Jurassic World Evolution 2 review

By Luke Albigés,
If Jurassic World Evolution 2 is to be believed, we have a new leading theory as to why the dinosaurs died out — rather than some extinction-level event like a meteor impact or ice age, it seems like they might just have been too damn fussy for their own good. "There's not enough saaaaand," grumbles the T-rex, apparently ungrateful for being brought back to life some 80 million years later and just pining for his own private beach on which to murder things. You'll hear similar growled grievances all over your parks, from pea-brained sauropods who are picky about their favourite kinds of tall trees and herds of skittish little theropods with a very strict definition of what is considered 'open space,' to packs of conservationist raptors who kick up a fuss the second you have to knock down a couple of trees just so the rangers can reach and treat their dying friend. It's not too much of an issue long-term for single-dino enclosures as you can quickly expand or tweak as your prehistoric pals make their demands known, but branch out into space-saving cohabitation plans and you might find you have your work cut out juggling the needs of multiple species at once... if they don't just tear one another to pieces before they even get a chance to complain, that is.

jurassic world evolution 2

In fairness, Jurassic World Evolution 2 does a pretty solid job of giving you a lot of the information you need up-front, with a brief overview of each creature's needs and a few cohabitation dos-and-don'ts. You'll fill in the gaps the more you play, eventually stumbling across combos of dinos with similar housing and dietary requirements who will get along just fine in the same space, and they don't need every last feature to be perfect. Most creatures can still be content when something isn't quite right, although that often feels like playing with fire as they'll naturally be that much quicker to snap if something out of your hands goes awry. As in the first game, it's not actually that hard to put together the basics of a prosperous park — even with so much more micromanagement this time around — meaning that more often than not, it'll be some uncontrollable outside factor that throws everything into disarray. Thankfully, the ridiculous internal staff rivalries from the first game (which would lead to absurd situations like the security team shutting down the park's power because they thought you were spending too much time and money with the marketing department) are gone, replaced with similarly treacherous but much more believable disasters tailored for each scenario.

During the short campaign (which is set after Fallen Kingdom and involves rounding up 'wild' dinosaurs for an observational facility rather than breeding them for a tourist trap), such issues are limited to natural phenomena and problems of your own creation, such as letting generators run out of fuel. The Chaos Theory mode, made up of 'what if...?' scenarios that spin off from each of the movies, eases you in before presenting problems that emerge from each of the individual films, which makes sense. Challenge mode, meanwhile, has its own new system, where many seemingly innocuous actions can present you with choices that impact how things play out. Some of these are fairly minor — when a site supervisor calls in sick, do you throw money at a temporary replacement, or just expect the rest of the staff to muddle through? — while others may have more serious ramifications. Sneaking one of your freshly-synthesised dino eggs to a black market contact, for instance, could be great for your bank balance but awful for your reputation should your colleagues find out, and events like this affect the likelihood of sabotage attempts from those who didn't get what they wanted. This is close as we get to the silly system in the original game, but it feels much more natural as it comes as a consequence of specific actions and not just running the park, plus there are tools on hand to make disasters a little easier to cope with, too.

jurassic world evolution 2

The main weapon at your disposal in keeping everything running smoothly is control over the flow of time. For general play, this allows you to have things run at normal, double, or triple speed, with those faster options being welcome when your scientists are working on something big, but also being risky as they leave that much less time to spot or react to any issues that may arise. That's where the pause feature comes in, allowing you to take stock, take a breath, and then take action, managing your staff's workloads and queuing up whatever repairs or reconstructions need to be done so they start as soon as you set time back to normal. You can also use this time freeze more proactively than reactively — working on enclosures without worrying about being called away to deal with something on the other side of the site means you can take your time with them and make sure every detail is perfect, for example. But the pause function really comes into its own when a storm is brewing. If you're quick to slow things to a crawl, you can comfortably get all the shelters open and guests safely inside, weatherproof your key buildings, get your rangers in position near the enclosures you least want to see compromised, and be ready for whatever nature throws your way. You can do all that in real time too, if you'd rather, but when you're dealing with a larger park, that might be a bit too much stress for some people.

A common complaint about the original game was that things like natural disasters and inevitable dinosaur escapes led to chaotic emergency clean-up operations that felt at odds with the laid-back fun of just planning and building the perfect park, as if the game only had two speeds: sedate and intense. That's kinda to be expected based on the subject matter and the reality of what is going on here — two-hour movies about dinosaur safari parks running smoothly probably wouldn't be that exciting, and even regular zoos that don't house 40-foot carnivorous lizards have extreme risks involved. While it can still be stressful, Evolution 2 does a good job of making sure you have the tools to handle the worst case scenario, while adding enough mild-risk micromanagement to ensure that it feels like there's a better pacing curve here than simply having the two extremes of calm and crazy. The random nature of storms can still be frustrating, mind, but that's just the nature of the beast. One might rip holes in all of your enclosures and let the big guys out to roam free and gobble up anything in their path, while the next might just jostle a donut stall and rile up a few of the more docile creatures. They always seem to come at the worst times, too — in one scenario, my wonderfully well-behaved Dilophosaurs suddenly flipped out the second their feeder ran out and tore through their fencing, with a storm warning popping up just as dozens of the frilly little fellas darted off in all directions. Great. I was still finding them all over the island hours later... probably wouldn't have reopened the park had I known there were still some loose, but they didn't kill that many people, so it's probably fine.

