Review by Willy McCarter
Edited by Tom Garner
Developer/Publisher: Frontier Developments
Composer: Jeremiah Pena
Sound Design: Frontier Developments Audio Team
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
Before getting stuck into the review, I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Sound Architect staff for letting me back on the reviewing bench after a long year of soul searching… through learning intense coding and programming all jammed within one academic year and surviving! That being said, I was more than thrilled to hear that my homecoming article was going to be on a game based on a film franchise very close to my fanboy heart.
Much like the movie tagline, Jurassic World Evolution seems like the ideal game for die hard fans, being ‘65 million years in the making!’. Featuring immersive sound design, an epic soundtrack, and an award-winning A-list voice-over cast, Jurassic World Evolution is a business-management sandbox game in which you build your own Jurassic Park and hatch dinosaurs. How anyone could possibly say no to that premise defies my understanding. For me personally, playing this game evoked a very nostalgic feeling as it brought back great gamer memories of the game, Jurassic Park: Chaos Island – released on PC in 1997.
Jurassic World Evolution is based on a management simulation system that revolves around the player being brought on to the island to budget, finance, and construct the necessary facilities for both breeding and maintaining Jurassic life, while at the same time trying to attract tourism and bring more funding into the facility.
The original soundtrack was provided by Jeremiah Pena, who did a spectacular job in musically recreating the setting of the iconic movie franchise. The main game menu welcomes the player with a fantastic rendition of the Jurassic Park main theme. Using a full symphony orchestra, the player’s musical introduction to the game comes across as cinematic and authentically ‘Jurassic Park’.
This continues in the core gameplay sections. While building and creating your custom park, there are various musical phrases that can be heard, most of which use classic film-like sounds such as swelling strings, bouncing woodwinds, and airy piano flourishes that flow through the game very nicely. The use of these musical elements really maintains the essence of the game world and the challenge that the player is embarking upon. Another great feature is the high dynamic range between each track, with moods ranging from jolly and upbeat to ‘ruddy’ mysterious and heavily dissonant.
One point at which the soundtrack truly blossomed for me personally was when I had finally gathered the correct fossil and DNA utilities to create a new dinosaur. At this moment there was an epic burst of orchestral tones that captured my achievement and the grandeur of the new species that was now living within my park. Here the music is critical in providing the player with a huge sense of accomplishment, reinforcing their motivation for maintaining and growing their park more and more!
Grand and beautifully arranged as the music was, the only downside was that it wasn’t given as much time in the limelight as it should, particularly compared to other sound elements.
Another feature of this game that really emphasises the priority for immersion was the sound design provided by the fantastic Frontier Developments Audio Team. In Jurassic World Evolution, the number of elements in need of representation with sound is vast. From natural landscapes to industrial high-tech environments, numerous prehistoric creatures and vehicles, not forgetting the sound to support the user interface (UI – which are always pretty complicated in management games), the sound design needed to meet a diverse range of challenges to match player expectation – and it did. Overall, the sound is detailed, accurate, and greatly represented in the game world.
The majority of gameplay at first will be spent scrolling through various menu systems and interacting with many characters and prompts. Although very long, the UI elements were very engaging and maintained perfect flow and relevance to the game’s style.
Progressing through to the more interactive elements of the game (such as building new structures, driving around, and watching your dinosaurs grow), the sound design really flourishes. One of my personal favourite examples is the call from your very first Triceratops after being born from its fossil. The beast-like call is emotionally powerful and brings the game to life, drawing you into the prehistoric feel of the world.
As mentioned earlier, Jurassic World Evolution features a top notch cast of voice actors. During play, the voice overs arguably stand out as the more dominant and effective sound feature. To be properly introduced to the game mechanics, the player needs to be guided and also given a narrative world context – and who better to explain how to run your dinosaur park (hatch your dinosaurs, make business decisions, etc.) than Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard,and B.D Wong, who all reprise their original character roles from the film series.
These voice overs, presented as numerous messages and voice prompts, add a significant immersive layer to the gaming experience. When unsure about which move to make or stuck at a certain point in the development of your park’s experience, one of these characters will appear and help guide you towards making your decision. Similar voice over events also occur when new islands or fossils have been discovered. Here, each actor delivers an outstanding performance that conveys their character’s expressions of urgency and concern over what decision the player will make. This is the emotional essence of the game.
I would highly recommend Jurassic World Evolution to those who are fans of the film franchise or those who have a soft spot for business strategy games. It also comes highly recommended for those of you who enjoy games that do a good job of bringing a film’s actual cast into a simulated world and allow you to interact with them. I personally found the game to be an engaging and immersive experience. The music, sound, and voice acting contribute greatly to this experience and help keep the player fully-hyped as they progress through their personal narrative of improving their park. If you are looking to spend copious hours living in a highly detailed and authentic world in which you can breed prehistoric creatures and have all the fun with Jeff Goldblum (which is just a surreal as it sounds), then this game is definitely a must for you.
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The Sound Architect