Those darned dinos are on the loose again, but this time they’re not constrained to a handful of islands in the middle of the ocean, they’re out and about on the mainland of North America getting up to all kinds of mischievous dinosaur-y type things. That’s where Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom left off, and that’s where Jurassic World Evolution 2 picks up while we wait for the release of the next film.
Obviously, it’s a huge ecological crisis for America to deal with, as dozens, if not hundreds of dinosaur species are suddenly released into the wild, competing with indigenous creatures. That’s before you get suburban households facing the prospect of having a bunch of a few compsognathus rummaging through their trash instead of raccoons.
The government simply has to step in, the Department of Fish and Wildlife stepping in to try and manage the situation. For some reason, that means turning to film protagonists Claire Dearing and Owen Grady (despite their rather integral role in letting them all loose), trusting in their expertise to start the wider capture and preservation efforts of these animals. That’s in addition to a bunch of returning original characters from Frontier’s first game, Cabot Finch reappearing from his appearances in the DLC packs, having snagged a role as the Assistant Director to the DFW.
The first campaign mission of Jurassic World Evolution 2 takes you to Arizona, taking over a partially constructed facility with several species of dinosaur having roamed nearby. It’s a tutorial-style setup, tasking you with taking control of a helicopter for the first time to fly off across the arid lands to find and tranquillise the wild dinosaurs. The first target is a Baryonyx, the second a Triceratops, both needing you to tailor their enclosures to cater to their wants and needs. In particular, the Baryonyx needs the pescitarian feeder submerged in a large enough pool of water, and likes to have rocks nearby, while the Triceratops needs there to be enough ground fibre for it to feed on – there’s no more need to set up plant feeders for herbivorous dinos.
It’s an interesting opening set up, and I’m sure Frontier have cooked up some great scenarios off the back of it, leaning into the kinds of conservationism found in their Planet Zoo series and taking you to more extreme climates that the dinos are ending up in.
Personally, I’m all about the Chaos Theory mode, a series of ‘what if?’ scenarios set in and around the narratives of the film franchise. Frontier already explored this with the Return to Jurassic Park expansion pack for the first game, but have run with it for the sequel. We got to go hands-on with the second scenario in the game, an alternate take on the story for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In this scenario, things don’t go ridiculously off the rails to the extent that a T. Rex rampages through a surprisingly empty San Diego… or at least not yet.
You’re charged by Peter Ludlow to revive the abandoned development of Jurassic Park: San Diego, finding a half-built amusement park that just needs a little bit of work before you can airlift some dinos in. With San Diego off in the distance, there’s a huge ampitheatre at its centre, a few operations buildings and some partially built and damaged enclosures that need fixing up.
It’s not long before you’re being told of an imminent dino drop, delivering some pretty chill Pachycephalosaurs to an enclosure, and not long after, a pair of T. Rex and a handful of Compsognathus. If you know what you’re doing, it’ll be easy to accommodate their needs, sending over your ranger teams to perform some quick status checks on the creatures to see how comfortable they are in their new homes. Then it’s just a case of adapting the enclosure to have the right mix of terrain, foliage, water, food, and so on.
Of course I started off here with some rookie mistakes. No, a pair of T. Rex are not going to be happy sharing an enclosure, and yes, they really do care if their food was running around bleating before hand. Oh, and no, those electric fences aren’t going to do a damned thing if they get annoyed enough to break out and try to find their own way in the world. Scramble the chopper, it’s time to go tranq some more dinosaurs…. again…
The problem I had was not having run through enough of the new systems and ideas in the campaign. You now hire scientists and put them to work on research projects, but I hadn’t applied them to figuring out how to construct a live animal feeder. Presumably Hammond deleted all his files at InGen when he retired, taking the secret of throwing live goats into dinosaur pens with him. Either way, once researched, and once I tailored the separate enclosures to have much more sand, my pair of T. Rex were much happier.
One of them in particular, as they could run around and watch as eager visitors streamed off the first helicopters in a now opened amusement park – I had decided to build its enclosure all the way round the landing pad. It was probably a little premature for the park to open when I had three crudely fenced-off species on show, but trust me when I say I spared no expense… in pausing the game and hurriedly putting down as many visitors amenities as I could. There’s some really nice customisation here, letting you drop down a little shop and then customise what it features and how it looks, mixing and matching on the fly.
And just like that, my hands-on time with Jurassic World Evolution 2 was coming to an end. Frontier is clearly pushing to broaden what they offer in their dino-packed sequel, from refining the fundamentals of looking after these prehistoric creatures and running an amusement park, to taking players to more environments in the campaign, and playing around with the film universe through Chaos Theory.
It won’t be long before we get to see more, with the game releasing on 9th November across PlayStation, Xbox and PC. We can’t wait.