I’ve always preferred the simulation dinosaur games over the action oriented ones. Now I’d be the last guy to argue that blasting a velociraptor in the face with a shotgun doesn’t have its appeal, but having control over an entire species of dinosaurs, directing their growth, and guiding their fate, is satisfying in a way that simple combat can’t compete with. Jurassic World- Evolution doesn’t live up to the heights of the theme parkesque Operation Genesis, but instead takes pages from the book of Plague Inc, offering the experience to create and evolve your own species to prepare for the inevitable extinction of all dinosaurs. Unless of course, you can change destiny, and allow life to find a way.
On paper Jurassic World – Evolution lends you the opportunity to do all this. But how skillfully it executes it is questionable. There is a breadth of choices to be made at the outset, such as the diet of your species, how well it reproduces, communicates, and adapts to the environment, and which island you’d like to start on; this decision making is an important part of any strategy game. But after playing through the game several times, I’ve found the choices you can make to be negligible. The main goal of the game is to evolve your species until it is capable of surviving the meteor strike, and after successfully doing this in fifty percent of my playthroughs, I can’t pinpoint what I did or didn’t do that led to my victory.
After you’ve settled in to your starting island, the clock starts ticking until the meteor comes down. In the meantime, you spend “DNA” points (which are gathered by sitting around until they’re given to you) on a skill tree for your entire population, unlocking abilities such as water breathing, and traits like harder skulls and skin that is well adapted to extreme temperatures. There’s a lot of text that describes what these abilities do theoretically, but in practice, their effect in actual gameplay is inconsequential at best. No matter how I navigated the skill tree, I evolved into the same dinosaurs and grew my population at the same rate. Even choosing combat skills didn’t affect my ability to survive in combat any greater.
There’s no visual payoff for unlocking abilities and traits either. Barring the upgrade screen, the whole game takes place on a world map with still pictures of your species scattered around different islands, and this never differs over time. There’s no visual representation to even give the illusion that your upgrades are making any significant changes.
What you’ll spend most of the time doing in Jurassic World – Evolution is waiting. You’ll wait for DNA points to appear, you’ll wait for your species to migrate, and lastly you’ll wait for the meteor. Once this event finally starts, the music changes and the screen flashes red. This would add a sense of urgency to a game that hitherto has been nothing but the contrary, but once the event starts, there’s nothing to do. It’s just more waiting to see if you’ve evolved correctly and can survive. The game would benefit from having some action to do in the last seconds; something that might make the difference between life and extinction.
But instead, Jurassic World – Evolution gives you plenty of options with no weight behind any of them. It’s a strategy game with no strategy. It’s a simulation that replicates the experience of sitting still and tapping a screen when it says you should. And when the time finally arrives for your choices to come into fruition, you feel as though the game made a random dice roll in deciding your fate.
A severe lack of depth hurts what could have been an entertaining game about planning the evolution of your own dinosaur.