In 1993, one of the greatest film franchises hit the planet and our knowledge of dinosaurs soared (or roared, more likely). Two books by Michael Crichton spawned 6 feature films, a short film, countless toys and some memorable video games.
Frontier Developments gave us the superb Jurassic World Evolution in 2018 which took its influence from the first film in the second trilogy: Jurassic World. The building style, animals and characters were all straight out of that movie. They even released some free DLC with new dinos to tie in with the fifth film: Fallen Kingdom.
With so many links to the films, the fans started to wonder if they'd ever see content for the first movie. Sure, we loved the blue ranger vehicles whizzing around the park while helicopters tranquilise the animals, and dinos like the Spinosaurus were there, but part of us missed the magic of John Hammond and those original skins for beasts like Rexy.
Well, Frontier Developments has done it in what can be described as a midpoint between fan service and a brilliant marketing decision, and this grizzled old reviewer's heart sang and his inner 1993 child picked up the controller with glee when this DLC landed in our inbox.
The Return to Jurassic Park expansion takes place on the two islands from the first trilogy: Sorna and Nublar. There's a story to play through which takes you from rebuilding the park and getting it back online after Nedry shut it down, visiting site B to breed some new dinos, and all ending up in one of the most epic experiences we've had in Jurassic World Evolution. We won't ruin the climax for you, but it did not disappoint.
There were some new mechanics introduced as well. For example, rather than breeding the dinos direct in the park in Nublar, you order them to be delivered from site B via a helicopter pad. There's also the fact that the ranger vehicles can now get damaged by the dinos so you have to deploy flares.
There's so much to love in this new content, especially if you are a fan of the original film. When we first heard about it, we imagined the introduction of the pteranodons would be the highlight, but upon playing it, we found other things we loved more.
We'll get onto the two new creatures soon, but first the loves. All of your favourite characters are back, such as Hammond, Malcolm, Grant and Sattler, and not only do the voices sound great, but the dialogue is witty and intelligent. There's even young Finch which adds a bit more to his back story from the main game.
It's all been very well planned and thought out, and in the terms of the visuals, you can tell a lot of love and respect has been paid to the original movie. The building design and looks are all new and resemble those seen in the 1993 original. There's even the inclusion of toilets now, that are a reference to Gennaro's last minutes of the planet.
We liked the idea of toilets as it gives the game more of a realistic feel. Before this, we often wondered where the guests went about their business. Much in the same way that the new damage adds a bit of realism, as before you could just drive into a T-Rex with no repercussions.
The last new things we're going to mention before we get onto the dinos and some more subtle nods is the Ford Explorer tour. Those green and red cars on tracks are back, and if the power goes down, they do too. There's also the raptor pen where you can keep your raptors (more) securely. Oh, and for the designers out there, there are some new redwood trees.
On the more subtle nods, when the power goes down, you can hear that annoying 'ah ah ah' noise from Nedry's computer when you click on the building that's out of juice and that DNA thing that talks is back on the research screen. There is so much in there that we could mention, but sadly this review is finite.
Next, let's look at the new additions to the lineup. Fans have been begging for flying reptiles and aquatic animals to be added to the game, but this DLC only saw two new creatures added. First, there's the Compsognathus: the little guy who appeared at the start of the second film (they're actually so small that they're actually quite hard to see when it's in its paddock). This signals the last of all the living dinosaurs seen in the films, which means that Frontier needed to go off script for their next pack.
The other new inclusion is the Pteranodon, which comes with 6 new skins, and has its own house in the form of an aviary. Of course, the aviary was in JP3, but if you read the first book it's in there. The only thing we will say is that rather than being a highlight, the aviary felt superficial. Sure, it looks cool, but as it is its own self-contained building, it feels a bit barren, and you can quite easily forget about it, as you can only really watch the animals if you zoom in, or go inside. Much the same as you never really notice the compys unless you look for them.
We would have liked to have seen maybe a couple more flying reptiles in this expansion, but surely that will be a pack that follows soon. On top of that, more things to do inside the aviary would have given it some more purpose. Likewise we'd have liked a couple more dinos, or even a new hybrid. It just felt a little barren on the new animals front.
That said, we're going to leave on a high note. In terms of animals such as the T-Rex, Raptors and several others, there are new skins which leave them looking like their original trilogy versions. We have to make one specific reference, and that is to say that Rexy looked outstanding, and we really loved putting her 1993 version into our parks.
All in all, we have to say that if you enjoyed Jurassic World Evolution, this is an exceptional addition that adds plenty to the experience. Speaking from a fan point of view, we would have liked to have seen more animals, but the rest of the content is fantastic. The look of the buildings, the old favourite characters, the great story, and the classic skins, all this not only add a sense of nostalgia but are welcome inclusions to the game.