Amidst all of the blockbuster reveals and announcements that were shown over the past week at E3 2019, one thing stuck prominently in my mind as the madness of E3 weekend passed.
Loads of poop in fact, as Frontier Developments‘ Liesa Bauwens (Senior Artist) and Samantha Marsh (QA) took me through a hands-off demo of Planet Zoo that blew my expectations out of the water.
It is not just that the animals in Planet Zoo go about their business as they should, or how the zookeepers have to constantly clear the droppings, but the fact that it all felt so natural, so in sync in a cycle that is the runs under the hood of the game that sticks. That, and the fact that the giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, and chimpanzees we visited all decided to poop for my pleasure.
Much like Frontier’s other sim, Planet Coaster, players will take charge of running a zoo to preserve wildlife, give them a great home, and educate the visitors. While management will often require you to have a bird’s-eye view of things, looking at things at both the macro and micro level will reveal plenty of essential information that will help.
To say that the creatures are incredibly realised is just the tip of the iceberg. From the imposing saltwater crocodiles lounging in the sun, to the elegant and graceful cheetahs that roam about, or the curious primates swinging from tree to tree, all of them look gorgeous and real. The attention to detail goes even further, with their physical appearances, lifespan, and behaviour being governed by genetics.
Planet Zoo‘s living, breathing creatures all have their wants and needs, ranging from the environment to their social needs, and even enrichment requirements. An animal fond of herds is going to want plenty of its kind around, while territorial beasts like the crocodiles will require more space to work with.
Enrichment can take the simple form of scratching posts, or the more advanced constructions like climbing poles and platforms for the more agile animals like the chimpanzees. All can be designed by your own hand, and even rocks and trees can be used to link them up.
There are even smaller creatures to look after, such as the Lesser Antillean Iguana, in indoor exhibits that can be further modified with additional floral and fauna, even temperature and humidity.
It all leads to the ultimate goal of creating a wonderful zoo that not just takes care of the animals, but enhances their lives, increasing your income to funnel more back into the zoo, and of course, taking care of the guests.
While the team has not touched too much on the guests, what is important is keeping the inner workings of the zoo away from them. In Planet Zoo, you can cordon off areas as staff-only, with staff paths that only staff can use. Preparation of food is done in Keeper Huts, and now, interiors of such buildings are also fully furnished and explorable.
Learning about the animals can be done via education boards that can be placed around the exhibits, with the information getting more detailed as you conduct research, all provided by real-life researchers that work with Frontier. With your own Zoopedia, you can learn plenty as well.
With the lineage of Planet Coaster, it is no surprise to learn that there will be rides in Planet Zoo as well, allowing your guests to rest their tired feet and get up close and personal with some of the animals.
There will also be weather systems at play, that could potentially affect your habitats and your beloved animals. Rain will lower temperatures and animals, like the chimpanzees, will take shelter underneath structures and such to avoid getting wet. More will be shared on the weather system in future updates.
In a short span of time, Planet Zoo has rocketed up my list of anticipated games for this year, and it does not help that I have a soft spot for simulation titles such as this. With the amount of detail and effort Frontier Developments have put on display for the E3 demo, it is staggering to imagine just how good of an end product Planet Zoo will be.
From what I have seen, it is going to be a wild ride come November 5, and I will gladly be the prey for the apex predator that is Planet Zoo.
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help.