Planet Zoo is a construction and management simulation video game developed and published by Frontier Developments for Microsoft Windows. The game is a spiritual successor to Zoo Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon 2, with gameplay similar to the studio's theme park game, Planet Coaster. It was released on 5 November 2019.

Planet Zoo
Planet Zoo.jpg
Developer(s)Frontier Developments
Publisher(s)Frontier Developments
Director(s)Piers Jackson
Producer(s)Steve Wilkins
Designer(s)James Taylor
Artist(s)Marc Cox
Composer(s)
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
Release5 November 2019
Genre(s)Construction and management simulation
Mode(s)Single-player

As with Planet Coaster, critics praised Planet Zoo's creation tools along with its realistic animal portrayals and emphasis on wildlife conservation. However, the game was also criticized for the complexity of its management and building mechanics, which were deemed to be overly challenging for some players. Planet Zoo continues to receive regular post-launch updates and downloadable content. It was a commercial success, selling more than a million copies in six months.[1]

Gameplay

 
A Mandrill exhibit in Planet Zoo

Planet Zoo tasks players with building a zoo, with 74 animal species in the base game and 56 new species becoming available through nine separate downloadable content packs and the Deluxe Edition. Animals, controlled by artificial intelligence, behave similarly to their real-life counterparts. For instance, wolves adopt a pack mentality and animals of the African plains (such as elephants, giraffe, zebras, wildebeest, and buffalo) can live together in a single mixed-species habitat. Each species has its own requirements and needs that players must satisfy through creation of a suitable exhibit environment and adequate behavioral enrichment. Predators can attack and kill other animals, but unlike in Zoo Tycoon, cannot attack guests.[2] Each animal has their own genome within the game's breeding system, which reflect its life expectancy, size, health, and fertility and can be passed down through offspring. As such, elements such as inbreeding may have negative consequences on progeny.[3]

In addition to ensuring animal welfare, the player must deal with managing the park as an institution. This includes hiring staff, constructing guest amenities and staff facilities, performing research, and working towards the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Like Planet Coaster, Planet Zoo provides over a thousand building pieces such as benches, lighting, flowers, trees, and items such as individual planks of wood, glass, rocks, and roof tiles. By allowing these items to phase-into and/or lock with each other, the creative player can create elaborate buildings, landscaping, and natural structures such as waterfalls and cave systems from scratch. Custom structures can be uploaded as "blueprints" for other players to download for free and place in their own zoos via the Steam Workshop. Safari, boat, train, monorail, and gondola lift rides can also be constructed throughout the zoo for transportation and to offer guests additional ways of viewing animals. The game features a dynamic day/night cycle, weather patterns, and animal poop physics.[4]

The game features four modes: sandbox, career, challenge, and the online franchise mode.[5] The franchise mode allows the player to build multiple franchise zoos with a shared economy and animals. Animals can be purchased and traded with other players' zoos through an online marketplace. Regular cooperative online community challenges focused on conservation (such as breeding and releasing as many giant pandas to the wild within a certain timeframe) allow players to receive "conservation credits," which can be redeemed for new animals instead of regular in-game currency. The game features ten critically endangered animal species and subspecies: the Bornean orangutan, Chinese pangolin, gharial, Himalayan brown bear, Lehmann's poison frog, Lesser Antillean iguana, red ruffed lemur, West African lion, western chimpanzee, and western lowland gorilla. Increasing the zoo's conservation rating through the display and release of endangered animals, informational signs, and educational talks is an important gameplay goal.[6]

Development and release

The game was announced on 24 April 2019 and released on 5 November 2019.[7][8][9] Its release was highly anticipated by many fans of the original Zoo Tycoon series who were disappointed by the significant changes to the 2013 reboot.[10][11] Besides pre-ordering the game, players had the opportunity to pre-order the Deluxe Edition, which includes three exclusive animals (pygmy hippopotamus, Komodo dragon, and Thomson's gazelle) and other bonus content (such as wallpapers) and provided beta access a few weeks before release.[12]

Nine additional paid downloadable content packs have been released since the game's launch. These include the Arctic Pack, the South America Pack, the Australia Pack, the Aquatic Pack, the Southeast Asia Animal Pack, the Africa Pack, the North America Animal Pack, the Europe Pack, and the Wetlands Animal Pack each adding new animals to take care of as well as new scenery pieces, terrain, foliage, and building designs based on the desired region. In conjunction with the paid DLC, Frontier has continued to support the game through free updates to the base game. In addition to patching and bug fixes, these free updates have included new content such as scenery items including foliage and building pieces, new menus for food quality and park rides, and new in-game mechanics like hereditable color variation, vending machines, educator animal talks, first person camera mode and animal underwater diving.

