Frontier's Planet Zoo is considered by many to be a spiritual successor to Zoo Tycoon. Since the development process of the game has involved some of the same team, it's unsurprising that you can see echos of the past title scattered throughout. However, not everything is echoed well and some features are entirely missing.
In the years since Zoo Tycoon was first released, technology and society have moved on. Planet Zoo replicates this with its attention to detail, focus on conservation and its huge leap in development technology. The result is a more immersive and in-depth zoo simulator than we've ever seen before.
Despite the game's strengths (of which there are many), there are still some features of Zoo Tycoon that we miss. We've pulled together five new Planet Zoo features which make a huge difference to our enjoyment and five which we wish had returned from Zoo Tycoon.
10 New: More In-Depth Animal Information
Planet Zoo places a huge focus on understanding animals, their behavior, habitat, and conservation status. This adds a new level of depth to the game which we've not previously seen. The focus is taken off the guests and placed onto the animals, just as it should be.
Knowing more about your animals helps players feel more attached to them and understand more about how to care for them. There's so much information in the encyclopedia-style guide that you can find out anything you want to know about your zoo's inhabitants.
9 Want Back: More Animals, Not DLC Animals
While we have a large amount of information about the animals themselves, we are lacking in actual animals. Some of the additions we expected are noticeably absent. There are also some animals that are only available with the deluxe edition of the game, requiring players to pay an extra $10 for a few extra choices.
Especially noticeable is the absence of arctic animals including polar bears and penguins, which were so much fun to place in zoos back in Zoo Tycoon. We know Planet Zoo is much more detailed but we can't help but miss our arctic friends.
8 New: Better Animal Behaviors
The animals in Planet Zoo are far more realistic in their behaviors than those in Zoo Tycoon ever were and this is reflected right across the game. It's evident in everything from the animations to the actions.
Animals will react more to people, environments and even sounds. You can customize many tiny things to improve animal welfare and truly mimic real-life animal environments. The animals may be more realistic but they kept the escape mechanism, which we enjoy and are glad to see make a return.
7 Want Back: Better Guidance For Players
With more complex behaviors comes more complex requirements and this is something in which Planet Zoo falls down. It's fantastic to have so many options but some of them are completely missed by a lack of guidance, such as the education speakers also being able to provide ambient sounds to calm animals.
The tutorial takes you through a few basics then just throws you onto a blank map and expects you to get on with it, which can be very overwhelming. Zoo Tycoon offered more scenarios that allowed you to practice your knowledge by adapting existing zoos. We'd like to see more of these so we can find our feet easier, without having to keep looking things up.
6 New: Unique Looking Animals
Thanks to modern graphics, Planet Zoo includes very unique animals. They look different, act in unique ways and can pass on characteristics and quirks down generations. This is an amazing touch and makes them all feel more real. You can also breed selectively to pass on only the strongest genes.
If you watch your enclosures you'll notice that even personalities seem to come into play, just as they do in real zoos. The detail and care involved in creating the zoo inhabitants is almost unbelievable.
5 Want Back: Unique and Quirky Features
One of the greatest things about Zoo Tycoon was when it went off on a tangent, the greatest of which was the addition of dinosaurs. After all, who doesn't want to build their own version of Jurassic Park?
The Zoo Tycoon Dinosaur Digs expansion allowed us to do just that. Even in its pixelated glory we loved "accidentally" letting the odd dinosaur go on a rampage. Imagine how great this would be in Planet Zoo? Frontier, if you see this please bring back dinosaurs!
4 New: More Complex and in-depth Gameplay
Planet Zoo offers a level of depth we've never seen before. Alongside the general increase in complexity, there are interesting new ways to play, including the addition of goals for the wider community to reach.
These additions not only add more to the game experience but also to the community. The game fosters a real sense of togetherness as players work to help the conservation efforts. This raises both awareness and enjoyment in a unique way.
3 Want Back: Less Complex Interface
The biggest hurdle to really enjoying this game is the interface. There's a level of depth here that, for many, feels unnecessary and simply confusing. If you've played Planet Coaster you'll find it much easier but for newcomers, it can be a hurdle.
While we aren't sure what the solution is, we'd like to see certain things simplified. Even small changes like the addition of a filter to the animal market would help hugely with navigating the endless information.
There were a few times when we really wanted to jump back into the simple menus and more basic overviews of Zoo Tycoon.
2 New: Amazing Graphics And Sound
The graphics in this game are absolutely stunning. We've already mentioned the depth in the animals but it isn't just that. People move more, keepers interact better (when they pay attention and actually work, which is sadly still an issue at times) and habitats look more realistic. You can even see the long grass move in the wind for goodness sake.
Every single aspect of the game creates a much more engaging and immersive zoo keeping experience. You can also follow around your staff and feel like you're a part of the zoo itself. Technology has moved on and Frontier has taken full advantage of it.
1 Needs: Less Lag
The downside of advancing technology is the lag that it can bring. If you do a great job and add many guests to your zoo, pretty soon your pc will have something to say about it. While Zoo Tycoon could be run on a laptop with the speed of a toaster, Planet Zoo requires a fairly hefty amount of processing power to run smoothly.
While there is some compromise to be had, one of the main issues is caused by a huge amount of avatars walking around. If these were limited, regardless of the actual numbers in your zoo that would likely help a great deal. Please Frontier, at least add a guest cap for the graphics.