In this, my first game overview, I will be writing about Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. A game I fell in love with as soon as I played, and therefore want to share it with all those who might be interested. I own the Xbox One version so I talk about some features that are no included in the Xbox 360 version. On April 28th, it was announced that the PC released date would be June 24th.
Since I purchased PVZ: Garden Warfare on launch day, I have played it for over 48 hours, as recorded by the game. In that time I have encountered much, from the range of customization to the variety of characters. I have watched the game and the players evolve.
First things first, there are eight characters to play, four plants and four zombies, each of which has five variants, with a single variant for a random character being unlocked by a sticker pack you get when you first start playing. Each character has three abilities, which all recently received unlockable alternate forms.
The plant team consists of the Pea Shooter, a run and gun unit with pea projectiles that cause a critical hit for direct impact, splash damage when not direct, and require a bit of leading your moving targets for the speed of the peas. His abilities are the Chili Bean Bomb, similar to a grenade, some AI zombies are attracted to it; Pea Gatling, planting in place for rapid fire peas with finite ammo; and Hyper, where you can run fast and jump high.
Next up is the Sunflower, the healing class and also the weakest character with a rapid-fire easy to aim sun shot weapon. Her abilities are the Heal Beam, for healing plants and players alike; Sunbeam, a planted beam attack that hits hard if you keep it on target, but has limited ammo; and Heal Flower, a temporary potted plant that heals in a limited area.
Next is my favorite character, the Chomper, a melee class who chomps away at everything in his way, be it fences or zombies. If he can get behind an enemy, he can swallow an enemy whole in a short animation, preventing revival, with the exceptions being enemies who have something for the Chomper to eat instead, like a screen door or jackhammer. The downside of swallowing is that while chewing the Chomper is briefly slowed and can’t use abilities or attack. His abilities are Goop, a projectile substance that slows down and damages enemies over time; Burrow, dive underground and travel at increased speed for a short time to come up under unsuspecting enemies, devouring them whole; and Spikeweed, a placeable plant that snares and damages enemies, dangling them upside down for a short time, allowing an easy swallow.
Last but not least is the Cactus, a sniper class with long range high damage projectiles. Her abilities are the Tall-nut Battlement, a barricade of Tall-nuts and a Wall-nut providing cover and slowing AI zombies; Garlic Drone, a low health, limited time remote control drone capable of flight, shooting spikes, and calling in corn strikes; and the Potato Mine, a deployable mine that detonates when zombies step on it.
The zombie team consists of the Foot Soldier, the main infantry unit with a fast firing rifle. His abilities include the ZPG, a rocket that can be launched after a short delay with explosive impact; the Rocket Jump, a single rocket-propelled jump allowing the Foot Soldier to get on rooftops and escape hungry Chompers; and the Zombie Stick Cloud, a throw grenade that deploys a cloud of DoT and vision obscuring smoke.
The Engineer is a utility class, with a heavy hitting splash damage weapon, and the skill to construct teleporters and turrets to help the zombies advance. His abilities are the Sonic Grenade, which stuns plants and even drives the Chomper above ground; the Zombot Drone, the zombie equivalent of the Garlic Drone, with recharging Cone strikes and limited flight time; and the Jackhammer, which the Engineer can ride into battle for increased speed and protection from a one-hit-kill Chomper Burrow, with the Chomper eating the Jackhammer instead.
The Scientist is the healing class and possesses a shotgun like weapons with high short-range damage. His abilities are the Sticky Explody Ball, a thrown sticky grenade with explodes when in proximity to a plant; Warp, a recharging ability which allows for instantaneous teleportation to a short distance in a forward direction, but not through solid objects; and the Zombie Heal Station, a temporary deployable purple sprinkler that heals zombies.
The All-Star Zombie is the tank class, and also the highest health character, with an unlimited ammo weapon that works on an overheating mechanic. Used long range for suppression and up close for capturing objectives. His abilities are the Imp Punt, an Imp that is kicked a short distance and then explodes after a short time; the Sprint Tackle, a forward dash that damages any plant in its path; and the Dummy Shield, a deployable shield in the shape of a football dummy.
On the Xbox One, there is another playable class, called Boss Mode, with a player being able to take control of Crazy Dave’s RV or the Zomboss Zeppelin, and collect sun or brains respectively which appear on the screen and then spend them on four abilities. First, is the spotting ability which drops a radar dish into the game and reveals enemies, summons, and traps in the area around the radar dish. The second ability is healing, which drops a double powered heal flower or heal station for use by teammates on the ground. The third ability is a cherry bomb or cone strike which can be targeted at the ground, but will land on the highest structure, so indoor enemies are safe. The last ability is resurrection, which drops a rainbow or zombie gas sprinkler which revives one teammate, but only if in close proximity to the drop location.