Also released alongside these paid DLC was an Anniversary Update, released in November 2021 to commemorate the game's 2 year anniversary. This free DLC included a black-and-white ruffed lemur as well as two new shops and special events ingame to mark this anniversary.

Downloadable Content

Name Release date Description
Arctic Pack December 17, 2019 Arctic Pack introduces the Polar bear, Reindeer, Dall sheep and Arctic wolf along with decorations with theme of a Scandinavian village.[13]
South America Pack April 7, 2020 South America Pack introduces the Colombian white-faced capuchin, Giant anteater, Jaguar, Llama, and Red-eyed tree frog along with Incan and South American native tribe village themed decoration items.
Australia Pack August 25, 2020 Australia Pack introduces the Red kangaroo, Dingo, Southern cassowary, Koala and Eastern blue-tongued lizard in addition to Aboriginal Australian themed decoration items.
Aquatic Pack December 8, 2020 Aquatic Pack introduces the King penguin, Giant otter, Cuvier's dwarf caiman, Grey seal and Diamondback terrapin along with maritime themed decoration items.
Southeast Asia Animal Pack March 30, 2021 Southeast Asia Pack is an animal centered pack that features the Sun bear, Clouded leopard, Binturong, North Sulawesi babirusa, Malayan tapir, Ussuri dhole, Proboscis monkey and Giant Malaysian leaf insect.
Africa Pack June 22, 2021 Africa Pack introduces the Meerkat, Southern white rhinoceros, African penguin, Fennec fox and Sacred scarab beetle. The pack also features Egyptian and North African themed decoration items.
North America Animal Pack October 4, 2021 North America Pack is an animal centered pack that features the North American beaver, Moose, California sea lion, American alligator, Arctic fox, Black-tailed prairie dog, Cougar, and American bullfrog.
Europe Pack December 14, 2021 Europe Pack introduces the Eurasian lynx, European fallow deer, European badger, Alpine ibex and Fire salamander. The pack also features scenery pieces theme around Europe countries like Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.[14]
Wetlands Animal Pack April 12, 2022 Wetlands Animal Pack is an animal centered pack that features the Capybara, Platypus, Wild water buffalo, Asian small-clawed otter, Spectacled caiman, Red-crowned crane, Nile lechwe, and Danube crested newt.[15]

Reception

Planet Zoo received "generally positive reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic.[16] It was praised for its attention to detail, graphics, heavily-researched animal behavior, robust build tools, in-depth management and economy system, and educational value regarding wildlife conservation. Drawing from Planet Coaster, the game was construed as offering players unparalleled flexibility and scope to design a zoological park unbound by creativity relative to previous zoo-based simulation games. IGN described the game as "widely satisfying" and "wowed with a huge amount of customization."[19] Destructoid praised it as successfully capturing the spirit of Zoo Tycoon[11] and many reviews have characterized it as the finest zoo management game of its time,[16][21] with Kotaku calling it "one of gaming's great sandboxes".[22]

However, these features also drew criticism for a steep learning curve and requiring a heavy attention to management; many reviewers considered this potentially off-putting to casual players who may be primarily interested in the animals over broader elements of park management. Although highly complex and detailed structures may be designed from scratch, the building mechanics and pathing system in particular have been described as being very difficult for new players to execute properly, especially for those who had not previously played Planet Coaster.[11] Various guest, staff, and animal welfare mechanics have also been described as requiring an at times overwhelming degree of micromanagement.[23] GameSpot described the game as a "spreadsheet safari" which "sometimes stumbles under the weight of its own systems",[18] while GameInformer concluded that "an unreasonable level of patience [...] creates a barrier around its best qualities."[17]

