It’s almost here. After months of waiting, it’s finally just around the corner.
No, I’m not talking about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – I’m talking about Jurassic World Evolution – the brand-new park-builder game by Frontier Developments! Thanks to the awesome team at Frontier, James Hawkins and Steve Hurrell from Jurassic Unicast long with myself (Tom Fishenden), got to take a trip to the Frontier offices in Cambridge back in May, where we got to get hands on with the brand-new title.
Before we go any further, I’d like to say a massive thank you to the team at Frontier for their warmth and hospitality. We spent most our day with three people – Bo De Vries, Rich Newbold and Michael Gapper. All three of them were super accommodating the entire day – and they were super happy to let us geek out as much as we wanted! Speaking for myself, it can often be quite nerve-wracking walking into an environment like a Games Studio to get footage and press content – so having staff with you who are down to earth really does make a difference. So, thank you for that, guys! I’d also like to say as well – we had the chance to meet Jack and Alex from Jurassic Outpost, and it was lovely finally getting to meet! They got similar content to what we are sharing, so make sure to check that out.
Okay, so our day started out with a tour of the studio – where we got to see different people working on different components of the game. It was wonderful seeing how deep each component of the game goes. This really is immersive world-building from the ground-up, and each detail we witnessed seemed to consider the canon established within the franchise. The team really wanted to make the game feel authentically ‘Jurassic’ from the outset – so a real investment has been made to really ground the game within that universe. However, moving past that, a real commitment has been made to make a game which stands out. Everything from the muscle movements in a T-Rex as it hauls its bulky body along on long legs, to the sound of rain splashing down on the roofs of buildings within the park, felt authentic, and really helped to ground the game in a level of immersion which is often not achieved.
It’s also important, I feel, to note how much these people are really fans of what they are working on. We saw different trinkets in the office which spoke of different values – everything from the Jurassic World LEGO set, to the mighty T.Rex, and so much more. The staff here had a genuine investment and interest in the franchise – and as a fan, that is so very reassuring. I think, when you see a product being created, you almost look at it through rose-tinted glasses as you know what you want as a fan versus perhaps what the industry will allow – but here Frontier have made every effort to really give us exactly what we want within the game.
Now we move onto the game itself – and wow, what an experience! The level of immersion is second-to-none, really making you feel as though you are in control of Jurassic World. I said at one point – it almost felt like I was shaping and building Jurassic World, before the events of the film shut it down! I was super impressed with how responsive everything felt – especially on console. I usually play with an Xbox One controller, so I opted to go that route, and it was refreshing seeing how well optimized the console controls felt. Often in cross-platform games, it is hard to map all the PC controls to a controller, but Frontier have done an amazing job – making a game which is responsive and swift. I found myself putting buildings up or researching new components within the blink of an eye – it was fantastic!
The gameplay itself was also phenomenal too. Everything from the construction elements, to the Jeep and Helicopter gameplay felt well-polished and immersive. One feature I loved was the inclusion of a photo mode in the Jeep – which rewards you cash for taking a good photograph! This was a nice inclusion which creative minds will love, as it fully encourages all players to take the time to go out and see their dinosaurs. Rather than shoving your creatures in your face, Evolution gives you the organic tools to go out and immerse yourself in them at your leisure. It truly is a fantastic way of giving the player freedom. I was also very impressed with the contract system. It is true, that like with any park builder, once you have your initial infrastructure in place, you can automate your income. But, to stop this becoming stale, Frontier have introduced contracts – and they can cost a lot! One contract I had during my Security Play through was to build a Hotel which cost $800,000 – so I had to make sacrifices, take on other contracts and temporarily remove my research centre to reach that goal.
Presenting optional challenges to the player is a fantastic way of keeping the player interested in the gameplay – whilst constantly innovating the dynamics that they face. A new contract may be so expensive that you must remove areas of your park – but equally, it may be easily achieved with assets you already have as part of your park. That variety and diversity keeps gameplay fresh and rewarding – and it keeps you immersed in the progress of your park. During my play through, I unlocked the second island, but decided to stay on Matanceros, because the game truly gripped me and had me wanted to upgrade my park to hit those higher levels. The way Expeditions and Fossil components work is fantastic as well – providing you with opportunities to create full genomes and make the odd quick dollar here and there to support your ever-evolving projects. A full genome, for example, will mean the dinosaur will hatch – whereas a half genome has 50% chance of failure. This then makes you question where you make your investments. Do you prioritize research, infrastructure or asset variety?
That last question is a nice note to leave this on – because this is a true park management game which fully embraces the Jurassic license. You truly feel yourself empathizing with someone like Claire Dearing in this game – as you question where you can afford to make investment, and where you may need to come back to later in the game. This investment versus reward dynamic is the fundamental groundwork for any park management game, and Frontier have absolutely nailed it. They say anything will work well on strong foundations, and that really shows here, as the core gameplay mechanics have led to the integration of an incredibly real and involving ‘Jurassic World’ which leaves you wanting to play more.
If you haven’t already – you can Pre-Order Jurassic World: Evolution HERE!