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Jurassic Park is chock full of iconic scenes and moments, like the awe-inspiring introduction to the park itself or the scary tyrannosaurus rex attack in the rain. More than two decades later, Frontier Developments is hoping to recreate some of that magic in Jurassic World: Evolution.
Out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Jurassic World Evolution is a park-building simulator where you hatch dinosaurs and display them in a way that maximizes both your profit and your customers’ safety. But if you’ve seen any of the films, you know this never ends well — it’s only a matter of time before your genetically created dinos escape and start feasting on whoever they see.
Since releasing the game in summer 2018, Frontier has added more missions, dinosaurs, and stories. But the newest downloadable content, Return to Jurassic Park, is the most exciting add-on yet: It transports you back to the era of the original trilogy, taking place after the events of the first movie. You’ll be working with Jurassic Park’s three main characters — Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm — to restore the infamous safari park on Isla Nublar.
Return to Jurassic Park is the game’s biggest update ever. While past expansions added a few new dinosaurs and buildings, Return fundamentally changes a lot of the core mechanics to fit in with the 1990s look and feel of the movies.
“Essentially, the whole game has been rebuilt with a Jurassic Park version of every building so that you can play all of Jurassic World Evolution again, but in the style of Jurassic Park,” said executive producer Rich Newbold.
But the most surprising part about the DLC, especially for longtime fans, is that the original actors are reprising their roles: Sam Neill (who plays Alan), Laura Dern (Ellie), and Jeff Goldblum (Ian). Goldblum was already a narrator in Jurassic World Evolution’s campaign, but Return to Jurassic Park marks the first time all three characters are together again since the first film.
“Jeff had already done Jurassic World Evolution playing as Ian Malcolm before, so for him it was a bit of an easier conversation because he knew what he was in for,” said Newbold. “But Sam and Laura, they were great as soon as we connected with them and showed them what we were planning.”
Recreating the original dinosaurs
Return to Jurassic Park features a number of recognizable locations and scenery. The visitors’ center from Jurassic Park, complete with its thatch roofing and fossil-adorned archway, acts as your main hub of operations, the place where you’ll research and create dinosaurs. The DLC also comes with similarly themed restrooms, which are just a little larger than the one the T-rex demolishes in the movie.
One of the biggest differences between Jurassic World and Jurassic Park is the look of the dinosaurs, so Return adds several new JP-era skins you can use for those that were already in the game. It also adds two new creatures: the small but feisty compsognathus (a.k.a. “compys”), and the flying pteranodon. Newbold said the goal was to make the dinosaurs “look, move, and sound as close as possible to the film versions.”
To achieve this, Frontier worked closely with its partner Universal Games (a subsidiary of Jurassic franchise owner Universal Pictures), with the latter providing original assets and audio files from the films’ production archives for reference.
“We work with them to make sure that the things we’re building fit with the Jurassic franchise. Their dinosaurs aren’t scientifically accurate, but they have their own unique style and presentation as a dinosaur, so we make sure that our dinosaurs are Jurassic dinosaurs as much as possible,” said Newbold.
But the content isn’t just limited to the first film. Players will also find dinosaur skins based on the sequels The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, including new looks for the velociraptor, triceratops, and stegosaurus.
“Our community is very knowledgeable about the differences between the movies and we really want to do justice to that as part of this expansion,” Newbold added.
A true passion project
Whenever Frontier launches a paid expansion, it also releases a big update that all players can enjoy regardless if they bought the DLC or not. Return to Jurassic Park is no different. The coinciding 1.12 update introduces its own big changes, like finally allowing dinosaurs to attack your roving ranger teams. An ongoing partnership with Intel also helps ensure that all content for Jurassic World Evolution is optimized to run well on Intel GPUs, and according to the studio, it continues to benefit significantly from Intel’s support.
Newbold said making an expansion like Return to Jurassic Park and working with the original actors wasn’t always part of their plan. But as big Jurassic Park fans themselves, the developers would often talk about that possibility. So when the opportunity finally came to work on it, it was a dream come true.
“There are a lot of fans that just know it as Jurassic World. That’s their entry to the franchise. But there’s a large number of the community that are Jurassic Park people. Nostalgia is such a key feeling and we have that in the office as well, and that’s something we want to keep moving forward with,” he said.
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