Massively on the Go: Jurassic World Alive plods on five years later, encumbered by over-monetization

    
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Ludia’s Jurassic World Alive is still stomping along. It’s gotten some features over the years that seem, well, “borrowed” from that Pokemon GPS game, but yeesh, its over-monetization, ads-everywhere-feeling has somehow gotten worse.

That isn’t to say it was a total waste of time. I do think ARG fans and especially ARG devs should have at least a quick look at it, as it admittedly does some good things. But again, the heavy-handed monetization is pretty immersion breaking, so in today’s Massively on the Go, let’s look into what’s changed in Jurassic World Alive since its release nearly five years ago.

Same old story with new dino-things

Let me summarize my release impressions for those who don’t remember the launch: This game is not Jurassic World game, let alone a Jurassic Park game. It’s dino/hybrid blood sport title, as you collect DNA from various pocket monsters ancient creatures via drone-darts, shove that DNA in a cloner, and then make the critter or level it (don’t ask me why DNA gives levels since, again, immersion isn’t a thing in this game). You also can mix certain DNA from different creatures together to play god and make a more powerful critter.

From there, you engage in turn-based combat, which is actually fairly solid – if you can survive the deluge of requests to watch ads to double your winnings, unlock a bonus, or earn premium currency. You can also subscribe for more bonuses. Oh, and you can also buy packs of virtual items and pay to speed up progress, all of which will be thrown in your face what feels like every few minutes of play, no matter what you’re working on.

That’s still mostly true today, but with some new features that look pretty familiar to those who have played the Pokemon GPS game, the most obvious being raids. They’re still turn-based, like the game’s PvP, but rather than needing an in-person group, you just find the target and are put into a queue with other players from around the world. You also have various buffs, debuffs, shields, and heals, making the raids fairly strategic, especially since the game won’t let you bring dinos that have out-leveled the boss. You can’t expect to be fully carried, though, as raid bosses also have level requirements before you can even attempt some of them. I’m level 9, so I can’t even access the level 18 and 30 raid bosses I’ve seen.

Then there are Strikes. I guess it’s a little like Rocket Encounters in Pokemon in that you have a PvE battle to win the chance to get a new monster. Again, these can also have rounds, and if you fail, you may need to use a premium currency to try your luck again at the same location. While Strikes lack the gating mechanisms raids have, you also won’t have other players around to pick up the slack if you forget what your moves do (as I have).

On paper, achievements are always appreciated, especially when they grant rewards. The problem with JWA’s achievements is that they seem to be coming from everything, everywhere, all at once. Even when I thought I was done claiming all my returning-player, retro-actively-rewarded prizes, the next day saw me win a slew more with minimal effort. I’m sure eventually they would calm down, but claiming prizes, like many other actions in the game, takes forever. A “claim all” button that could show all your rewarded currencies, items, and DNA/dinos would be greatly appreciated and save lots of time, which seems like it should be a hard rule in GPS-based games so you’re not standing around like a weirdo in public places.

There is one other area that really stands out though: guilds.

Clans for cloners

JWA’s alliances are basically guilds. Without a clan, you can take sanctuaries (think “gyms” but PvE): You put a dino in and interact with it to gain DNA rewards. Anyone can drop in, anyone can interact, and you all gain some DNA, guaranteed. However, if you’re in an alliance, your alliance UI will let you visit your clanmates’ sanctuaries to more easily help everyone get DNA.

It gets even better, though, because you can straight up ask for DNA donations. Here, unlike in the Pokemon GPS game, once you have a dino, you have it and level it, with no hidden stats. It makes the game more level and even. Donating DNA does seem like a big deal, especially for rarer dinos, but long-term players may want to actually help lower levels out, as that could help them stick around and do alliance challenges, which can be as simple as getting direct drone hits when getting dino DNA or (ew) opening incubators.

And here’s the kicker: It’s all online. You don’t need to be physically near your mates. That doesn’t do much for a GPS game beyond help cut back on potential stalking, but it also ensures that the fairly small playerbase can actually find other players to group with, which I think is much more important at this stage in the game’s life. Normally, this sort of thing could really help keep me in the game longer than multiplayer games that lack guilds or grouping mechanics, but of course JWA’s over-monetization has already driven me away.

Still selling out

There are a lot of little things I could complain about here. Not taking full advantage of the GPS gameplay is easy since, no one really feels like they’ve got a complete handle on it yet, so I try not to complain about this too much. Bugs? Yeah, but bugs are the least of the game’s issues. It’s the over-monetization and in-your-face advertising that is too much for me to swallow. The game has ads for earning items, earning currencies, and increasing rewards, just off the top of my head. You can pay for premium currencies, loot packs, various items, to reduce at least two timers I can think of, to retry some PvE encounters, and for incubators/lock boxes.

But you can also pay to be a subscriber “VIP,” which has various perks. Yes, giving your drone better batteries so you don’t have to walk as far is nice and seems more than fair, as does some other free perks, but “unlocking” additional ways to spend real money is beyond gross.

The frequent requests for payments or to “interact” with ads that all seem to last at least 30 seconds is exhausting and reminds me far too much of watching movies on TV, extending what could be a 10-minute activity into 15 simply because of the delays caused by frequent ads. We’ve seen Nintendo experiment with models like this, and the monetize-it-all approach simply isn’t the best approach. Even then, Nintendo never subjected us to watching whole advertisements, often for super-shady “games” falsely advertising “gameplay” that you rarely actually experience.

While that seems to be in the spirit of the Jurassic franchise today (both the movies themselves and the plots), that’s about it. Just as before, I advise any would-be players not to think of this as a Jurassic World game but as a generic sci-fi/fantasy “dinosaur” game. If you’re gonna play, it should probably be into game research, like GPS play, UI, or monetization. Unless you’re flush with cash and have an extreme need to spend money on games, I can’t honestly recommend this game just for fun in its current context, unless you are very patient and have tons of time to kill.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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