Jurassic World Evolution 2 director on Jeff Goldblum’s “amazing force of personality”
Rich Newbold talks us through Jurassic World Evolution 2's links to the films, and how Fallen Kingdom mixed things up for the franchise.
Jurassic World Evolution (2018) was one of the most compelling management simulator games in recent memory, with its highly enjoyable campaign tasking players with building their own dinosaur theme parks across an array of challenging islands. The sequel, Jurassic World Evolution 2, has now been confirmed.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 will pick up after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - fans will remember that the movie ended with a number of dinosaurs being released onto mainland America, which is a truly game-changing development for the film franchise and this video game spinoff series.
As the game's release nears, RadioTimes.com was invited to an online preview event where we played a couple of hours of Jurassic World Evolution 2. A few days later, we jumped on a Teams call with Frontier Developments' Rich Newbold (pictured above - he's the one on the right), Game Director on both Jurassic World Evolution games.
We couldn't resist the opportunity to ask Newbold about those Fallen Kingdom connections, working with Jeff Goldblum on voiceovers again, and the new Chaos Theory mode that will revisit iconic moments from the films.
How Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom changed the game
"Fallen Kingdom came out the month that the first game did," Newbold remembers, and he says that the movie's dino-unleashing ending "gives so many possibilities of what we can do" with Jurassic World Evolution 2's gameplay and story content.
Newbold explains: "The campaign mode allowed us to explore these ideas of what humanity would be like, what we would be facing. Now dinosaurs are out, they're in America, the balance of our lives has been changed."
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This being the Jurassic Park franchise, Newbold notes that: "Obviously, some people are going to use [the newly escaped dinosaurs] for negative reasons. And that's why you as the player are working for a fictional government agency in America - the Department of Fish and Wildlife, who traditionally would be looking after fish and wildlife, but now, their umbrella has suddenly included dinosaurs."
Throughout the campaign, Newbold says, "You're going to go across America into different situations to deal with different types of dinosaurs and different problems as well." One new introduction in this sequel is underwater dinosaurs, which didn't feature in the previous game.
We were lucky enough to play the first campaign mission, which was really fun, and we can certainly see what Newbold is alluding to there. That first story chapter sees the player taking control of a dinosaur poacher camp, where inhumane practices have crammed a number of dinosaurs into tiny enclosures.
The goal for the player is to turn this camp around before the dinosaurs start dying, and that's not the only change to the formula - later in the level, a fun new mechanic sees you setting out in a car to follow clues on the trail of other nearby dinosaurs. It's certainly a different challenge to the original game's campaign, but that compelling nature of the core gameplay very much remains.
The "amazing force of personality" that is Jeff Goldblum
Like the first Jurassic World Evolution game, Jurassic World Evolution 2 will feature voice performances from familiar film franchise stars including Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeff Goldblum. "It's just been so amazing working with them," Newbold enthuses.
He adds: "There are moments where you forget the amazing moment that you're in, because you're working - you're working through voiceover sessions, you're working on your scripts, and occasionally do forget that you're working with Jeff Goldblum or Bryce Dallas Howard. It does happen. But then they'll just be so amazing in their performance, or what they bring into the character, and then you'll go, 'How could I let this feel normal? This is not normal. I'm working with some amazing people in an amazing franchise and it's so exciting.'"
What is Goldblum like in real life? Newbold says: "Jeff is an amazing force of personality and nature. And he's really amazing at bringing his own experiences of being Ian Malcolm, throughout all the films, to the character. And his personality that comes across in that character is very much his own. And it's amazing to watch him perform. It is amazing and unique."
Taking place in something of a parallel timeline to the films, the Jurassic World Evolution games also feature their own unique characters - your boss in the new game will once again be Cabot Finch, who is now the Assistant Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and you'll also be able to hire a number of scientists to help with your research.
An unexpected tribute to Nedry
In a fun tribute to disgruntled characters like Nedry from the first Jurassic Park film, your scientists will sabotage you if you don't treat them nicely. You'll have to keep an eye on their morale levels and divvy out tasks accordingly, which adds an extra layer of difficulty to proceedings.
On the thinking behind this addition, Newbold says: "We wanted to lean into the authenticity of Jurassic, of having someone like Nerdry, who was disgruntled and he would then sabotage your park - we thought this is a great opportunity to add something like that as well. So if you're overworking your staff, they become disgruntled. They might cause sabotage in your park, as well. So it was a great opportunity to add a new management system, but also kind of make it authentic to the Jurassic franchise as well."
We came up against this feature during a hands-on session with the Challenge game mode - in this mode, you build and upgrade theme parks to try and complete a series of objectives, but there are certain 'conditions' you have to meet this time (e.g. you might need to make a five-star park despite a condition stating you can't use any herbivores).
We had loads of goals to hit in our Challenge mode session, and our staff were starting to get grumpy with the number of tasks we were giving them, which really does feel like a core part of this franchise. It's a nice addition that makes things extra tricky - and we'll have to remember to be nice to our scientists when the full game comes out!
Exploring "what if scenarios" in a new game mode
It's not just Marvel that can do 'What If' stories! Jurassic World Evolution 2 has a new game mode called Chaos Theory, which will task the player with tackling some famous moments from the film franchise and seeing if they can do a better job than the movie characters.
Although we didn't get to play this mode during the preview event, Newbold did offer this teasing statement when we asked about it: "The Chaos Theory mode is a series of levels that are 'what if' scenarios. They're a bit like alternate timelines. They're going to go across all of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies.
"They're going to put the player into moments and go, 'OK, now you're in charge, at this point in time, how are you going to deal with the situation?' And it is a great opportunity for us to go back and go through some of those amazing moments from the films that really resonated with with people when they watched the films a long time ago."
Newbold is fully aware that when you watch the film characters "build these parks and fail, you might think you can do a better job." And although Jurassic World Evolution 2 does offer some "wish fulfilment" in that regard, Newbold is keen to note that "the game will bring you back down to Earth by either a storm coming in, sabotage, dinosaurs escaping, running out of money, things like that." It's not going to be easy, then!
From what we've seen of the Campaign made and the Challenge mode, Jurassic World Evolution 2 really does feel like an evolution of the first game, with additions like poacher camps and Nedry-style sabotage making it feel like a proper step up from its predecessor. And it already seems like a fun follow-up to the Fallen Kingdom film, the cliffhanger ending has been dangling for a while now.
Newbold says he doesn't know what the film franchise is going to do next - the movie team at Universal "very much keep to themselves", he says - but we're excited to play more and see how this game picks up the threads of Fallen Kingdom while we wait for next year's Jurassic World Dominion movie.
We asked Newbold if he thinks this game will tide over film fans nicely while they wait for Dominion. He says: "Jurassic World Evolution 2 is a great opportunity to kind of, as you say, tide you over, to experience that amazing franchise, and be up close with dinosaurs in a video game, and really have that direct connection with them." Bring it on, we say!