jurassic world evolution 2

The dinosaurs themselves, as you would hope and expect in a game where they're the star attraction in every sense, are fantastic. While certainly needy, their requirements and traits give them a wonderful sense of personality, and while this led me to naming all of them in the early stages, I wouldn't really recommend it — turns out the lifespan of a genetically recreated dinosaur isn't all that great, and it wasn't long before I was having to say goodbye to a lot of friends. Not all of them were natural causes, either. I was mortified when my Allosaur escaped and savaged a brand-new (and very expensive) Brachiosaurus before the rangers could get to the scene to intervene, but it did at least give me the parting gift of seeing that the cause of death for the tall boy I hadn't even had a chance to name was "fatally wounded by Alan." Some encounters like this should be expected to end in disaster, but others are not so glaringly obvious — unleashing other ceratopsians to give my Triceratops crew a little company turned out to be a bad idea, and they started literally butting heads as a territorial struggle broke out. So long as you're making big enough enclosures and spreading out food sources, though, the new territory system can handle the rest. Some dinos might not like coexisting with certain others, but so long as none of them are carnivorous murder machines and they all have their own space, they should be able to live relatively peacefully, with just the odd (hopefully) non-fatal power struggle to give visitors a show. The difference in animations between two friendly dinos tussling, confrontational scuffles, and life-or-death brawls is really neat, and if you're a monster like me, you can create a small enclosure in Sandbox mode and freely release all manner of terrible lizards into the kill box, just to see what happens. Spoilers: it's anarchy.

As before, you're able to alter each dinosaur's reconstructed DNA to either offset its usual traits and behaviour or try to offer it something new, whether that be sharper claws and teeth to please thrill-seeking guests (if perhaps not your rangers) or longer life so your multi-million-dollar attractions hang around for a few more years. You can see which traits have manifested before incubating a batch of eggs, and while it can get expensive trying to cherry-pick ones with optimal traits, it does pay off in the long run. You see, the territory system comes into play here too, with the most powerful dino in a pack (which will usually be the most dangerous) emerging as the alpha, and certain traits can be passed onto the whole herd by an alpha, so you do need to be careful about the attitudes of the new creatures you introduce. But this just leads for even more opportunities to play God — if, say, your alpha raptor is a bad influence, release a more powerful one that has more desirable traits to spread to the group and watch as life finds a way to make your job that little bit easier.

jurassic world evolution 2

General park management is, as a lot of the early looks at the game highlighted, a huge step up over the original. The freedom to tinker with your non-dinosaur attractions and amenities both inside and out is way better, and even ties into a new system where different guests have different interests. Set up a natural history exhibit in one section of the park near your large herbivore enclosure and you'll attract more nature-minded guests to that area, where you can tailor the facilities to meet the needs of that audience with things like veggie food stalls and dinosaur adoption stores in the shadow of your gentle giants. Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, you might have a VR dinosaur encounter attraction near your towering predators' stomping grounds for the thrill-seekers, surrounded by steakhouses and action figure shops. It's not absolutely necessary to indulge in this side of things to the fullest, but in addition to all the useful heatmaps showing things like visitor density and amenity coverage, it's a level of depth that helps the management side of the game stand a Diplodocus neck above the first game. General decorative items still feel perhaps a little lacking, but everything else on this side of things feels great.

While the extremes of its action mean it won't be to everyone's tastes (particularly if you're someone who prefers more chilled sim games), my main issue with Jurassic World Evolution 2 is performance. Alarms rang in my head when I saw the game clock in at just 5GB, and while it can look fantastic at times, it doesn't run especially well, even on Series X. There's also aggressive shadow and detail pop-in even just a few feet from where the camera is currently focused, which can be extremely jarring at certain times of the day, especially in foliage-heavy areas... which most of your herbivore enclosures will be, making this an unavoidable eyesore. It also crashed on me a couple of times, but what seems to be a solid autosave function meant I lost next to no progress, and it's the kind of game where you'll naturally want to be saving often anyway, so that's not too big a deal, really.

As for achievements, I can't really comment too much on the list as it's still not live at the time of writing. I unlocked 20 achievements in my time with the game, around half for just working through various activities and scenarios, and the rest for incidental things like releasing a T-rex, packing out a park with guests and dinos, or getting hands-on and manually performing ranger tasks rather than automating them. Given that the original game had achievements tied to five-star speedruns of Challenge mode, I'd be surprised if those didn't make a return, and they are famously not easy. As for the rest of the list, it's hard to call it until we see it — I was seeing pops frequently enough during casual play, though as I say, I suspect it might end up being a deceptively tricky list after that initial wave of relatively easy stuff.

jurassic world evolution 2


Summary

Jurassic World Evolution 2 certainly has a fitting title, because it's exactly that — a true evolution. The campaign might be a little on the short side, performance problems are unfortunate, and only having a handful of the movie actors reprise their roles can feel a little jarring (the Chris Pratt soundalike is kinda terrible). But rustling beyond the foliage of these superficial issues is a simulation game with the kind of depth and nuance that the original game promised but never really delivered. There's plenty to try out across its smattering of modes, with everything you unlock during regular play feeding back into the Sandbox mode, giving you even more options to mess around with there without limits. Certainly one of the better games of its ilk, especially on console, and while it can still get a little intense by genre standards, it probably wouldn't be a very good Jurassic Park game if it didn't.
8 / 10
* Luke spent around 15 hours rehousing dinosaurs and coping with disasters on Xbox Series X, with 20 achievements to show for it so far. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Luke runs the TA news team, contributing where he can primarily with reviews and other long-form features — crafts he has honed across two decades of print and online gaming media experience, having worked with the likes of gamesTM, Eurogamer, Play, Retro Gamer, Edge, and many more. He loves all things Monster Hunter, enjoys a good D&D session, and has played way too much Destiny.