I can't talk about much until our full review shortly after launch, but I can give you a heads-up on what to expect from Plants vs. Zombies' newest foray into the world of social gaming.
Plants vs. Zombies Adventures (Facebook)
Release: May 20, 2013
MSRP: Free (with microtransactions)
Adventures has a pretty straight-forward setup: you'll have access to your own town (much like FarmVille -- wait, where are you going?), which you'll manage and build, and there's an opportunity to go on "Road Trips" which are essentially missions. As you take on more and more missions, you'll unlock new areas (and thus, more plants, content, buildings, and quests) in your town. Sound simple enough?
Missions themselves are a tad different than the core game. Instead of an intimate grid-based setting, they take place on an isometric-style map, and feel like more of a traditional tower defense experience. Each plant has a different attack radius or ability just like in the core Plants vs. Zombies, and for the most part it plays out in the same way despite the change in view. Sunflowers still earn you sun, plants still need a certain amount of sun to build, and so on. There are a decent number of new plants -- some of which may make it into Plants vs. Zombies 2.
One major change I actually enjoyed more in Adventures is the new spray mechanic. Using increments of 25 sun, you can choose to either increase the range (or use a hidden ability) of one of your plants, or freeze an enemy zombie for a few seconds. It adds a lot of strategy and can easily mean the difference between a win or a loss, even later in the game. While most social games would enact a paywall fairly early, these sprays help break down that wall and add more of a skill element to the experience, which is welcome.
But of course, this is a social game, and you can't just go willy nilly and do missions all the time. The way PopCap "gets you" is by requiring players to go back to their home base of operations to create more plants. For instance, in order to use standard Peashooters and Sunflowers, you have to grow them at your home plot (it takes 60 seconds for standard plants to grow), and each plant costs a certain amount of Coins. So how do you earn Coins? By gathering them at structures in your town, which refill at periodic times (on average, they run on a two-hour timer).
Normally this would result in a paywall of some sort, but I haven't experienced a hard paywall yet in many hours of play. Plants vs. Zombies Adventures has a lot to do, which is partially overwhelming, but it also (mostly) alleviates the annoying "wait-wall" (energy mechanic) found in most Facebook or social games -- depending on how enjoyable you find the other activities in the game.
When you're waiting on Coins for missions, you can spruce up your town, invade other towns, defend your property from encroaching zombies, or do quests, like creating a certain amount of plants, or upgrading buildings. While a lot of people will most likely want to just go out and do missions all the time (you can't), at least there's some sort of option here. For instance, at one point where I'd normally have to wait an hour or so to earn more Coins to buy plants, I invaded a friend's town and stole Coins from his settlement, giving me enough money to do a few more missions while my Coin cache went back to normal.
In order to actually do all of these things, you'll need to utilize three forms of currency -- Zombucks (earned through beating levels, they allow you to fix up your town and invade others), Coins (earned through farming buildings, which buys you plants), and Gems, which are the strictly real-money currency that can be used to buy either of the former currencies.
To elaborate, Zombucks are the bread and butter of building a better town. You'll be able to clear out debris -- and thus, plots for buildings -- erect more coin-gathering buildings, and so on. Again, Coins are the lifeblood of actually playing the game, because without them, you can't buy plants, and as a result can't actually embark on missions. Coins follow the typical FarmVille-esque "wait then harvest" scheme, but it's a lot less sleazy and more upfront. Every few hours, your buildings will generate enough coins to handle a massive amount of stages -- at least five in the early game.
Depending on your tastes, Plants vs. Zombies Adventures may be up your alley. The good news is while there is some form of an energy mechanic, there's a lot to do while you're waiting. Stay tuned for our full review shortly after launch, which is currently slated for May 20.