Growing up with simulation games like Zoo Tycoon, it is a shame for me to witness that for decades the theme was largely ignored by game developers. There is something so therapeutic and fun building the perfect habitats for real animals and construct a fun experience for visitors. It probably was my childhood fondness for zoos acting up, but since the closest modern game that came close to Zoo Tycoon - Jurassic World Evolution - was released, I found myself wishing the hunky triceratops, giant brachiosauruses, or fierce T-rexes were real animals as giraffes, monkeys, or wolves.

But Frontier Developments - the same studio behind the aforementioned dinosaur-theme game - is offering the exact realistic experience I had been wishing for in the upcoming game Planet Zoo. Better yet, the game will not singularly be all about building the biggest, most impressive zoos out there, catering tourists, or take care of the animals. The game’s focus will be about education, conservation, and ensuring that the animals’ welfares are in great shape.

Amazing Details

It Is In the Animations

The level of details and effort you must pour into this game reflects in that putting down buildings and fencing up enclosures are just the most basic tasks. With construction tools similar to Planet Coaster, every aspects of the zoo can be modified. The attention to details is amazing, Frontier Developments’ team spent an entire year working on the animation for the monkeys to try and make it ‘just’ right. So once you get the game, you can start a habitat for monkeys with a complex gym built from plank-wood and marvel at their fluent movements and realistic expressions.

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Watching the monkeys play in their wooden gymnasium can be great entertainment for countless hours.

That is, until something else grabs your attention. And don’t worry, with dozens of animals to discover and take care of, you won’t be short on it for a long time.

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A snoozing hippo.

But it's not without a reason that developers had focused so much on capturing precise animations for each of the animals in the game. It’s not just to make them cute, or give the game a huge graphical ‘wow’ factor that could entice you to play the game hours on end (Which you will, anyway). It’s all a great machination to get you to actually care about the welfare of the animals.

Taking inspirations from Jurassic World Evolution, to keep the animals happy you have to take into account different factors like their social needs, food, water, comfort, habitation requirements (Type of soil, space, size, e.t.c.), population, and more. For each animals, the developers have a range of special items you can add into their habitations to keep them happy. For example, a scratching posts for cheetahs, or as previously mentioned, a big gymnasium for the monkeys. The happier and more contented they are in their homes, the more they are likely to breed. Though you will also have to take care of the tiny babies. At least their cuteness can make up for the extra burden.

You will be their care-taker from the moment they’re born right up until their death. It might be a little bit depressing that the entirety of their lives would be spent in a zoo, but the least you could do for them is to keep them happy.

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Keep them happy: You're responsible for each of them for the entirety of their lives in your zoo.

The details are not only in the animation of the creatures alone. Rather, it is also in the fur, the skin, eyes … technically everything. It is the type of game with such graphical splendour that you would be missing out on quite a lot if you were to play it in settings other than maximum. Jurassic Park Evolution was praised for the life-like portrayal of different dinosaurs, and Planet Zoo took that praise-worthy level of design to a new height.

... And Also In the Vibrant Environment Of the World

Your exploration of the world of Planet Zoo isn’t only about the animals alone, but with the best graphical settings you can also afford an eye-pleasuring view of the world’s nature. Especially when you are taken on a world tour via the narrative mode to a vast number of different biomes. From African Savannah, to humid and vibrant rain forests, down to the murky swamps infested by marsh crocodiles. You would love the variance as well as beauty of the game’s environments for sure.

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Plenty of biomes to go around in Planet Zoo.

In the demo presented to a select group of press-people and gamers, the narrative mode showcased the Savannah biome and a wide array of native animals (Plain zebras, African wild dogs, e.t.c.). The task set out for the player is to nurture them up to the point where they can be released back into the wild. One of the interesting thing people noticed in this gameplay demo was that all of the animals arrived at the zoo with a unique name to them. And even more so, their names are all themed to their country of origin.

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The world is beautiful in Planet Zoo, from the Sun, the ground, the plants, the trees, to the animals.

Planet Zoo Makes Learning Fun

But the fun thing about Planet Zoo is learning. The game makes learning about animals, their habits, and their needs interactive and extremely entertaining. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even realise you have been studying all that time playing!

The more animals you have in the zoo, the more you have to learn about them and their various requirements, different soil types, or what scenery elements would make them most happy. What kind of different animals that might like to be paired with, and even the population of a species in the same enclosure must be kept in check. Plain zebras and black wildebeests co-exist with one another in the wild, so it’d make them both happier if they were to be paired with one another in the same enclosure.

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Plain zebras live closely with black wildebeests. Keeping them in the same enclosure can be beneficial.

Meanwhile, saltwater crocodiles are territorial and aggressive, that’s why maintaining a large population of them in the same area might not be a very good idea if you want to keep the peace.

Planet Zoo Saltwater Crocodile
Saltwater crocodiles are solitary creatures. If you don't want chaos in your hands, maintain a low population and ample space between them.

You see, the more you learn about them, the happier the animals will be in your hands.

Also, there exist not only big, bulky animals. You can chose to construct exhibition tanks for smaller creatures, too, like a Lesser Antillean iguana, for example. Though this guy needs a lot of micro-management to be kept happy (The temperature and humidity of his tank need to be kept at the correct levels at all times), viewing him crawling up and over the tree branches is intriguing. And the head tilt he will give you when you’re close is extremely adorable.

You would not only be the only one learning. You can opt to place education boards near each exhibitions or enclosures to also educate the visitors about the animals they are viewing. The more  researches you conduct, the more extensive the boards become. In-game, you can read everything about each animals you had researched through the encyclopedia. It serves to show just how dedicated the developers are about the project.

Overall, A Worthy Successor

It makes me really happy to see a game that lives up to not only its core theme, but also the predecessors it is succeeding. While not everyone are interested in animals, this game is a great way of educating everyone in biology and conservation alike. And surely, while playing it, you would feel more than just a builder or a zookeeper and can confidently call yourself a scholar while you’re at it.

Planet Zoo is set to launch on Steam on November 5 this year, so mark the date!