This is a community post from Contributor Joshua Shuttleworth.
EA recently announced a ‘Founding Neighbor’ program for those interested in playing the newest Plants vs Zombies game, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, before its official release on October 18th, 2019. The newest entry in the series features similar gameplay and design as the 2 previous spinoffs Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.
I decided to jump in and see what the new game had to offer their most loyal fanbase. For $30.00, a $10.00 discount from the standard edition, you get early access to the game as well as weekly rewards and access to a special Discord channel to discuss the game. EA was quick to note this is not a beta test or Demo; no major changes are being made before the full launch of the game on October 14th. Founding Neighbors will also see all of their progress and unlocks carry into release.
The first week brought a PvP mode, dubbed Turf Takeover, which functions as an objective based game where one team fights to complete four objectives within a time limit and the other team works to prevent them. I’ve played around three hours of this mode so far and I have found myself enjoying it.
Battle for Neighborville definitely shares some DNA with the Hero Shooter genre. Once you load into a match you’ll choose from one of ten characters, each with their own special abilities and playstyle. Much like Overwatch, Battle for Neighborville tells you the main role each character should take: Attack, Defense, or Support.
Every character has a customization menu that lets you choose from skins, hats, and accessories, all of which are unlocked through the in-game store, gatcha-style drops, and single-player content. Upgrades are a new mechanic where you allocate seven points into differently ranked passives like more health near multiple enemies, greater XP gain, health after a vanquish, etc.
Promoting a character, which can be done once they reach level 10, acts similar to prestiging in Call of Duty. The character level is reset back to 1 and some permanent unlocks are received for the effort. So far it appears these will be primarily special upgrades that are more helpful or specific to each character’s playstyle. For example, I promoted Sunflower and received two new upgrades that both mean I heal myself while providing healing on other players. Promotions are defined by stars on a character’s selection menu and at the vanquished screen. I definitely found a correlation between promotion levels and skill of a player, though I don’t think this will always be the case.
After every match players will earn coins based on their performance. The math that goes into determining this value isn’t apparent but I’ve earned as low as 250 coins for joining a match that was ending and as many as 20,000 coins for performing in the top three during a match.
In Battle for Neighborville you will have a few different options for spending coins: Gacha rewards, Rux’s Emporium items, and additional XP.
The Gacha rewards appear to take the place of the sticker packs in the previous games. While I think the new animations and purchase animations are great, I can’t help but feel like it’s giving out less cosmetic rewards for more coins. The Reward-o-tron will shoot out 1 random reward for every 30,000 coins you give it. So far I haven’t gotten any duplicates so I’m not quite sure if that’s a concern or not. While you can certainly earn this sum of coins relatively quickly in playing matches, the rewards you get don’t feel up to par with the previous games. My first reward was a ‘shout’ that I was told was rare but didn’t feel special at all. There was no fancy animation, color, or event font changes compared to the ‘common’ or default options.
Further rewards included some cosmetic items which I was more excited to receive. Disappointingly, there’s no way to choose items for a specific faction like you could in the last two games. I find myself enjoying the plants side more, so I’d prefer to get lots of plant cosmetics first rather than a new left shoe for a zombie character I don’t play.
Rux’s Emporium items are entirely locked away at this time. Rux was present in the last game so I think it’s safe to assume we’ll see the same style shop selling limited time items for coin. Rux’s job during the founder weeks is just to hand out the founder’s rewards, but I’m interested to see what direction this shop will take.
The final mechanic you can spend coins on is XP. For the sum of 15,000 coins you can get a small boost of XP for whatever character you’re walking around the main hub as, which immediately nets you 1 level. As long as Battle for Neighborville doesn’t release the capability to buy coins for real money I’m okay with this XP system. Once you can buy better upgrades for real money, even if it takes a few steps, I fear we might hear the cry of ‘Pay to Win.’ This is EA we’re talking about after all, the same people who refer to their loot boxes as ‘Surprise Mechanics’. The earlier entries, and even mobile games, are no strangers to letting you buy your way through them.
I don’t feel EA has changed too much of the gameplay around since the first two installments but I don’t think the game suffers from it. Primarily, the changes seem to be for quality of life: dedicated sprinting on every character, minions no longer cost coins or resources and are instead on a timer, and the hub battle area is now multiplayer.
I’m playing on the Xbox One X and I’ve found the game to be particularly good looking. The Frostbite engine really does this game well. Animations are tight, gameplay is fluid, and the fidelity is certainly on par with other recently released games. While playing I saw a solid 60FPS in PvP matches and 30FPS in the main hub area which, although jarring, is better than having it be 30FPS throughout all modes.
Overall I’m enjoying the gameplay of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville so far. The game has a lighthearted feel to it that makes me feel less upset when I get vanquished and I find myself having more fun doing objectives when there’s not a lot at stake. The large amount of characters and depth of upgrades should result in many different playstyles for every player. I will say though that at this time the modes are limited and I’d really only suggest picking it up if you can’t wait until October 18th.