My customized Metal Petal. Just a little creepy.
Update: A free DLC with significant new game content came out on April 15, 2014. This article has been updated to reflect the new content.
So how do you like my creepy flower? I’ve been having fun playing PvZ Garden Warfare after introducing it at its debut in a previous post (Garden Warfare: The game for Christians (and others) who prefer bloodless mayhem). In that post I shared that I didn’t like third person shooters but I’d give this game a go, and so I did. It’s an addicting game (like any good game, unfortunately), though I’m not as good at the Multiplayer Modes as my son is.
The scenery in the maps is detailed, always fun, and I simply enjoy being in these environments; quirky humor can be found throughout, like with the billboard that advertizes “El Bano Taco.” I don’t like all maps equally when it comes to actual game play, and players will discover on their own which maps present the best or worst situations for their style of vanquishing, team play (which garden might be best for Craazy! level), etc.
There are two basically different ways of playing Garden Warfare: Garden Ops and Multiplayer (up to 24 players using dedicated servers), and there is no story or separate solo offline gameplay. The XBOX One version has split screen capability, but not so with the XBOX 360.
Garden Ops. Garden Ops is played with up to four players, either in invite only mode or public mode (if a game ends and you remain in the list, and the host changes to invite mode, you can remain in the game unless specifically kicked off). Either way, Garden Ops is hosted by individuals and when you start a session, as opposed to joining someone else’s session, you start alone. You may remain alone for quite some time, so be ready to go it alone if you start yourself; if you end up finishing yourself there is a 3,000 coin Solo Bonus given. I have no idea how their system works when you can be added to an active session immediately, but when you start your own session you may never have anyone come on. To me, this is a head scratcher.
The upside to starting your own session–of you being the host–is that you’re less likely to be kicked out of the game. Yes, this is a definite problem with Garden Warfare, at least on the XBOX 360. I get kicked out of games frequently and have seen others have the same problem, literally all the time. I heard that XBOX One players don’t have to contend with this issue since EA has dedicated servers that host Garden Ops for that console, but the EA website does not say there’s a distinction between the consoles. If you find out differently, I’d appreciate a comment about it (thanks).
In Garden Ops, you and the other players defend a garden until the session is over, and there are four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Craaaazy! This game, while it looks like it could be for small kids, can be very hard. Neither my son nor I have gotten through the Craaaazy! level yet (my son really wants to since to do so would mean getting our last Garden Warfare Achievement). My son says that getting through the Craaaazy! level is harder than playing Dark Souls. That’s saying something. And for any parent letting their little kids play when a team effort is needed . . . thaaaaanks . . . (waste of the other players’ time). Which reminds me: you can mute other players easy enough, and this is done individually.
While I’m in a complaining mode, I have two other pet peeves when it comes to Garden Ops. One, if you’re playing public mode then don’t toggle kick people off for no reason. Very rude and it wastes the time of the players that just got placed on your team by the system. Go into invite only mode. Geesh. Two, flowers are the medics in the game. They get quite a lot of extra points for healing, both players and the potted plants. There’s no reason to play in Garden Ops as a flower but then play like a Pea Shooter. I can’t express how annoying it is to know there’s a flower on your team that aggressively tries to get all the vanquishes while at the same time she doesn’t heal anyone. To heal, a player only has to hold the left bumper down – no problem at all – you can do it constantly during game play to easily heal anyone around with barely even thinking about it. Besides not doing something so simple, I’ve even seen flowers get in a spot that others can’t get to easily, so that they happily heal themselves – only. Multiplayer would be a better option for such players, though it still wouldn’t be of any benefit to the other team players.
And just one more thing (while I’m adjusting my stance on the soapbox), if this is a fun game, why are something like 75% of the players so noninteractive and boring? Honestly, it’s so much fun when players interact with gestures, try to jump on and ride the cactus’ garlic drone, break all kinds of things . . . you know, fun stuff.
Characters and Leveling
Currently there are four base characters in each of the plants and zombies groups, and each of these base characters has six more specialized subcharacters (the sixth one was added with the April 15 DLC). For example, instead of using the base Sunflower, you can unlock each of these: Fire Flower, Shadow Flower, Power Flower, Mystic Flower (the way mine is currently outfitted, she’s more like a Psycho Flower!), and Metal Petal. All plants can use potted plants as well, like the Doom Shroom and Bonk Choy, and these are made available by buying Sticker Packs. Zombies likewise have zombie assistants they can call upon in the same way.
