I procrastinated on picking up Planet Zoo for quite awhile – partially, because I expected it to show up in a bundle eventually, partly because Frontier Developments adores dropping a million piecemeal DLCs, but mostly because I suspected I wouldn’t actually like it, even though I really wanted to. I’m about five hours in now – getting full stars on the three tutorial scenarios, and full stars on the first actual scenario – and I am afraid I was right. The game is great, but I don’t much like it.
I have a lot of trouble with spatial relations, both in real life and when it comes to video games. Building things from parts that don’t just snap together tends to cause a lot of frustration for me, and because Planet Zoo really exists around assembling components in your own way, there’s a big part of the game that I feel ill-equipped to deal with. It does have Steam Workshop support, and you can download just about any kind of something you might need, however, sorting through to find items that don’t require DLC you don’t have might feel overwhelming. For me personally, I just want the game to give me some basic blueprints for whatever I might need. Sure, it obviously could be better if I customized it, but give me something I can plop down that my animals, staff and/or guest are going to find acceptable and let me move on.
It is pretty, though, and the basic mechanics feel good for the most part, although I admit to getting absolutely flummoxed by where to adjust something a time or two while playing. There’s a pretty heavy focus on both education and conservation, which is great. However, like Planet Coaster before it, it leans heavily into letting you build something that looks really great to the detriment of the actual management side of things. You’re given more money than you need for the basics, and I was never losing money for more than a few minutes at a time at any point.
I’m not saying I would never revisit Planet Zoo, but for the time being, the itch is scratched and my curiosity is satiated. Honestly, if I had a little less freedom in setting up my zoos, I think I’d probably still be playing. However, despite the game telling me I was successful, my hodgepodge of ugly exhibits certainly didn’t impress me.