REVIEW: ‘Return to Jurassic Park’ DLC Offers More than Just Nostalgia
The magic of Frontier Developments’ Jurassic World Evolution is that you can create your own park with dinosaurs. By bringing back voices like Jeff Goldblum, the team at Frontier was able to throw you into a world that brought you back to the first time you saw dinosaurs on screen, even if it was through the setting of the Jurassic Park franchises most recent sequels and more advanced technology. But, with “Return to Jurassic Park” the devs at Frontier dial up the nostalgia as they welcome players back to Jurassic Park in the latest premium DLC.
Made in partnership with Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, and created in collaboration with Universal Games and Digital Platforms, “Return to Jurassic Park” puts players directly in 1993 as the crew from the original film return to Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna to rebuild the park. After being charged to restore order to the islands, Dr. Hammond convinces Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to return, reclaim, and rebuild the destroyed Park and successfully open the towering Main Gates to the public.
If you’ve played Jurassic World Evolution before, then you know that when the game loads up you see the Universal Pictures opening and the score that we all know so well from the films. Well, when you click in to start the “Return to Jurassic Park” campaign, you’re greeted with the 1993 opening, immediately showing the attention to detail when putting you back in your childhood.
“Return to Jurassic Park” includes a new original campaign set after the events of Jurassic Park that makes you face external sabotage attempts, tailored missions that reflect the situations that Alan, Ellie, and Ian faced in the original film. When you begin the campaign, your first step is reclaiming both the park on Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna from the dinosaurs roaming free since Jurassic Park was sabotaged and they were let loose.
To do so, you must close enclosures, fix buildings, and make sure dinosaurs don’t have access to main facilities. After that, you complete a series of missions that have you add new buildings to the park and with that you have to manage power. The power plants work slightly different in the DLC and it’s a small challenge to figure out, pushing you to layout your park differently. You’re also in for some Easter egg surprises as the missions ask you to use your dinosaurs in ways that replicate events you’ve seen on screen.
Additionally, every guest amenity built is done to replicate what we see on Isla Nublar. From the visitor’s center where an adorable Rexy roared into the pop culture hall of fame, the iconic Jurassic Park gates and the Raptor Pin to the Park Tour tracks you lay for the green and yellow jeeps to follow to get your visitors up close and personal, you are recreating, or rather reimagining Hammond’s Jurassic Park. But the truly exciting thing about these additions isn’t the nostalgia, its that they create an entirely new sim to learn.
By placing you back in 1993, you don’t have access to the easy viewing decks that you simply place along enclosure fences, instead, you need to create a park tour, a system that works closely with the way you lay monorail tracks, that must run through your enclosures. As you lay the track you need to make sure that the visibility from the Jeeps will have enough coverage of the enclosure to improve your rating while also not overtaking too much of the enclosure. As you continue playing you can unlock additions like night vision which increases that visibility. This presents a big difference from the base game and adds a new challenge for park creators.
But it isn’t just the view of the enclosures that is different, the incubation and release of dinosaurs are also different. Instead of using Hammond Creation Labs attached to individual buildings to each pin for ease of release, “Return to Jurassic Park” uses both Isla Nublar, where your main park exists, and Isla Sorna, the mysterious site B. At the latter, you don’t only reclaim the park from the dinosaurs but you use it as your site to incubate, while you focus on your main park, Isla Nublar, using the helipad to deliver dinosaurs to their new locations like Hammond used and referenced in the original film.
But of course, the stars of the game aren’t just the 1993 designs, it’s the ability hatch all-new dinosaurs. Included in “Return to Jurassic Park” are the Compsognathus and Pteranodon, two dinosaurs that I’ve been waiting for since Jurassic World Evolution came out. Both of which are available to be used in the main campaign outside of the DLC once unlocked. With them, you’re also able to learn the Aviary which can also be used outside of the DLC campaign.
While the aviary seems like a small piece, the beauty comes when you use the Pteranodon camera. A world all of its own, the aviary has its own incubation system and can only house incubate the Pteranodons that are hatched in it, no more, no less. So, in order to have more than two Pteranodons, you need to buy more slots for the aviary hatchery, then once matured, the grown dinosaurs will use them as well.
Now, once you finish the campaign, which took me around 13 hours, you can replay all existing challenges and sandbox levels with a 1993-inspired inventory. Now, like any giant sims, I did have a few crashing issues on the PC, something that’s been a fairly common issue in Frontier Development’s newest sim Planet Zoo. That said, out of the 13 hours played, it only crashed three times, so it wasn’t a game-breaking issue, just something to note so that you save often during your play-through.
Overall, “Return to Jurassic Park” is a wonderful and expansive DLC. Instead of just dropping in nostalgic designs, this expansion goes above and beyond to craft a new gameplay experience for players. Which, at a $19.99 price, is the best thing about it. Learning the mechanics of “Return to Jurassic Park” was just like when I built my first park in Jurassic World Evolution, and honestly, there isn’t much you could ask for. With the voices of your childhood guiding you as you build, I can’t recommend this park building experience enough.
Jurassic World Evolution: Return to Jurassic Park is available now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One digital stores.