Jurassic World Evolution has been out for over a year now, and the amount of content available has been steadily growing to include multiple campaigns, new environments, and lots and lots of dinos. Last week, version 1.10 released as a free content update that includes an often requested feature that should please hardcore fans and new players alike: a standalone sandbox mode.
Sandbox modes, or Freeplay modes, are a staple of the city-building genre that gives players an opportunity to use the full breadth of creative tools in the game without worrying about income or managing specific metrics to keep everything running smoothly. Instead, players are able to focus on designing their city however they see fit using every single tool, building, and in this case, dinosaur they want. Sandbox mode is the city-building endgame and the mode that keeps players coming back again and again.
Accessing Sandbox Mode
The new standalone sandbox mode allows players to create on any of the game's ten islands. Unfortunately, you won't be able to jump right in as a new player. Each island's corresponding story campaign needs to be completed first. This means sandbox mode can't be played at all until you've at least finished the main campaign, and nearly half of the islands are locked behind paid DLC.
The amount of DLC available for the game has been a bit of controversial topic for players, despite this being fairly standard practice in city-management/sim games (I mean, have you SEEN how much DLC there is for The Sims!?). Beyond the base game, Jurassic World Evolution offers a pair of campaign DLCs and a slew of dinosaurs packs. There are a number of different bundles available (all of which are on sale right now), but getting access to all of the content is a little convoluted.
Even the "premium edition," which is said to be "the full Jurassic experience," is inexplicably missing one of the DLC campaigns, Claire's Sanctuary. You also can't purchase the premium edition to complete your bundle if you already own the base game, which is pretty frustrating consider many other games offer this option for DLC.
That being said, even with just the base game there are a ton of islands to play around on in Sandbox mode and, once you've played through each campaign in its entirety, you'll have all of the research unlocked so you can jump right in and start making your perfect Jurassic Park.
Spare No Expense (With Unlimited Money)
When beginning a new Sandbox mode game, you'll be presented with a fresh island completely undisturbed aside from one or two command centers. But hold up, you still aren't ready to jump in and get creative, not exactly anyway. First, you'll need to flatten the terrain in order to make space to build. It took me 20-30 minutes to completely flatten all the areas I wanted to build in and plan out my park. I would recommend doing this and then saving a "Whatever Island - Flat" and keeping that save so you don't need to ever do it again.
FINALLY, it's time to start making dinos. Building the exact park to my designs with whatever dinosaurs I wanted was a pretty refreshing experience after the relatively slow-paced campaign. Personally, I didn't mind needing to finish the story before gaining access to Sandbox, as it gave me all the tools and knowledge I needed to jump in and start creating confidently.
Hands down, the greatest benefit of Sandbox mode is that you don't need to do any research in order to unlock dinosaurs and facilities for your park. Once you've done it in the campaign, you don't need to go through that progression process again in Sandbox. Further, incubating a half-dozen dinos - whatever I want - and not even looking at the price tag makes the game a surprisingly different experience from the micro-managey experience of the core campaign.
Further, the ability to play Sandbox on any island is a huge upgrade for players that have only been playing Sandbox on Isla Nublar, especially for the islands that were only briefly explored during some of the campaigns.
Fine Tuning Brings It Home
Sandbox mode also offers tons of great settings to fine-tune your experience. You can change the weather and how frequently it rains (which has been improved in the update), the time of day and how fast your day-night cycle is, the behavior of your dinosaurs, their lifespan, and so much more.
Sometimes, a little challenge can keep things interesting, so the settings also allow you to adjust your income rate, your power consumption, whether incubations can fail, and a slew of micro-difficulty adjustments.
Sandbox isn't new, but in many ways, update 1.10 is an overhaul to the system that is most important to players. The ability to play on any island without needing to replay the campaign to unlock everything should be a huge win for players that were turned off by having to restart from scratch every time. If you've considered playing Jurassic World Evolution, now is the best time to jump in a give it a try, provided you don't mind lots of extra content to buy.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A Steam copy of Jurassic World Evolution was provided to TheGamer for this review. Jurassic World Evolution is out now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.