Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed)
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Jurassic World Evolution 2 honors the films that inspired it. Ever since Jurassic Park hit theaters in 1993, there have been dozens of video game adaptations of the original film and its numerous sequels. However, few of these games captured what made that first movie so special: the wonder of seeing the dinosaurs in action, and the horror of the consequences when humans try to play god.
Jurassic World Evolution, a park-building and management sim that coincided with the release of the 2018 film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, finally let players build their own dino theme parks on a grand scale. Set after the events of Fallen Kingdom (spoilers for that movie ensue), Jurassic World Evolution 2 builds on its predecessor’s solid foundation. The result is an addictive sim with gameplay modes to suit every player’s building style. Read on for our full Jurassic World Evolution 2 review.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 review: Setting
Jurassic World Evolution 2 takes place after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The park's dinosaurs, previously confined to a far-off archipelago, are now on the loose and living in the wild all over the world. As Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm declared at the end of the film, it’s a new age, and humans need to learn to live in this Neo-Jurassic era.
The story campaign continues this journey with a series of confined missions that take place in different parts of the United States. Guided by characters from the films, including Dr. Malcolm, Claire Dearing and Owen Grady, your job is to help protect wild dinos from poachers and the elements. It’s all about conservation — think less Sea World, more Yellowstone National Park. Speaking of those characters, many of their actors were on-hand to voice their digital counterparts, including Goldblum and Bryce Dallas Howard. However, Grady’s voice actor does a poor Chris Pratt impersonation.
The main campaign can feel like an extended tutorial at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You won’t find any flashy gyroscope tours or merch shops here, but you will get acquainted with the mechanics of capturing and breeding various species of dinosaurs. You'll also learn how to keep them comfortable in their fenced-in areas, and how to keep the power on so they don’t break out. There’s a budget, but I never felt like I was in danger of running out of money or failing the objectives for any mission. In fact, the whole experience was low-pressure and kind of soothing, similar to playing a farming sim, such as Stardew Valley.
The campaign does an adequate job of walking you through basic gameplay mechanics, as well as showing how characters are adapting to a world with living, breathing dinosaurs in the wild. However, if that’s not your speed, the other gameplay modes should more than scratch your itch to create a thriving theme park where the guests occasionally get eaten.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 review: Gameplay modes
Jurassic World Evolution 2’s other gameplay modes, which are all available from the start of the game, are different takes on the straightforward theme of building a profitable dinosaur theme park. A second story mode, appropriately called “Chaos Theory,” lets you play out scenarios from each of the five Jurassic Park films to see if you could handle those situations differently. That means you can build the first-ever park alongside John Hammond and Dr. Wu, with star dinosaurs like velociraptors taking center stage and drawing in park guests.
Chaos Theory is significantly more challenging than the main campaign. You’ll find yourself struggling to raise revenue, find appropriate spaces for high-profile dinos, and keep it all from going to hell. It takes only one bad storm to destroy buildings and electrified fences, which will send your guests running for shelter — and believe it or not, they don’t really want to buy soft drinks and t-shirts while that’s going on. Your park’s rating (out of five stars) depends on how much revenue you’re making. You can drop from three stars to one pretty quickly if a backup generator runs out of juice and some carnivores escape their confinement.
Even though I played through the entire story campaign before beginning Chaos Theory mode, I still felt unprepared for some of the objectives thrown at me. Evolution 2 sometimes holds your hand through new processes, but other times, the mechanics feel more obtuse. For example, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to install a working park tour. This kept me from drawing in more adventurous guests, who wanted to get up close and personal with the dinos.
Other times, things go wrong that are entirely out of your control. Early on in the first Chaos Theory mission, I had a dinosaur get loose and injure itself. After a diagnosis from the onsite vet, I discovered that the little scamp had swallowed a phone, and the treatment required more advanced scientist training than I could possibly achieve at that time. I ended up just starting over, and things went more smoothly the next time — at least until the next storm rolled around.
There’s also a challenge mode that tests your ability to create a five-star park in the shortest amount of time possible. Don’t worry; it doesn’t really feel like a time trial. This mode actually gives you a lot of freedom to build things in your own way. It’s also a good way to figure out which attractions bring in the most money, and how to keep your guests happy.
Finally, there’s a sandbox mode that offers total freedom to create your own Jurassic Park, without rules or objectives. While all of these gameplay modes share mechanics, they still feel distinct enough that they can keep players engaged for much longer than the first Jurassic World Evolution did. I know I was hooked. There’s something so exciting about discovering a new species, finding fossils from the far reaches of the world and zooming all the way in to observe dinosaur behavior up close. It helps that the game looks pretty darn good running on an Xbox Series X and a 4K TV.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 review: Verdict
Jurassic World Evolution 2 expands on the previous game in the series in all the best ways. There’s plenty to do, whether you’re looking for a chill management sim or a more fast-paced, challenging experience. It’s easy to lose hours building fences, weaving paths, experimenting with genomes, researching technologies and doing the dozens of other tasks required of a Jurassic Park manager. Despite some frustrations, Jurassic World Evolution 2 feels both true to the film series and like a fresh take on the theme park management genre.