Part tower defense game and part shooter, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 builds on the foundations laid by its predecessor with the introduction of new classes, game modes, and support for up to 24 players online. Each side of the fight has access to seven different characters, each having its own unique functionality. There are those who excel at close range as well as long range; those who help control the field with status ailments and hindrances; those who sustain damage and draw attention; and those who heal and assist the rest of the team. The result is a varied roster of characters that open up new and exciting strategies for players in battle.
Garden Warfare 2 at its heart is a shooter, with each plant and zombie having its own unique projectile; but it adds some of its tower defense roots to the core concept, making the game quite versatile. Placed around each map are flower pots, where seeds can be planted to create turret, healing, or inhibiting plants. With this, players can establish perimeters and make a stand against opponents, which works especially well in multiplayer; but more on that later.
The range of available characters gives free reign for GW2 to be something more complex than the previous game, but the ability to succeed through heavy damage dealers and strong snipers deteriorates the potential favor of the other classes. While the previous point holds true, each character’s progress is universal in every mode, including multiplayer. This means that leveling one’s favorite character through main or daily quests benefits the experience online by strengthening the character and offering more bonuses.
Cards play a key role in the proceedings. Card packs are bought from the store, and they provide character skins and other means of customization. Another element to this is that each character skin requires five parts, meaning that each of a skin’s five parts must be pulled before it can be used. The trick with them is that everything is random, much like any card-centric modes in other games, so it’s hard to pull cards for that favorite character. There IS a counter to it, though. Money comes from everything, and it comes in spades. Quests, dailies, kills, and multipliers all yield currency, so it’s easy to gather enough cash for more packs. I’d say that, without really trying too hard, I amassed 120,000 in currency within the first two hours, and I was able to purchase the most expensive pack, which guarantees a full character skin, and two other cheaper packs, which provide parts to other skins, in one go
The town is wide open, crawling with allies and enemies ready for battle with some quests sprinkled here and there for variety. Most of the development takes place at the respective base. Aligned across from each other are the bases for each faction, both overlooking a park with a flag pole in the center. That flag is a repeatable event that spawns wave after wave of enemies and bosses from the opposite faction, yielding experience and currency. This is a great way to keep up with daily quests.
Narrative barely exists within Garden Warfare 2. Whatever story there is comes across more like a tutorial at the beginning and comic relief for the remainder of the time. While this isn’t a bad idea considering the premise of the game as a whole, it does remove a sense of continuity with it all. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine a narrative here at all, since plants fighting zombies is rather straightforward. Regardless, the concept works well, but having more content in any game never hurts.
The previous point becomes negligible, though, under the notion that the entire game can be played cooperatively. Fellow players can join a friend’s game and play along with what he or she is doing, whether it’s Garden Ops, daily quests, or boss events in the open town. To make it even better, GW2 also offers split screen co-op as well. On that note, the entire game can also be played solo, but the repetitive nature of what I would compare to a more subtle MMO premise benefits from having companions. This isn’t one of those games where allies are needed in order for it to be fun either, because the game as a whole has something special to it; but Garden Warfare does become a grind as the few offline quests give way to the other modes of the game.
Garden Ops is GW2’s version of Horde mode. Played either solo or with friends, gamers fend off endless waves of enemies from key locations chosen by the player from a set of options. Offering the game this way gives players opportunities to set up defenses based on their skill level as well as how comfortable or familiar they are with each map.
The last major aspect of GW2 is arguably the strongest mode in the game: multiplayer. The game modes available to play are those expected of contested play: Team Vanquish, or GW2’s version of team deathmatch; Turf Takeover, which is a give-and-take game of claimed territories; Gnome Bomb, a mode meant for destroying three of the other team’s landmarks; Vanquished Confirmed, which any Call of Duty player will recognize; and Suburbination, where each team fights to take locations by building and defending either tombstones or gardens. The final mode is Mixed Mode, which has a nice feel to it. Mixed Mode cycles through all the available modes so that the online experience doesn’t get too repetitive or bottleneck players into playing only certain classes.
On that note, the long range characters have a very distinct advantage in every mode, and they’re the most overpowered in the game. While they can be countered by anyone at close range, the targeting system in GW2 is a perfect point-and-click format, where there’s no need to compensate for anything except for enemy movement. Even at medium or close range, no-scoping is nothing but the way things work, and they work well. At the same time, each character benefits from the same targeting system, so the only real advantage is how capable one is with any given class; though the snipers in this game are easier than easy to master.
The game itself is gorgeous too, especially for something with such a comical art style. Details are vivid and movement is silky smooth. GW2’s sound effects are on a similar plane: comical and vivid. Barbs pop when shot, a cha-ching rings when defeating an enemy, and each character has its own distinct sound. While everything is on the same visual pallet, there’s no issue with distinguishing who’s who or what’s what, even in the heat of combat. The lack of a sprint button caught me off guard at the beginning, but the lack of a quick escape requires a bit more strategy, and the game is better for it overall.
Garden Warfare 2 has a presence all its own. It has a visual appeal suitable for all ages and a pallet of characters complex enough to appease the most dedicated of players while at the same time being simple enough to pick up and play from the get-go. There’s more here than there was in the first Garden Warfare, but the ease of access the game offers makes it easy to see all the game has to offer in a short amount of time. Regardless, there’s a fair range of gameplay options here with multiplayer taking center stage in the whole game. With a little more non-multiplayer content, Garden Warfare 2 has what it takes to be a major entity in the industry.