At Gamescom 2017, Frontier Developments took the lid off of their newest project: Jurassic World Evolution (2018). Although the game is brand new, many consider it to be a spiritual successor to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis (2003) – the holy grail of Jurassic Park simulation games. Despite being announced with a gorgeous trailer constructed from computer generated imagery (CGI), little else was revealed about the title. That has changed with the release of a new video depicting Jurassic World Evolution’s first in-game footage.
On Saturday the 7th of October 2017, Frontier Developments held their annual Frontier Expo. A day dedicated to the fans and communities surrounding video games such as Elite Dangerous and Planet Coaster. Naturally, this meant that Jurassic World Evolution would also be a part of the showcase; and Frontier did not disappoint.
In a panel dedicated to Jurassic World Evolution, game director Michael Brookes, lead designer Andrew Fletcher, and head of animation Nick Rodgers, took to the stage to discuss Frontier Devleopment’s first entry in the Jurassic Park franchise. What I enjoyed most about the panel (embedded below for those who are interested in watching it) is how passionate each of them appear to be about the Jurassic Park franchise. From discussing how the original movies have had an impact on their lives (it inspired Rodgers to become an animator), through to calling the experience a veritable “dream come true”; it is clear that the game is in good hands. As an absolutely massive fan of the franchise, it gives me hope that the game will satisfy both fans of the series and gamers who enjoy real-time strategy (RTS) and simulation games.
The panel was actually filled with some really great information, all of which took place before Jurassic World Evolution’s first in-game footage debuted. Fletcher confirmed that the game will allow gamers to play on all five islands in the Muertes Archipelago. This means that gamers may very well have the opportunity to conduct research and build parks on Isla Sorna – also known as Site B, the island where the dinosaurs were engineered and made. Speaking of, Jurassic World Evolution will also allow players to “bioengineer new dinosaur breeds”, first by conducting research at ‘dig sites’ in various areas in the world (just like in Operation Genesis) as well as construct attractions for guests and containment and research facilities.
In terms of the game, Brookes confirmed that the aim of the game is to become the “pre-imminent dinosaur managing expert”; and there are three core management aspects that gamers can focus on: science, entertainment and security. Science focusses on research and creating new dinosaurs, as well as simply looking after them, how they live, and allowing them to thrive (a core proponent of Jurassic World Evolution’s first in-game footage). Entertainment is all about creating the world’s best theme park, with dinosaurs being the main attractions in the park. Security is focussed on how deadly you can make the dinosaurs, but then also ensuring that the dinosaurs remain in their paddocks and do not consume guests. Gamers can choose to focus on one aspect, or play within each. The choice is yours. Having said that, Brookes confirms that a balance between the three pillars is probably best, but that maintaining that balance will be quite a challenge.
In addition to the three core management aspects, players will also have to content with another aspect: the weather. Just like in the films, Fletcher confirmed that natural disasters are present in the game. Players will have to mitigate these issues as they happen, and is a means of enhancing and pushing forward the peril of looking after giant and deadly dinosaurs. It sounds fantastic, and is definitely an aspect of the game that I am glad to know will be present.
The panel also made mention of a gameplay mechanic that fans adored in Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis: gene splicing and dig sites. Much like the classic game, Jurassic World Evolution will allow players to genetically splice dinosaurs using DNA found at dig sites from around the world. Apparently the feature will be available from the very start of the game, and will allow players to truly customise their parks to their own liking. Want to make that Indominus rex from Jurassic World or the Spinosaurus from The Lost World? Well, it looks like you will be able to, and much, much more. Even better, Brookes used the infamous ‘life finds a way’ quote to hint at the fact that anything can happen; thus gamers should treat the films as cautionary tales.
One of my favourite parts of the panel was when Rodgers revealed how much attention to detail Frontier is dedicating to the dinosaurs in the game. Traditionally, simulation and management games always look great from a far; but when zoomed in, those same assets often become eyesores. This will not be the case with Jurassic World Evolution. Rodgers revealed that Frontier set their art and animation targets to be the same as those featured in the films. According to him, they “didn’t just want to make the best dinosaurs that we’d seen in video games in the past, we wanted to make the best dinosaurs that people have seen. Full stop”. Needless to say, and judging squarely by Jurassic World Evolution’s first in-game footage, I do think they have done an absolutely phenomenal job. From the way the velociraptors eyes twitch, to the triceratops laying down to sleep, and even the T-Rex running; the animation is superb. Bearing in mind the nature of the game, a RTS/simulation, the level of detail is not only surprisingly, it is outstanding.
Everything I have seen from Jurassic World Evolution’s first in-game footage shows that Frontier Developments is creating the game with care and with fans in mind. As such, my excitement levels continue to grow and grow. This game cannot release soon enough!
Jurassic World Evolution is due to release in the Northern Hemisphere’s ‘summer’ release window, just in time for the next film in the franchise, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (2018). The game will be made available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.