Title: Planet Zoo
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Frontier Developments
I practically grew up with the Zoo Tycoon games, so it was apparent I had to give Planet Zoo a try once I heard about it. Here is a game that allows players to create and manage a zoo, by the same developers who worked on Zoo Tycoon. Thankfully, the developers have continued to fine-tune skills along with their craft of creating cute animals to take care of. Even though Planet Zoo doesn’t offer an actual narrative, the sim management systems discovered in the game were enough for me to spend hours creating my dream zoo.
There are different modes available in Planet Zoo. The first one is career mode, which has a tutorial that makes it a must-play for anyone new to this type of game. Specific mechanics in the game can be complicating or overwhelming at first, but through these learning systems, it’s possible to find your way. One mechanic that takes some is getting used to is understanding which buildings visitors shouldn’t have access to. There are various other options in the game that require the player’s attention, but once you finish the tutorial, challenge, franchise, and sandbox mode become available.
In the challenge mode, you have goals that the game requires you to complete. What’s unique about this mode is that it’s played offline. Alternatively, the sandbox mode allows you to do whatever you want with infinite money, conversation points, and any unlocked items. For the franchise mode, you will have limited capital to build the first steps of the zoo. However, after opening your doors, you’ll need to manage the parks to continue developing the zoo keep it open. This mode also requires you to be patient and allows you to trade animals with other players.
Conservation points act as currency in the game, which allows you to buy animals for your zoo. The animals are divided into age and sex depending on the orientation and small details players must decide when they will release them into the wild. You see, before an animal becomes too old or is too young, there is the option to release them. Released animals provide the players with more Conservation points to build their zoo with.
Planet Zoo can become complicated when learning to manage a zoo multiple moving parts. Things, like managing your staff and dealing with visitors and your animals, require some knowledge of how the in-game systems work. There are numerous things you have to keep in mind when adopting a species, and every animal needs something different. It’s up to the player to do things like changing the terrain to the needs of the animals. These options show up as a percentage of what will happen to the terrain overtime that proves to be beneficial when creating the perfect ecosystem. Every animal needs different items, such as what they eat and drink, along with enrichment items and their favorite toys. Luckily, you have your staff to take care of the animals, and it’s easy to please them once you get the hang of it, which is useful as you will need to manage many different kinds of species.
You can breed animals in Planet Zoo if you own a male and female version of the same species. I found some animals getting babies way faster than other species, so you’ll have to continually sell-off some animals, so they don’t overpopulate the habitant. When you’re buying animals they’re always adults, so you’ll be getting an animal which might be a bit older than the rest. It might happen that they aren’t capable of breeding; in this case, they will end up dying without any descendants. Sadly, underwater animals and birds are not available in this game, so there are still popular species missing. However, this game offers exhibits, which makes it possible to keep reptiles and bugs, although I found it was a shame that some bugs were way too small for me to spot.
When building a climbing enrichment, animals are able to use it and jump around on them, which I found very impressive and fun to observe. Something that made the game a little overbearing was that the in-game timer ran a little too fast. A year pretty much passed me by after spending a couple of minutes playing. A day takes a few seconds to get by, which means the fast-forwarding option in the game is unmanageable. In its current state, Planet Zoo has a lot of bugs, which are, thankfully, not game-breaking. Things such as clipping issues or occasional crashes, which should be fixed in upcoming patches by the developer.
The graphics in Planet Zoo are stunning and very detailed. The game also features weather changes, which was rather impressive. I found the animal designs had a lot of detail in them and were all extremely adorable. The habitants allow 3D customization, and you can build buildings in basically every possible way. This makes it possible to develop a zoo that might not be found anywhere in the world. Additionally, there are a lot of stunning designs you can see in the workshops, and if you manage to build something you’re proud of, there is the option to share it with the other players. You can also zoom into any animal to take pretty screenshots.
When I started playing Planet Zoo, the hours seemed to pass me by without even realizing it. I felt a sense of nostalgia while playing, as it borrows elements from the Zoo Tycoon series, but Planet Zoo’s presentation and attention to detail make is a much better experience overall. Sadly, the game takes a while to truly get the hang of as the complicated systems can hinder someone’s playing experience.
I found it sad that underwater species and birds are missing, but I found enjoyment in everything that I was able to do and customize to create my perfect zoo. What stole my heart was the adorable the animals, but fine-tuning my sim experience was what solidified my positive experience with the game. Sure, Planet Zoo isn’t for everyone, but sim fans who want to create and share some impressive zoos are in for hours entertainment.
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