All items dropped, other than the airstrikes, can be destroyed by enemy units on the ground for a coin bonus. While a player is in Boss Mode, a representative RV or Zeppelin fly in circles around the battlefield and can be destroyed by the opposing team for a 250 coin team wide bonus. Boss Mode is available as an option on the character select screen, but can only be used by one player at a time. For those with tablets, Boss Mode is also available on the Xbox One SmartGlass app, and can be a great way for another local person to participate in your game, earning you extra coins and helping out the team. When accessed through the character select screen, each of the abilities also grant a small view of the on-the-ground gameplay from a bird’s-eye-view.
The game consist of three main game styles, all of which are multiplayer. First there is Garden Ops, a garden defense game type played solo or cooperatively with up to three other players, with the goal of the game being to choose a location for a garden and then defend it against 10 increasingly challenging waves of zombies, with two boss waves at five and ten, followed by an evacuation round where you must get to a point on the map and wait for extraction. You can use pots located in strategic locations to plant defensive plants ranging from a simple Pea Shooter to a melee Bonk Choy.
The second style is several competitive game types including Welcome Mat, intended to be beginner friendly though often filled with veteran players looking for easy coins. It is essentially team deathmatch with customization and unlocked characters disallowed. The advantage for new players is that the worse you do, the more health you have when you respawn, so inexperienced players can stay competitive and orient themselves to the game. The goal is 50 vanquishes, the friendly way to say kills, but the twist is that reviving players removes points from the other team. Team Vanquish, is essentially the same, except all characters spawn with their standard health and all bells and whistles of customization are allowed. This is accompanied by Classic Team Vanquish, with standard health but customization turned off.
Gardens and Graveyards in next, with zombies attacking a series of plant held gardens in an attempt to turn them into graveyards from which they can attack the next garden, eventually leading to one of three end fights. Plants can use potted plants for defense and zombies can summon a variety of lesser zombies to help with the offensive, including browncoat, bucket heads, screen door, and newspaper zombies. In addition to the typical combat coin rewards, scores are awarded based on the number of gardens held or captured for plants and zombies respectively. This is also matched by a classic version with the unlockables stripped away.
There is then a Mixed Mode with Team Vanquish and Gardens and Graveyards mixed together.
The last game style is a split screen co-op firefight/horde mode deal where you and a local partner battle endless waves of zombies. The downside is that the mandatory second player cannot earn coins or achievements.
All of these mode are built around the coin system, with certain actions rewarding coins, such as 5 for a zombie vanquish, 25 for another player or the same classes controlled by the AI know as zombie heroes, 50 for reviving and so on. Rewards increase for multi vanquishes or vanquish streaks, as well as vanquishing your nemeses, players that have vanquished you three or more times. There something to be said about finally taking down that one player that has thwarted you at every turn and then using one of the various gestures to dance a little bit when you know their screen is still focused on you.
This leads to the sticker system, involving the sticker shop and the sticker book. In the sticker shop, there are a variety of sticker packs available for purchase with the coins you have earned, 1k for a simple mixed pack of consumable stickers, potted plants, summonable zombies, self and team revives for Garden Ops, and Challenge Star Skip stickers. The more expensive packs include customization items, character part stickers, weapon upgrades, and alternate abilities. The most expensive pack for 4k coins includes five stickers, guaranteed to unlock at least one character.
The sticker book is where it all comes together, showing you what consumables plants and zombies you have, as well as the eight different characters and your sticker part progress toward each of the five variants for each character. Once a character is unlocked, it gives the stats such as play time, vanquishs, kill/death ratio, coins earned, and a whole slew more. There is even a character wide stat screen showing all 6 variants together. On top of this, each character has a load of customization options, once the stickers are unlocked by buying packs. Plants have hats, accessories (face items), and organics (arm items or neck items for the armless Chomper) and tattoos. Zombies, have hats, accessories, facial hair, and weapon skins. On top of these aesthetic customization options, there are a series of unlockable gestures for each character. You start off with a gesture for yes, no, pointing, and follow, but it’s much more fun to do a barrel roll as a Sunflower or the worm as a Chomper. If anything, it gives you something to do before a match starts when powers and sometimes movement is prevented.
The first free DLC pack, entitled Garden Variety Pack, introduced alternate abilities for each of the eight characters, each switchable in the customization menu, each having advantages and disadvantages over the original abilities.
The Pea Shooter gets the Sombrero Bean Bomb, with longer fuse, larger blast radius, and more damage; Retro Gatling, slower but packs a bugger punch; and Super Jump, with the jump being greater at loss of the speed boost.
The Sunflower’s alternate abilities are the Rainbow Heal Beam, which is rainbow coloured; Solar Flare Beam, higher damage, but less ammo; and the Dark Flower, which shoots enemies instead of healing friends.
