Frontier Developments never gave me any reasons to hate their games. I was dazzled with how they managed to recreate my all-time favorite park-sim game, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, that offers better visuals and deep gameplay mechanics — Jurassic World: Evolution. I hate to admit it but I think I do have a thing for simulator games. Ever since The Sims and SimCity, every time I booted up that kind of game I just get really into it and I can’t pull myself out from the keyboard and mouse for hours.
There are great construction and management simulator games such as Cities: Skylines, Frostpunk, Surviving Mars, and much more. And I believe Frontier Developments has taken the genre a step forward with theme park sims after their release of Jurassic World: Evolution last year. Planet Zoo feels really like home with extra tidbits of additional interesting gameplay features that make the game your go-to-park-sim today.
Planet Zoo is a theme-park simulator experience where you get to be a zoologist. If you love animals, you’ll definitely admire how the studio put all its efforts into making this not just a fun and enjoyable experience, but a game where you can learn new things about animal habitat and its history.
There are a couple of modes you can play. The Career Mode is, in my opinion, a great place to start if you have got no experience of playing theme park sims. It teaches you the basics of managing your animals’ welfare to decorating your entire park with materials that can be beneficial to your visitors. You also get to understand how your animal’s livelihood, and how they react at certain changes within their habitat which will affect their welfare. The tutorial feels complete and it covers every aspect of what you need to know about the game’s mechanics.
You also have Sandbox Mode where you can build your zoo without any restrictions, Franchise mode if you want to trade animals with other players, and Challenge Mode to put yourself into a big test and how great of a manager you are.
Managing animal welfare can be a tedious task especially when your park gets a little too crowded. You have this long list of animals you currently have in your park, and they individually have their own mood swings and preference based on their welfare. I’m talking about welfare but what are the specifics? Animal ‘Welfare’ includes nutrition, social, habitat, and enrichments. Each with its own subcategory to give you a better understanding on how happy your animals are.
Let’s take in, for example, the Habitat welfare. Animals react negatively to foreign plants that aren’t part of their place of origin. So, if a Bonobo is surrounded by any European and non-tropical trees then its welfare will significantly dip. By clicking on these animals, you get to open an overview panel that lets you understand how to take care of them. Do they require longer grass to be happy? Then go to the Terrain tab. Do you want to know if they are comfortable having a lot of animals inside their den? Then go to the Social tab. This makes Planet Zoo a lovable game as you get to virtually take care of your virtual wild animals.
And the great thing is, Planet Zoo does not alienate its players with its deep customization. There are tons of things you can do when you create your park. Things get a little too in-depth when you start customizing your animal’s own shelter, there are handy pre-made blueprints for you to use if you aren’t the artistic type. You can also add trinkets in your park’s habitat that would improve your animal’s welfare.
I talk a lot about animals, but there’s this question: how do you get them? Do you breed them in a certain facility like how Jurassic World: Evolution does them? So, how? The answer is simple, in real-life zoos, you don’t really have to breed these animals inside a cage or any facilities, but usually what these establishments do is animal trading. Yes, there is an animal market where you get to see the list of animals available for purchase. They then get delivered to your animal storage in your zoo until you get to release them to their dens. It’s that easy.
But first, you have to get the money (what you will earn from your visitors) from your earnings as the common currency or you can use conversation credits. Meaning, you’ll have to release animals to wild to earn them. If you get to release a higher quality type of animal with better welfare then you’ll get more credits than you usually do. I like this approach because you don’t just wait for your animals to pass away in their dens and replace them. Planet Zoo does a magnificent job of handling animals carefully like how we do it in real life.
Visually, Planet Zoo does not disappoint. If you crank the settings up to High, everything looks eye candy. Every fur from a Grizzly Bear to the amazing detailed look of an Orangutan, you will instantly love how beautiful the game is on your screen. I still can’t forget how I was mesmerized when I played Jurassic World: Evolution because of its massive visual quality. Just, wow.
However, that doesn’t mean that Planet Zoo is perfect. I’ve encountered a couple of game crashes for some reason even though I’m running the game on an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 with an RTX 2070 8GB and a 16GB of RAM. I tried to pinpoint what the issue was, but it’s not within the settings. This can be attributed to the drivers of Nvidia, but that doesn’t rule out that it might be within the game’s programming.
Planet Zoo doesn’t shy away from being a deep theme-park sim as it manages so well to be friendly to newcomers in this kind of game. What I love the most about Planet Zoo is its in-depth gameplay mechanics. I immediately fell in love with the game after the first level of Career Mode. I’ve spent a lot of hours here than on Jurassic World: Evolution and I’m continuing to spend more time cranking up my zoo’s rating and trade animals with another player. Frontier Developments, you guys definitely need an award for this.
Planet Zoo – Review
Almost perfect if not for the nitty-gritty. If it’s quite there but not enough to push the boundaries, it’s still an awesome game.