Reception to post-launch support and updates has been positive, with several attempts to address ongoing criticisms of the management and building systems. The introduction of new animals and set pieces has been highly positive, although some players have advocated for increasing the number of additional animals per DLC pack.[24][25][26] Planet Zoo has adopted an approach of releasing smaller, more frequent content packs in contrast to the larger expansion packs of the original Zoo Tycoon series. In response to this feedback, the fourth expansion pack, the Southeast Asia Animal Pack, was released with 8 animals;[27] the developers also made rapid modifications to the incoming binturong model after fans identified inaccurate anatomy in pre-release screenshots.[28]

The game had sold more than a million copies by May 2020.[1] It won the awards for "Best Simulation Game" at Gamescom 2019 and "Best Strategy/Simulation Game" at the 2020 Webby Awards.[29][30] Additionally, it was nominated for "Best British Game" at the 16th British Academy Games Awards[31]

References

  1. ^ a b Kerr, Chris (20 May 2020). "Planet Zoo has surpassed 1 million sales in under six months". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  2. ^ Watts, Rachel (6 November 2019). "I released all of the animals in Planet Zoo". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  3. ^ Kent, Emma (24 April 2019). "Planet Zoo will feature "the most realistic animals in any game"". Eurogamer. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  4. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (15 June 2019). "17 minnutes of Frontier's promising Planet Zoo - and a snippet of poo physics". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  5. ^ Gwaltney, Javy (24 April 2019). "Five Reasons Planet Zoo Is Promising". Game Informer. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Planet Zoo - Simulation runs wild". Planet Zoo. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  7. ^ Kelly, Andy (24 April 2019). "Design and manage a zoo in Frontier's next game, Planet Zoo". PC Gamer.
  8. ^ Watts, Rachel (10 June 2019). "The Planet Zoo release date has been revealed". PCGamesN. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  9. ^ Gwaltney, Javy (24 April 2019). "Planet Coaster Creators Reveal Spiritual Successor To Zoo Tycoon". Game Informer.
  10. ^ Lianna, Lianna (23 July 2019). "Planet Zoo: 5 Things It Does Better Than Zoo Tycoon (& 5 Things It Does Worse)". The Gamer. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Devore, Jordan (9 November 2019). "Review: Planet Zoo". Destructoid. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  12. ^ Boudreau, Ian (21 August 2019). "Planet Zoo reveals pre-order beta dates". PC Gamer. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Arctic Pack available".
  14. ^ Ashcroft, Helen. "Planet Zoo Europe Pack Overview".
  15. ^ "PLANET ZOO: WETLANDS ANIMAL PACK ARRIVING 12 APRIL". Frontier Developments. 29 March 2022. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  16. ^ a b c "Planet Zoo for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  17. ^ a b Wallace, Kimberley (7 November 2019). "Planet Zoo Review – Wearing Down Barriers". Game Informer. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  18. ^ a b Swinbanks, James (20 November 2019). "Planet Zoo Review - Spreadsheet Safart". GameSpot. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  19. ^ a b Hafer, Leana (28 April 2020). "Planet Zoo Review". IGN. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  20. ^ Livingston, Christopher (5 November 2019). "Planet Zoo review". pcgamer. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Wertung: Planet Zoo im Test: Der König der Zoo-Simulationen". GameStar. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  22. ^ Plunkett, Luke (5 November 2019). "Planet Zoo Has Cute Animals, But The Management Sucks". Kotaku. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  23. ^ Dale, Laura (8 November 2019). "Planet Zoo shows the attractions are more important than the guests". Polygon. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  24. ^ Steighner, Mark (26 December 2019). "Planet Zoo Arctic Pack Review". DarkStation. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  25. ^ Clark, Dean (17 May 2020). "PLANET ZOO: SOUTH AMERICAN DLC & UPDATE Review: Expanding Into Better Gameplay". gametyrant. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  26. ^ Smith, Jake (28 August 2020). "Planet Zoo Australia DLC Review". Nerdy Bird Games. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  27. ^ Tablante, Lexuzze (30 March 2021). "Planet Zoo Gets a Southeast Asia Animal Pack Today!". Sirius Gaming. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  29. ^ Mamiit, Aaron (25 August 2019). "PlayStation 4 exclusive Dreams takes home Best of Gamescom 2019 award". Digital Trends. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  30. ^ "Webby Awards: Games". The Webby Awards. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  31. ^ Stuart, Keith (3 March 2020). "Death Stranding and Control dominate Bafta games awards nominations". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2020.

External links