The Chomper has alternates Thicker Goop, sticks enemies in place at the cost of the DoT; Sprint Burrow, faster travel, but shorter time to do so; and the Spiky Spikeweed, more damaging, but start with only two instead of three and can only deploy two, down from four.
The Cactus’ new abilities are the Iron Maiden, a higher health but smaller barricade; the Artichoke drone, a higher health, lower damage version, with single cob baby corn strike that charges faster; and the Potato Nugget Mine, a smaller, less damaging, but you start with and can deploy more at a time.
The Foot Soldier gets the Multi-Rocket, which is several weaker ZPGs launched in quick succession; the Rocket Leap, which opposite of the Rocket Jump, has large horizontal movement and little vertical movement; and the Super Stink Cloud, with a higher damage output but a shorter duration.
The Engineer’s alternate abilities are the Proximity Sonic Mine, several recharging stationary deployable sonic mines, with proximity detonation, but less range than the grenade; the Rocket Drone, with higher health, a Mean Beam weapons, and a single cone strike with faster charging; and the Turbo Jackhammer, with increased speed but greatly reduced duration, amounting to a shorter distance traveled overall.
The Scientist has alternates Mega Heal Bomb, a healing grenade that explodes after a short delay an heals all zombies in its splash; the Energy Warp, turns the scientist into a floating glowing purple orb that moves at normal rate, but is immune to everything but also cannot shoot; and the Armored Heal Station, a higher durability heal station that has a shorter duration once deployed.
The All-Star Zombie’s new abilities are the Long Bomb, an Imp kicked a longer distance with a greater radius and damage to the explosion at the cost of a longer recharge time; the Ultra Tackle, a shorter distance dash, but higher damage to those in the way; and the Shield Decoy, a lower health cardboard cut-out with a higher number that can be deployed.
In addition to the abilities, Pirate Zombies replaced the regular zombies on two of the Garden Ops levels, including Map Zombies instead of Newspaper Zombies, and adding Barrel Zombies, similar to Casket Zombies. These two Zombies were also added to the list of zombies summonable in Gardens and Graveyards, if you get their stickers in packs you open. The Plants also get the Doom Shroom plantable, which explodes when zombies approach, and then hides to recharge.
There is also a new map, called Chomp Town, which is usable in Garden Ops, Team Vanquish, and the new game mode, Gnome Bomb, where plants and zombies vie for control of the gnome bomb in an attempt to take it to each of the three opposing garden or graveyard bases, arm it, and then defend it until detonation. Once armed, the bomb can be disarmed and then spawns again in a random set of locations after a short time. This is the only game type yet that really has the plants on the offensive in an objective based game. On top of all that, there were also over one hundred customization items added across all characters.
The second free DLC pack, entitled Zomboss Down, adds a new variant for each of the eight characters and a new map for Gardens and Graveyards, so along with the night version brings the total count of G&G maps to eight. The map, Cactus Canyon, involves the Zombies leaving a crashed Zomboss Zeppelin and attempting to destroy a cactus army hidden in a secret base under a golf course. How? By fighting their way to the golf course and then pushing a giant Golfbomb into the hole leading to the base.
This time, no new zombie summons, but the plants get three, including the Ice Pea, the Fire Pea, and the Bamboo Shoot, which unsurprisingly shoots bamboo shoots, acting as a sort of short range artillery. In addition to that, this DLC also adds a slew of customization items numbering over two hundred. The twist for this DLC is that except for the new plant summons, all of the Zomboss Down content is only available from the Zomboss Down sticker pack for a price of 30K coins for nine stickers, including two character parts.
With recent alterations in the coin earning actions, support roles are now viable if you want to get coins, but you will still see the run-away coin leaders with their vanquish streaks. A number of new assists have been added for coin rewards, including having enemies defeated while gooped, stunned, or in a stink cloud. There are also new bonuses for fighting within the garden capture zone on G&G, with attacking and defending points clearly rewarding those who get their feet on the ground instead of sniping from a safer local. This also resolves an issue that occurred in G&G where Plants would earn a fraction of the Zombies score for a Zombie victory. Where there used to be sometimes upward of a 10k point difference between teams, the new points have reduced that to two or three thousand coins, or less if the zombies narrowly win.
All in all, it’s a fun shooter, with enough content to keep you busy, and so many unlockables, it would take quite a while to get enough coins to get them all. It’s well balanced and no one character or variant feels over powered. If you enjoy third person shooters and a little more colourful atmosphere than other shooters, this game may be for you.
On April 25th, the announcement was made that starting the following week, what many players suspected would happen eventually, microtransactions will be introduced to PvZ: Garden Warfare. You will be able to buy coins in the Sticker Shop. While this may give those who wish to speed up their unlocking process a way to do so, I for one will continue to earn my coins the free way. At least for now, the promise of more free DLC will keep people playing, and soon, paying.