restricted to the Muertas islands, bringing new meaning to the word ‘world’ in the title. This means there are new environments, such as deserts, which will naturally change the type of challenges you encounter. During our hands on, we played in more familiar surroundings: a lush South American-style jungle environment, with the risk of adverse weather conditions lingering in the background.
The short portion of the campaign we got to experience saw us contacted by Claire Dearing – voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard – on our intercom, expressing concern about the way in which a group of animals had been contained. While we spent a little too much time here butting our head against the instructions – we really didn’t get much guidance at all – the plot is set after the events of 2018 movie Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, and sees you safely handling dinosaurs now out in the wild.
We suspect that this mission in particular had been designed to teach players about dinosaur welfare, which is something you’ll need to pay close attention to as you begin to build your own parks. Obviously, happy and healthy dinosaurs will improve the overall rating of your attractions, because no one wants to see grumpy triceratops ambling around. There’s also a moral obligation to treat these formerly extinct creatures with respect, we guess.
It wasn’t until we slipped into Challenge Mode that we got a better grasp for the overall gameplay loop. Here we were tasked with building a park from scratch, and so we started with the usual mix of generators, research facilities, and ranger response units. The systems work largely the same as in the previous game: power plants have a radius, and you’ll need to build within that area in order to ensure your buildings have electricity. This, unsurprisingly, requires forward-thinking and planning.
You have a pool of scientists available and can recruit more. Each boffin has an area of expertise, whether it’s researching new buildings and attractions or discovering new dinosaur types. This adds a layer of strategy, as you need to think about where you’re going to assign your resources and when. In response to feedback to the original game, new flying and marine species have been added to the title, and while we weren’t able to rear one ourselves – well, that’s exciting, isn’t it?
We kept things relatively simple to get started, designing a couple of herbivores and releasing them in a large containment filled with fibrous plant life for them to feast on. One thing we liked about the original game is that it successfully blended overhead management with ground-level exploration, and we really enjoyed virtually “sitting” in our amphitheatre like a paying customer and observing our animals from afar.
You can also ride with rangers in Jeeps and helicopters. Unfortunately, our dinosaurs contracted a disease so we needed to research a cure and then administer it aerially from a chopper. It’s actually a lot of fun experiencing these personal moments, as it makes your park feel like a legitimate place, as opposed to a grid with objects occupying spots on it. One neat thing about the series is that, while the dinosaurs are the main attraction, you can still build restaurants and hotels around them.
Of course, you also need to take into consideration the safety of your patrons. One new addition – which we didn’t get to test out during our demo – is the Chaos Theory mode, which will let you relive key moments from the movies and experience “what if” scenarios, where said scenes unfold in an unexpected way. This should prove an exciting addition for fans, as it takes recognisable plot beats in wholly unique directions.
Having wrapped our head around the systems, we found ourselves seriously engrossed in the early stages of our build – in fact, we were a little irked when we were informed we’d have to stop playing. Our impressions thus far are such: Jurassic World Evolution 2 is largely more of the same, but Frontier is evolving the experience based on the feedback of fans. This is shaping up to be a bigger, more varied park builder than its predecessor – and those new dinosaur types sound like a lot of fun indeed.
What kind of dinosaurs will you be deploying in your very own Jurassic Park when Jurassic World Evolution 2 launches on 9th November? Tinker with some DNA, and then let us know in the comments section below.