Loyal Short Pausians (Pausers? Pausees?) are already intimately familiar with how much I loved the first Garden Warfare (you should definitely be listening to our podcast if you’re not!). It was a surprisingly terrific, well-balanced shooter that I kept coming back to again and again long after its initial release. After my experience with the original Garden Warfare, my expectations were sky high going into this sequel, meaning developer PopCap HD had their work cut out for them if they were going to satisfy this fan’s thirst for a new franchise entry that would hook me in with more deliciously weird content. Sporting six new character classes, a dozen new maps, and a brilliantly designed hub world, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is the sequel fans of the original game deserve.
Title: Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Developer: EA PopCap HD
Platforms: PS4 (Version played), Xbox One (Version also played), PC
Price: $59.99 (Deluxe Edition with starter packs $69.99)
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is the follow up to the mostly barebones Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and it boasts a plethora of exciting new content. Building on everything the initial game started before it, Garden Warfare 2 introduces a new hub world for players to explore known as the Backyard Battleground. Baked into this expansive battlefield are single-player missions, a portal to the game’s competitive multiplayer modes, a quest board, access to the popular Garden (and new Graveyard) Ops game type — a wave-based defense mode returning from the first game — tons of collectibles and secrets to uncover, and a neutral spot between the plant and zombie bases that can serve as a chaotic “defend the flag” battle pitting you and up to three friends against waves of enemies. Each base provides players a sanctuary they can use to check the stats for each of the characters they’ve unlocked, as well as a booth used to swap between them. Players can also utilize a mailbox here to import a fair amount of characters they may have unlocked in the previous game.
One of the first things veteran Garden Warfare players will notice in Garden Warfare 2 is that the challenges for each class have been replaced with a standard XP-based leveling system. No longer can players rank up every variant under a single classification at once, as levels per character are now increased on an individual basis. Each class caps out at rank ten, after which the opportunity to promote them arises. Promotion brings your character class back to level one, but it does so with a fancy title border around their name that continues to update as you play as that particular character. As of now, you can promote characters a maximum of five times. For those looking to promote their characters quicker than normal, leveling can be sped up with the assistance of a new mission system. Housed on a bounty board in the middle of your base, missions are various challenges that reward players upon their completion with coins, stars, and pins that build towards XP boosts. Players who check these missions daily may find themselves hanging onto a double XP multiplier for quite some time. However, should you choose to take a day off, your progress will regress back to the highest multiplier you were last able to achieve.
While coins are nothing new to the series, stars certainly are. Scattered throughout the Backyard are chests, piles of rubble, and certain characters or areas which require these stars to open or unlock. Chests typically contain thousands of coins, rare items for certain characters, or landmarks to build in the Backyard itself. Stars are also required to tackle Infinity mode as well, which is essentially a ridiculously awesome endless survival mode that you can bring up to three friends into. Stars can only be obtained by completing missions from the bounty board, and they are a resource that is just as valuable as coins.
Rounding out the new content are the single-player faction missions. Presided over by Davebot 3000 on the plant side, and Dr. Patient on the zombie side of things, faction missions task players with a variety of different objectives ranging from recovering a shoe to defending and escorting a giant stump back to the base. After completing each of these tasks for either Davebot or Dr. Patient, another round of missions opens up for each of the six new character classes in the game (three within each faction). These missions introduce players to AI-controlled variants for the new character classes that can be unlocked via sticker packs. While all of these missions tend to share an end goal, they usually play out as shortened Garden/Graveyard Ops games with players defending a base until a boss or special enemy wave appears and the item required for the mission is recovered. Completing all of this content grants you access to the aforementioned Infinity mode. Unfortunately, even upon completion, these main faction missions remain on your active mission list, occupying two of the seven spots you have available. Mission real estate is at a premium in Garden Warfare 2, so this is a curious design decision. There are a variety of other NPC characters found around the Backyard Battleground, and they’ll send you on quests which range from collecting snow globes to seeking out and blasting a certain number of crates in a limited amount of time. These are nothing more than busy work that can, at times, feel tedious – especially the ones featuring a timer when you are playing as a slower moving character.
Returning in grand fashion is the competitive multiplayer suite that players fell in love with from the last game. Aside from my beloved Taco Bandits, almost all of the modes from the first game return with all new maps to wage war on. Herbal Assault is the sole “new” addition to the mix, although “new” is a generous way to describe the game type as it is simply Gardens & Graveyards with the zombies now on the defense. Balancing seems to be a little off in the early stages of the game’s multiplayer life. The new characters feel extremely overpowered against the seasoned classes from the first game. New abilities have been added to a few of the fan favorite original classes, evening the playing field ever so slightly against the new kids on the block, including a new projectile spit attack for the Chomper that does some serious damage to the Imp’s mech and those pesky soldiers hanging out on the rooftops. Early adopters will also recall the nightmare of facing down an entire enemy plant team consisting of Rose players spamming her severely overpowered Magic Thistle homing attack. Thankfully, this has been addressed. As of this writing, a patch has been deployed which rebalances Rose completely to better suit her intended use as a support class. Players who wish to keep to themselves and avoid contact with other human players will be happy to know that the game also features an offline bot mode. Those who would rather test their skills against an AI group of enemies can do so and still earn coins – albeit not as many as those who participate in a live online matchup. Players can also look forward to free content updates throughout the lifespan of Garden Warfare 2. The first Garden Warfare enjoyed a constant stream of free updates as well, which was a nice bonus for fans of the game and produced several new competitive modes, maps, level cap increases, and variant characters to unlock. I would imagine this game will eventually sport a similar list of additions when all is said and done.
Garden Warfare 2 is the “bigger, badder, better” sequel it boasts itself to be. Loaded with an overwhelming amount of new content in comparison to its predecessor, Garden Warfare 2 is sure to keep players busy for the long haul with a huge Backyard Battleground, loaded with secrets and content to explore, and more of the same great Garden Warfare multiplayer fans loved in the first game. Some characters do need some balancing tweaks, and the absence of Taco Bandits does sadden me greatly, but the inclusion of six new character classes as well as the ability to play offline against bots makes up for these slight missteps for now. Fans of the series don’t need to worry about the heftier price of entry here, either; the type of content you want to see in this sequel is plentiful and as addicting as ever. Whether you’re new to the series, or a seasoned veteran of the eternal war between plants and zombies, Garden Warfare 2 is a quirky, fun game that revels in its light-hearted tone and is worth a look to gamers of all types.
- Entertaining new character classes
- Something for every type of player from PvE to PvP
- Free content updates over the life of the game
- Ability to import dozens of characters from the first game
- No Taco Bandits…or any new competitive modes
- Character balancing still has a ways to go
- Faction missions always occupy a valuable mission spot, even after completion
- Timed missions can be annoying