By Kimari Rennis
With the release of Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, a trilogy in a series I generally have enjoyed has been completed. This last edition is a game that I can’t put down because it arrives with a brand new look at the Garden Warfare series, one that gave all fans a serious spit-take.
We are no longer battling in the backyard of Crazy Dave’s Tree Fortress and Dr. Zomboss’ Decrepit Castle. Instead, our new overworld consists of Crazy Dave’s Mansion and yet another one of Zomboss’ factories made to fit his unique gaggle of Zombie soldiers. The only thing that separates these two territories is Giddy Park, an expansive amusement area that doesn’t choose favorites in the war between plants and zombies.
There are many surprises. Just as Tress sprouts from within Dave’s gold-ridden mansion and Dance parties rage on in secrecy on Zomboss’ turf, the characters also have a more detailed, even realistic, look. Each and every character in the game has gotten a makeover with all new models and animations. Along with the bright, vibrant, and cartoony appeal in their movements, everyone has new voice actors which bring characters to life in kooky ways that I couldn’t imagine before.
At the beginning of the game, we come face to face with Major Sweetie, a Sunflower who’s been in the fight for Neighborville for a while, who shows us the ropes in this brand-new world. Here, I got my first glimpse at how her exaggerated cheering, silly high-pitched voice, and over the top babbling introduced me to a flawless characterization that radiates with the exciting wanderlust essence that Garden Warfare brought us in the past.
There’s more good news. This game used to hit me up for money, but my prayers have been answered. There are no more microtransactions because working hard and enjoying the game rather than buying your way through it is the way that Plants Vs. Zombies should be played.
In Garden Warfare 2, there were two secret characters that players had to diligently work towards in order to play them. They were none other than the Torchwood and the HoverGoat 3000. Players would need to acquire special keys from community chests, which gave you only one per event mind you. And with those keys, you unlocked trials that dealt with memory, balance, timing, and fighting. With those codes from these trials, you would unlock one part of the gate that leads to the room that has the two chests holding the secret characters. Even after you get to that room, you need to collect over 75 rainbow stars to remove the five rainbow locks on one of the chests.
Confused? In a nutshell, I needed a month’s worth hard work and playing Garden Warfare 2 to unlock those secret characters. Or, I could buy coins “which allows players the ability to access new packs and character content more quickly,” EA said. When other players could just buy content, the element of money put a damper on the joy that ran from my synapses to my brain in playing exciting puzzles and delicately taking off the locks on a chest to get a character.
The evil entity known as a microtransaction does not exist in Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and I couldn’t be happier. Every customization that I unlock, every secret that I uncover is an undeniable symbol of my hard work. Even online, the time and care that they put into the game is on display – without microtransactions.
However, one exception to this would be the addition of a “Fortnite Effect.” With the new December update the game received, a currency that you can purchase are Rainbow Stars which are only used for acquiring exclusive cosmetics that appear in Rux’s Bazaar. The notion of buying things for competitive advantage no longer exists, and the best part about it is that you can even earn Rainbow stars in the game – without paying for them!
Still, purchasing stuff in the game bugs me to the extent that my feelings for this game change as frequently as night and day. However, I can never bring myself to hate Battle for Neighborville. I understand that this game represents a new beginning for Garden Warfare Series and with the new attitude that PopCap puts forth in this game, it allows me to put faith in the promise that things will get better.
PopCap has dedicated all their time into reigniting the spirit of Plants Vs. Zombies through the wacky characters and gameplay, the mechanics, the animations, and even the events that they bring every month make me come back for more.
The Engineer’s new holiday skin as part of the December Feastivus Event
Evidently, the more I play the game, the more I come to terms with solidifying my love for it. As my friends and I collect hidden pies in the November Food Fight Event and roll around in the gorgeous snow of the December Feastivus Event, we slowly but surely appreciate all the care that went into the characters, the customizations, and the community that PopCap has built so far.
As with all other Plants Vs. Zombies games, it has earned a special place in my heart for the memories and with time, I’ll begin to love the game’s imperfections just as much as I love what small things make the game shine.
Right now, for me, Plants Vs. Zombies Battle for Neighborville is not a bad game, but it isn’t as good as the other games either. PopCap has promised to turn the questionable aspects of the game into stellar parts of this game through its updates and newfound reliance and trust in its community. My hope is that the team at PopCap can keep up with the TLC it gives Battle for Neighborville. I have every right to complain and get nitpicky about the game but I choose to appreciate the series that I have grown up with and look forward to the things that will get upgraded and fixed.
Kimari Rennis is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern from the DreamYard Preparatory School in the Bronx.