Frontier Developments replaced its roller coasters with elephants and bears, and we were once again the park manager. And while Planet Zoo was by no means perfect, its hopes were far too high.
I've probably not been as stressed with a game since Sekiro, nor has it been alleviated by frequent crashes and endless bugs. However, in the end, I have the courage to state that it is one of the greatest management games of the generation, despite its very serious childhood illnesses.
Building a park is not a piece of cake, it becomes clear in the first hours of Planet Zoo. As careful nature lovers, we must always strive for animal welfare (as far as possible behind the fence), but also keep in mind that with a loving hug no one has lived well. In order to make a profit at the end of the month, we need to pay close attention to business reports, the problems of the park and its staff, and of course the needs and complaints of visitors. We need to create and balance an infrastructure where everyone is happy, money is flowing, and the park operates a day and night fleet. If I have learned one thing during lengthy management, the task is almost impossible, and the path to the perfect zoo is paved with many human errors.But we learn the most from these mistakes.
The Planet Zoo is terribly complex and requires you to keep in mind the many systems that are built on each other. It is not enough to set up a series of fences around the Bengal Tigers and wait for the profits, as big cats (like all animal species in the game) are quite changeful in nature. They need huge place to live, equipment and climate that resemble their natural environment, they don’t like poor quality food, and they need constant health attention. Neither do they tolerate the constant gaze of visitors, so they need an indoor space to retreat to. And that's just the tip of the micro-management iceberg: I also noticed that the price of balloons sold in the gift shop was adjustable by color, and we could even choose what topping to put on the taco.
There is a serious job of properly maintaining a building or even a single animal, not to mention the different needs of dozens of species. Still, all the energy invested is paid off when a happy tiger couple surprises us and our visitors with a healthy kid. For hours, I could watch the furry, scaly or feathered animals living in the virtual park, because besides that they look very good, all species behave exactly as we would expect in reality. Baboons are quick to climb up trees and climbing poles, and sometimes gather together to bite each other's hair. For a moment, the crocodile is lazily roasting his belly on the hot rock, and later he is swimming happily in the water full of water lilies and reeds.
However, idyllic states can easily be overwhelmed by outside influences. Antelopes that are in a too loud environment can easily become stressed and seek shelter. Likewise, it is not worth moving an adult male to accompany the happily-living lion pair, as the hierarchy may overturn and the big cats fighting for alpha status may fall into each other's throats.
But before anyone starts to fear of the long and hard learning process, I must mention that Planet Zoo has an extensive campaign that also serves as a long guide. As a beginner park manager, we can easily learn how to build safe, animal-friendly park, how to navigate the game menus, and learn some tricks to help you maximize your park’s profit. This is a really deep, carefully crafted gameplay that I can only recommend to anyone who would later build their own online network in Franchise mode or try the hardening challenges. If, on the other hand, you would avoid stress and build your zoo of your dreams freely, without any financial and technical limitation, Sandbox mode would be your favorite. One of Frontier's biggest feats is that from the very first moment, managed to put together a package that allows anyone to find a game of their own pace.
With over 70 animals to choose from across the seven continents, you can build your park with over 2000 unique buildings, objects or other accessories. And these tools can be practically infinitely varied. As an example, I would mention the wooden climbing platforms of the monkeys, which are found in a variety of pre-made designs below the blueprints.
However, these can be added at any time with the help of various logs, planks or branches, and the monkeys will be happy to use our hand-crafted climbing climbs. And this completely uncomplicated construction option is fully realized in the game. Really only our imagination and patience can block our inventions.
Unfortunately, however, it often happened that my fantastic ideas went bankrupt - often due to my own fault, but sometimes due to the technicalities of the game. The brave, completely free construction sometimes disagrees with the physics of the game and artificial intelligence.
What started as a mere lake, it quickly became a toxic death trap when hippopotamus poo somehow fell to the bottom of the lake, gathering here and threatening the animals floating above. But the really serious trouble started when a cleaner somehow slipped under the textures. There was no way out, so the drowning loser is still living in this underground hell. He's been complaining about it ever since, and that's why I don't have the heart to fire him - he even got a small pay raise for solidarity.
But unfortunately, not all stories end with such a happy ending - it can be decisive when i have to destroy and rebuild a completely beautifully constructed runway because of the stupidity of the game, not to mention that such rebuilds aren't good for the park’s wallet. I have encountered bugs like this quite often. However, traditional technical bugs and program instability are even more problematic. Sounds strange, but for me, the game is reluctant to start for the second time. This may be an individual problem, but for me, the first start of each day ends in a complete freeze, but the second one is great. These freezes and crashes often repeated during gameplay, usually quite unexpectedly, but sometimes I was able to reproduce the complete stoppage deliberately. No extreme things to think about, I just removed a certain fence and the game always crashed. These are strange things.
So with all my heart I can say that I have not had a smooth time so far with Planet Zoo, I am really angry with some of the unjustified features, but I still had a lot of fun with it.
While playing Planet Zoo, I learned a lot, and I didn't have to scroll through the picture encyclopedia that came with it. I have learned that dissatisfied visitors can easily become vandalists if they find entry tickets too cheap, and animal protectors come to protest if toads breed too quickly. I realized that peacocks produce more excrement than freckles, and I learned that the escaped leopard will only cause bloodshed at the park's bank account, and after a short walk will usually flee behind its fence.
There are certainly game oddities, not to mention countless technical bucks, but overall this pack is so meaningful, profound, and lovable that I simply cannot and will not be angry with it. If you like parody management games, then I can only recommend Frontier development, as they have managed to bring together something the heirs of Zoo Tycoon have stumbled upon over the last decade and a half.