Each flower, just like each other character, has a different way of shooting and it may have other unique attributes. The Fire Flower may be the best in the game since it’s spray damage seems the most effective. The Metal Petal has fifty percent more health (150 instead of 100) than the others, but moves more slowly. Since it also has more ammo it is a definite contender for the best flower in the game. The Shadow Flower is also powerful, with its plentiful and more powerful cool blue goopy ammo. And the Psycho, er, Mystic Flower shoots completely differently – instead of being like the other flowers’ automatic “weapon,” it shoots individual rounds that are more powerful, and it can build up a hugely powerful shot as a special ability. It’s more like a cactus, and most like the Future Cactus. As far as how you experience these different characters, you can actually feel and hear the difference when shooting. The Ice Pea even makes a “tinkling” sound whenever it shoots, while snowflakes burst around.
A player gains levels (and concurrently, Game Rank) by finishing mini-challenges, or, by using Skip Challenge Cards to make it the same as if you did the challenge. The cards are pretty much a necessity for those players (like me) who don’t do well in multi-player modes, since some challenges relate only to those modes and are quite hard in any case. These cards are won in the Sticker Packs. Every time you level up, up to level 10, you get a free sticker pack that is related to that character; after level 10 you get 10,000 coins at each level-up. Also when a base character reaches level 10, the last subcharacter becomes available to unlock.
You customize your characters by using items unlocked from the Sticker Packs, which are just like trading card packs (though virtual), purchased with the coins you collect from playing. Just like with trading cards, the “stickers” are rated by rarity. One odd thing about the game is that while you can see if your sticker is common or rare at the time of your purchase, this rating doesn’t show up in the sticker book where you can see stats, stickers, etc. Gestures, of which there are many, are unlocked this way too. The April 15 DLC made hundreds more characterizations available.
With the flowers, you can add a hat, an accessory (like glasses), an organic (different “hands”), and a “tatoo” – with flowers its something on their face, but with cacti, it may cover their whole body. The image at the top of this post shows a Metal Petal with a Sun Mask (combined hat and accessory), Razor Teeth Tatoo, and Happy Hands. Plunger Hands, Purple Crystals, and Satellite Dishes are some of the few fun hands available for the flower. The Cactus characters have the best customizations, in my view. The Cactus has the biggest canvas–that is, it’s body has the most space to showcase designs–and its arms are also significant and obvious. You can really have lots of fun customizing your Cactus, like with puppet or owl arms. We have a lot of fun with this alone in the game, and with seeing how others have “done-up” their spike-shooting eccentric cacti.
Lastly, coming from a Christian blog, you might want to know if I noticed anything Christian or Anti-Christian about the game. I have found neither,* so it seems to me that the game makers are dedicated to presenting a fun game that doesn’t seek to promote or offend any faiths or lifestyles (I suppose pacifists may find it offensive). There ARE some funny gestures that some people may take offense at, possibly–the cactus has a hilarious one that made me laugh out loud for a while, where he swivels his “hips” and says “Oooh la la,” and there’s another he does that seems to clearly mean “kiss my a$$.” The cactus is quite the character.
*I did find a cross, seen in the picture below, which is from the scene in the character customizations window. Even though it’s pretty big, it’s in the far distance and I
The arrow points to a cross in the background (no, it’s not the house antenna). I inserted the chocolate bunny as sort-of my own Easter time “easter egg.”
didn’t even notice it for some time. I think my mind just thought of it as a telephone pole, until I started editing the images.
To sum up my thoughts on the game: FUN; cuuuuute; quirky, certainly not just for kids; Garden Ops hosting is annoying; great AI; addicting; and, . . . it’s like playing in your favorite cartoon. As the flower sometimes says, “Ahhhh, Boogie boogie boogie, Boogie boogie boogie!“
This post was edited on 4/13/14 and again updated, adding new DLC information, on 4/15/14. Images below are just for fun and will be rotated occasionally.
Shadow Flower with squid hat, spy glasses, future organics, and razor teeth.
Cactus, Garden Warfare, with wooden tattoo, gnomes organics, steam punk glasses, and roof hat.