EA and Popcap are trying something new with the release of multiplayer shooter Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. First of all, I should say that Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville exists, which you may not have known because the only formal announcement until now was a 24-hour countdown clock that ended today. And now that it's today, Battle for Neighborville has both been announced and released—partially, at least.
Battle for Neighborville will be released in chunks, with new modes and features added each week for the next six weeks. To get in today, you can buy the Founder's Edition for $30 on Origin. After that six week period, when everything's been added, the Standard Edition will go on sale for $40. Anyone who bought the Founder's Edition will have everything Standard Edition owners have, plus some cosmetic extras.
Origin Access Premier subscribers also get Founder's Edition access.
Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is a third-person shooter like the Garden Warfare games, and the first PvP mode available is the 24-player Turf Takeover, a "redesigned" version of the team objective mode from Garden Warfare 2. Also releasing today is a PvE area, called Town Center, where players will meet NPCs, fight enemies, solve puzzles, find hidden collectibles, and reveal the story.
Eventually, all of the other Garden Warfare modes will return. There's also a new 4v4 Battle Arena mode on the way: a best-of-seven contest in which you can't use the same character twice.
Battle for Neighborville includes ten plant and ten zombie hero classes, with some returning from the Garden Warfare series, and some sprouting up for the first time. Acorn is an acorn who's not very powerful, but can transform into Oak (you guessed it, an oak tree) which other Acorn players can hop on, becoming turrets. The zombies have a similar multi-crew transformer, Space Cadet, who "can transform into a space station." I always wondered why they didn't just make the space station out of the space cadet. Makes sense.
New modes and PvE areas will be released every Tuesday until October 8, when the only addition will be the start of a weekly PvP event. On the 15th, there'll be another weekly event, and then Battle for Neighborville will launch for $40 on October 18.
EA made a big deal about customization in the presentation I was shown—which was similar to one given to Gamescom attendees—and there are several ways to get cosmetics. For starters, there's the Mr. Reward-A-Tron 9000, where players can spend in-game currency to receive items, but never real money. (The absence of paid loot boxes was emphasized a few times as a key decision.)
Also available at launch will be Battle for Neighborville's version of battle passes, called Festival Prize Maps. Prize Maps are free, but when the premium currency is released players will be able to use it to speed up progression. Premium currency will also be spendable at a store called Rux’s Emporium.
Neither the premium currency, called Rainbow Stars, nor Rux's Emporium will be available at launch, and live producer Shaun Laker tells me that it will be possible to earn some amount of Rainbow Stars through playing.
New Festivals will be held monthly, with the first, called Lawn of Doom, starting on October 2. Aside from earning themed loot from a new Festival Prize Map, these month-long events will be reflected in the social hub, Giddy Park, where players can practice combat, play minigames, and get cosmetic items. Naturally, it'll get spookier for Halloween.
Going forward, there are plans for new maps, characters, and features, though Popcap says it has nothing specific to announce yet. The Founder's Edition is on sale now, and will be available until September 30. After that, anyone hoping to play will have to wait until the Standard Edition releases on October 18. We'll give it a go and get some impressions posted soon.