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Planet Zoo Preview

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 7 - 2019

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo.

Over the past couple of weeks, anyone who has pre-ordered Frontier’s Planet Zoo will have been able to take part in the closed beta and try the game out. While I will get to my thoughts on this zoo management game in a moment, I have to say that I do have a real concern. Through the course of the beta, I would imagine hundreds of zoos have been tinkered with, and thousands of animals have been adopted and unceremoniously delivered to their new homes. But as the beta draws to a close, and players have to wait a few weeks for the game to launch, what will happen to all of those animals. Let’s face it, the zoos don’t seem able to function without the player, so with no players for a few weeks, they will all go to rack and ruin. And those poor little animals, well, I dread to think.


Back at the dawn of time, or twenty years ago, anyone with a decent PC and a love of games would have been running a park filled with adrenaline-inducing rides, salty fries and overpriced drinks. The natural progression from this was for players to stop trying to make their customers vomit, and start making them go “aww” and maybe even be educated in a park filled with animals. However, in recent years the practice of running virtual parks for the public almost disappeared. Sure, the occasional game would turn up, but most of these seemed more interested in the engineering side of building coasters than anything else. But Frontier Developments never gave up the dream of entertaining players by letting them entertain the public. Over the years the company have produced many games that involved coasters or animal management across many platforms. But it wasn’t until 2016’s Planet Coaster that the true freedom of building an entire theme park and running it once more became a reality. After this, Frontier messed around with a dinosaur park before finally setting their sights on running a proper zoo. Finally, on November 5th, Planet Zoo will launch and let players create and run their very own zoo, including choosing from a huge number of detailed animals to exhibit and keep healthy, alongside dropping in to already established zoos and fixing whatever problems they seem to have created.

While the beta for Planet Zoo was limited, only allowing the player to drop into a couple of scenarios, one thing quickly becomes very clear. Looking after animals is a complicated business. Anyone who has played Frontier’s Planet Coaster will already be well versed in the level of creativity and customisation that is at the players finger tips. Planet Zoo will be exactly as creative as the player wants, with the chance to completely build from scratch any of the animal enclosures, or even download creations by other players from the already active community that is springing up. Everything from the terrain layout to the shelter can be messed around with, but the aim of the beta was much more about showing off the complexities of looking after the animals.


At the end of the day, how creative the player is will be of no importance if the animals in the enclosures are unhappy, or dead. And so the game provides bundles of information about each animal that can easily be accessed to show what they need or what needs to be changed. From the very basics, such as what percentage of a particular ground type the enclosure should have, through to the right food containers and the right number and type of plants. Then the player will have to concern themselves with how many of the animals they have, the temperature in the enclosure, and if they have enough shelter. Pick the right boundary for the enclosure, making sure that the public can still get a good view of the animals. Obviously the public are important as they are bringing the money in, which will lead to hiding keeper buildings and ensuring they don’t break the illusion, and giving the public plenty of information and education about the animals. But it is the animals that are all important, and so a shy animal may need one way glass to thrive. Then the player has to make sure they don’t get bored, so enrichment items need to be dropped in and changed out occasionally. Damn, there really are a lot of things to think about.

All of this consideration will evolve as well. Research is always important and learning about the animals will lead to further understanding of their needs. Of course, this can’t start until the player has already adopted those animals and set up their enclosure, so players will be racing against time to make sure their animals are well looked after. New enrichment items and further tweaks to their enclosures will become available that will hopefully keep them alive just that little bit longer.


Still, there is something very exciting about heading to the screen to adopt new animals before watching the keepers release them into a new enclosure. While it may come as no surprise to Planet Coaster players just how great the game looks, it has to be said that the animals look absolutely amazing in Planet Zoo. The camera options allow the player to focus in on any animal and just watch them going about their business, and it really is quite mesmerising. There are certainly no complaints about how good the game looks, even before release. The same can be said for the UI in the game. The user interface is especially important in a game of this type, and thankfully everything is laid out very clearly and makes it very easy to find what information the player needs, which is no mean task given how much information there is.


The Planet Zoo beta will be finishing tomorrow, Tuesday October 8th, so it may be a little late to jump in now with a pre-order of the Deluxe Edition. The full game will be released on November 5th though, so it will not be too much of a wait. The Deluxe Edition comes with a few extra animals, along with the soundtrack and wallpapers, and so is well worth considering. After spending some time in the game, I can’t wait to get my hands on the sandbox mode and start getting to grips with keeping more exotic animals. For anyone who remembers the older tycoon games, or those who fancy trying their hands at running a zoo, Planet Zoo looks set to be absolutely great. Roll on November 5th.

Planet Zoo is available to pre-order on Steam. Check it out!


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