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Jurassic World Evolution becomes two games for two different players

Starved for cash or sandbox — what will you choose?

Frontier Developments/Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Jurassic World Evolution is an excellent park builder.

The last time we checked in Jurassic World Evolution, I was only eight hours in — building my first T-Rex on the game’s third island. I’ve since completed the storyline and unlocked the sandbox mode as well as every building and dino available to me. Having not touched the sandbox, I’m sitting comfortably at thirty hours.

The beautiful thing about being thirty hours into Jurassic World is that you can be done — like I am — or you can embrace all you’ve learned and build a Jurassic Park that would put John Hammond to shame.

Jurassic World Evolution has built itself as two completely different experiences. The first — the one I had the most fun with — is the guided experience. As you travel between the game’s five islands, you’re tasked with completing missions and upping your reputation with the three factions: Entertainment, Science, and Security.

As you complete these objectives, you’re given new rewards. Finish one mission and you can build a restaurant or a science center. Because you completed the Science faction’s task on island two, you can build this cool new dinosaur on island four. It’s a system that has you jumping between islands, constantly trying to build the best thing you can with your ever evolving tool set.

Once you earn a five star park rating on the first island — something I was able to achieve about a dozen hours in — you unlock the sandbox island. Here, you can take all of the toys you’ve unlocked across the mission islands and build your own park. You don’t have to worry about reputation and you can turn extreme weather effects on or off. You even have unlimited cash, so you can truly spare no expense in building your Jurassic Park.

Frontier Developments/Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment

It’s a cool system, and something I could see myself really getting into if I wanted to play the game as a movie simulator or simply loved sandboxes. But right now, Jurassic World Evolution worked perfectly as a management simulator. I need the weather to ruin the things I’ve made, or my employees to sabotage my park. I want a game that throws a monkey wrench in my perfect machine and asks me to fix it.

Jurassic World Evolution provided that experience for me for the entire thirty hours. There are certainly moments of frustration — like when things go so badly that you can’t possibly recover without restarting or walking away and letting your capital rebuild — but more often than not, the challenges that came my way were manageable and preventable.

When I failed a task, I would restart and do it better the next time. In the rare and very frustrating case where I would fail a mission multiple times, I was able to find a solution and solve it after a few more attempts.

Jurassic World Evolution taught me how to build the best park I could through 15 missions. It taught me how to birth my first dinosaur and how to maintain a complex ecosystem of herbivores and carnivores in the same pen. I’m able to look back at where I started and see an exponential change in my Jurassic Park building knowledge.

That’s why I haven’t been lured into the sandbox. I know what I’m able to build when my resources are constrained. The thrill of discovering what is possible with unlimited cash doesn’t appeal to me. It may for you.

This is where Jurassic Park Evolution goes from being a surprisingly well made licensed game to a genuine treasure of a park builder. If you want to feel the Zoo Tycoon rush of building a huge pen of carnivorous beasts only to unleash them on your unsuspecting guests, you can do that. The game not only allows for it, the sandbox mode encourages fun without the risk of penalty.

But the game also provides a more strategic experience for players who have migrated away from total freedom. By being two games in one, Jurassic World Evolution has provided players with a perfect choice regardless of what kind of games make you happy.

Before Jurassic Park was sabotaged and dinosaurs were unleashed, it was built to be an exciting place for families to discover together. Jurassic World Evolution lets you build and maintain that fantasy park, or recreate the movie and watch everyone get eaten.

The choice is yours.

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