Photosynthesis has changed the game.
I have never really been fond of tower defense games. The concept of them just never really appealed to me. I can’t give a sound and valid reason behind this considering that, at its core, the tower defense genre is essentially very similar to a game mode I am very fond of – horde mode. This game type is typically found in first person shooters and has the player defend a certain point from hordes of enemies, hence the name horde mode. So, when the announcement was made that one of the more popular tower defense games on the market is being made into a third person shooter (close enough to a first person shooter), I was pretty excited and curious to see how well this would translate.
At its core, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare’s premise is the same – defend the garden against the zombies, only in Garden Warfare, the garden can be defended with up to four people. When I first booted the game up, the installation was still in progress and I was put in what can only be described as a “preview” mode. I got to pick from one of four different classes of plants and, basically, just roam around one of the levels. I had no idea that this was not the actual game at the time so I was just running around trying to figure out what to do. Just as I was about to call it quits due to boredom, the game finished installing and I was taken to the actual game.
The first thing I did after the game installed was look for a game mode I could try out on my own. I picked Garden Ops which is essentially the “main” mode in PvZ. Like before, I got to pick my class of plants and I was off to defend my garden. This mode is nothing new to shooters, as players can find it in just about every other game. The four classes should be very familiar as they are typical classes: soldier, medic, engineer and sniper. However, instead of having a generic looking soldier, these classes are different types of plants.
Once I picked the class of plant, it was time to defend my garden. Doing this was not easy as I was by myself and, evidentially, there is no AI partners which makes this strictly a multiplayer game. After lasting about five minutes, I was ready to write this game off and call it a day. I am under the mindset that if I can’t play a game by myself, then it’s not worth playing. That’s what playing online for 15+ years will do to you.
So, a day or two later, I played the same game mode but, this time, I played with another person. And boy, what a difference that made. Not only did I last more than five minutes, I actually finished the level and saw a lot of different types of zombies and everything else this game mode had to offer. Garden Ops lasts 10 levels as they get progressively more difficult and introduce new types of zombies, like big boss zombies and zombies that have protection , which comes in the form of zombies in coffins, Porto potties, football uniforms, and more. This helps in keeping the game fresh, fun and hectic. To help in the protection of the garden, there are pots placed in strategic areas that can be used to plant helper plants which can do anything from shoot the zombies to healing. The healing comes in particularly handy as there really is no protection other than that. There were times that a healer plant was not available, so, in order to get health back, all I had to do was walk near the garden that we were defending and it healed my plant, but only up to half. Still, it was better than nothing.
Besides Garden Ops, there are two more game modes that are equally as fun. One consists of what the title of the game says: plants vs. zombies. It’s fairly simple; pick a side and a class and kill the opposition. The other is an attack/defend game mode. The plants have to defend six different areas from the zombies. Each area needs to be defended for five minutes. If that area falls to the zombies before the time is up, a new area unlocks and the timer starts again. This goes on until all areas are taken by the zombies or the plants successfully defend the area until the five minutes is up. While I loved all of these modes, I found that the attack/defend mode was the most frustrating, as it seemed to me that the zombies were a little bit harder to kill than the plants. But, to be fair, on the plant side we got to plant those very useful helper plants.
As I stated earlier, there are four different classes of plant and that goes the same for the zombies, and these classes also have different weapons and powers. For example, my favorite plant was the sunflower. This is the plant that has the ability to heal and to plant itself in the ground and shoot sunrays. As I played more and more of the game, I earned coins and unlocked stickers. These coins are used to buy the stickers. The stickers are then used to either dress up characters or unlock helper plants. Each class can be upgraded by completing different challenges such as healing 15 different teammates. This does include the potted helper plants.
While each class has different abilities, the one thing that they can’t do is run, which I found very frustrating. A couple of the classes can teleport or burrow which helped if I played as those classes but I still would have liked a run button. There were way too many occasions where I was going toe-to-toe with a zombie (remember what I said earlier about zombies being more difficult to kill?) and losing so all I wanted to do was run away. So, by habit, I clicked down on the left stick only to find it did absolutely nothing and met my demise. And, while the game modes that are included are very fun and can be played for hours at a time, I did find myself getting bored and wishing that there were more modes to play.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a breath of fresh air for the shooter genre of games. While the game modes are nothing new, they are more fun to play due to the fact that leveling up characters doesn’t mean anything and everyone is able to pick up the game and have a ton of fun. I can’t say the same thing for other shooters, as I constantly find myself wanting to quit after a few matches. In PvZ, I wanted to keep playing, even if I died a million times. Garden Warfare is an easy game that can be picked up by anyone and enjoyed for hours at a time, even if there are only a limited amount of game modes.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox One.