Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time saw a limited release yesterday in the New Zealand and Australia. PopCap is using these locations to test the game’s online infrastructure and its monetization methods. As you probably know by now, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is free-to-play. Worst still, it’s a free-to-play game with Electronic Arts as its publisher. This has led many gamers to foresee doom for PvZ 2. Despite everything EA and PopCap have said, there’s always the fear that PvZ 2 will ultimately become a pay-to-win game. We wanted to see how far the rabbit hole goes, so we downloaded the game and put close to a couple hours into it. Here’s what we learned.
As the title suggests, PvZ 2 has a time traveling hook. It all starts when Crazy Dave eats a taco and immediately wants to go back in time to eat it again. In order to do that, a time machine car named Penny transports Crazy Dave back to ancient Egypt. Obviously, Crazy Dave went too far back in time. Therefore, he must travel through different time periods to make it back to 2009 and his beloved taco.
Unlike the first game, the stages in PvZ 2 are spread out across a map. As you complete levels, a path will open up leading you to the next level. Occasionally, you’ll come across locked doors that can only be entered with special keys. Zombies will drop these keys, but the game is set up to spread these moments out. This forces players to play as many levels as possible. Of course, you can immediately unlock these doors for $1.99.
The biggest question about PvZ 2 is how much PopCap and EA are charging for in-game purchases. These prices may change by the time the game comes to North America. Be sure to check out our other PvZ 2 post about the cost of all the in-game transactions.
The in-game currency are coins. Coins can’t be used to buy plants, but they can be used to buy plant food and activate power-ups. Plant food is used to initiate each plant’s super move. For example, the pea shooter suddenly shoots a ton of peas in a straight line. Zombies drop plant food at a decent rate, but you can also purchase it on the fly for 1,000 coins. The other powerups activate the player’s god-like powers. You can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture to pop the heads off zombies, electrocute zombies or simply toss them off the stage. These powerups cost 800, 1,200 and 1,000 coins respectively.
You can really tell how these transactions come into play in the first world. PvZ 2 is designed to take a long time to complete if you don’t spend money. You cannot leave ancient Egypt until you’ve earned 20 stars to unlock the next level. You’ll get one star for completing a level, but there are some levels that can give you three stars. These stars can only be obtained by completing three strict level objectives such as never using more than 12 plants, preventing zombies from trampling flowers and not spending over a certain amount of sun. If you find these tasks too difficult, you’ll have to fork over $4.99 to unlock the next world. I’ve been playing for over an hour, and I have 8 stars so far.
To me, I’m not feeling the same sense of nicely-paced progression with PvZ 2 compared to the first game. I’m all for having challenges for each level, but it starts to feel monotonous after a while. It’s a real bummer to make it to the end of a level, only to fail one of the three star challenges at the last minute. At that point you have to start all over again. It’s a very discouraging feeling.
Plenty of things can change with this game before it releases on a wide scale. I don’t know if it’s the free-to-play stigma or not, but I don’t think I’m enjoying PvZ 2 as much as the first game. I can’t help but think the game is going to turn on me. I’ll keep going and maybe it’ll hit a stride.