PopCap Games just released Plants vs Zombies Heroes to a worldwide audience today. Here is a primer on what this game is all about.
For most of the entertainment business, living in Canada is sometimes frustrating. Despite American shows appearing on our televisions, you’ll often find footage geolocked on YouTube, barring access from the Great White North. The cost of video games is now at $80 CAD, as opposed to $60 in America. However, where everywhere else being a Canadian is like a second-class pop culture consumer, for mobile games like Plants vs Zombies Heroes, we get to try out the soft launch early.
For almost half a year, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders have been playing Plants vs Zombies Heroes during its active development, being there for all of its notable gameplay, visual and audio changes. Now, however, PopCap Games is finally ready to unleash the game to the world, as Plants vs Zombies Heroes is now available on iOS and Android.
As I have dozens upon dozens of hours experience playing, let me fill starters in on just exactly what this game is all about.
What Is Plants vs Zombies Heroes?
Plants vs Zombies Heroes is a mobile collectible card game that pits player vs player with decks of cards representing playable plant heroes and zombie heroes. Once chosen, you must pick 40 of your available cards to form a deck, complete with plants or zombies and special “trick” cards that provide various bonuses for you and negatives for your opponent.
Teams face off against each other on a battlefield often set up like this: there are five lanes in total, and most of the time, the far left lane will on a higher plane and the far right lane will be a pool of water. The middle three lanes are on the ground. Placing a grunt on any of these lanes represents the lane they will attack in the battle phase. If there is no opposing enemy in a lane, a grunt will attack the hero for damage, with the goal of depleting a hero’s health down from 20 to zero.
At the start of a turn, a player is granted one brain or sunflower for as many turns as have elapsed. These act as mana resources for how many plants/zombies and tricks you can use in a turn. Each plant or zombie has a damage indicator on the bottom-left part of their card, as well as a health pool indicator on the bottom-right. Most grunts have a special feature, ranging from splash damage to neighboring lanes, damage-reducing armor (must do 3 HP to hurt the card for 1 HP), granting the ability to draw a card, and other functions.
When hitting an enemy Plants vs Zombies Heroes leader, they will receive 1-3 blips of shield damage. Once that total reaches eight on an attack, that attack is negated and the enemy draws a special power. Working like a trick, these powers cannot be placed in a deck, and are only provided here and at the beginning of the game. Each hero uses a pool of shared powers and one unique superpower, often helping to turn the tide of battle.
A full turn of Plants vs Zombies Heroes gameplay runs like this:
- At beginning of game, draw four cards and re-draw unwanted cards once.
- Zombie hero places available grunts, including graveyard tombstones
- Plant hero places available grunt and uses special tricks
- Zombie hero’s graveyard zombies rise from the dead, player can use special tricks
- Battle takes place, running from the left lane all the way to the right.
Who Are The Heroes Of Plants vs Zombies Heroes?
Here is a list of all the different heroes you can play as in Plants vs Zombies Heroes, starting with the Plants.
Classes: Mega Grow, Smarty
Superpower: Precision Blast – 5 damage done to middle lane
Deck Focuses: Strengthening grunts, attacking multiple lanes, freezing enemies
Classes: Kabloom, Solar Flare
Superpower: Sunburn – Deal 2 damage, gain +1 Sun mana for the rest of the game
Deck Focuses: Strikethrough, quick extra resources, quick plants on field
Classes: Guardian, Solar
Superpower: Uncrackable – Hero can’t be hurt this turn, draw a card
Deck Focuses: Wall of defensive nuts, healing, long-range attacks, strength in numbers
Classes: Mega Grow, Solar
Superpower: Devour – Destroys zombie with the lowest health
Deck Focuses: Early plants, powering up healing plants while doing damage, strikethrough
Classes: Kabloom, Guardian
Superpower: Tater Toss – Spawns Hot Potato for 6 damage on death
Deck Focuses: Defensive wall that damages attackers, synergizes nuts and berries for coordinated boosts
Classes: Guardian, Smarty
Superpower: Peel Shield – Plants are shielded for a turn, draw a card
Deck Focuses: Defensive wall aimed for strong, late-game plants, freezing, large amphibious roster, mitigating opponent’s field
Classes: Mega Grow, Guardian
Superpower: Power Pummel – Attacks ground lanes for 2 damage
Deck Focuses: Powering up plants behind defensive plants, strengthening Bullseye plants, add attack to defensive plants
Classes: Kabloom, Smarty
Superpower: Mush-Boom – Create Poison Mushroom, 2 damage done in that lane
Deck Focuses: Early hero damage, early freeze/zombie wipe, mushrooms
Classes: Smarty, Solar
Superpower: Goatify – Turn the strongest zombie into a 1/1 Goat
Deck Focuses: Flower synergies, knock out zombies, grow Sun resources, bring out powerful plants early, troll opponents’ offenses
Classes: Kabloom, Mega Grow
Superpower: Blazing Bark – Gives +4 strength to one plant
Deck Focuses: Strengthen plants to do bonus attacks, create swarm mobs of fruit plants, early game mushroom + later game berries
Classes: Brainy, Sneaky
Superpower: Carried Away – Move a zombie, then it bonus attacks
Deck Focuses: Moves zombies for direct Hero hits, bonus attacks, quick tricks used to mitigate opponents
Classes: Hearty, Beastly
Superpower: Slammin’ Smackdown – Destroy plants up to 4 strength
Deck Focuses: High HP tanking, lots of hero and zombie healing options, outlasting competition, strong gargantuar late-game
Classes: Sneaky, Crazy
Superpower: Triple Threat – Make two Impfinity Clones with amphibious
Deck Focuses: Quick wave of early-game grunts, amphibious + anti-hero options, pirate synergies, large damage Imps with lower health
Classes: Brainy, Hearty
Superpower: Shrink Ray – Minus 3 strength to a plant, draw a card
Deck Focuses: Boosting zombies, shrinking plants, destroying said plants with tricks, sports zombie synergies for days
Classes: Beastly, Crazy
Superpower: Stayin’ Alive – 3 damage to a plant, hero healed for 3
Deck Focuses: Create multiple zombies early, boost those zombies, destroy enemies with tricks
Classes: Sneaky, Beastly
Superpower: Frozen Tundra – Freeze all ground plants
Deck Focuses: Pet boosting synergies led by Zookeeper, numerous Imp synergies, amphibious zombies
Classes: Brainy, Crazy
Superpower: Eureka – Three random cards from game now in your hand
Deck Focuses: Chance for strong cards through Eureka, science zombie synergies, tricks, summoning zombies during trick stage
Classes: Brainy, Beastly
Superpower: Witch’s Familiar – Zom-bats summoned, draws card when it hurts a plant
Deck Focuses: Pet synergies, zombies that let you draw extra cards, extra brain resource management, flexible trick synergy strategies
Classes: Hearty, Crazy
Superpower: Missile Madness – 2 damage done in three random lanes
Deck Focuses: Strong, armored zombies, health-boosting management, sports growth + health strategies
Classes: Hearty, Sneaky
Superpower: Octo-pult – Makes an Octo-Pet with Amphibious
Deck Focuses: Bouncing out plants, rushing the hero with grunt waves, early amphibious zombies
What Gameplay Modes Are In Plants vs Zombies Heroes?
Each player has the option to play against the AI in a series of missions designed for both Plants and Zombies heroes. In addition to sharing animated comics that dive into a fun little narrative, more importantly, they present an opportunity to learn tactics, card options, and opponent strategies through gameplay.
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For the first few series of missions, Plants vs Zombies Heroes play is straight-up, slowly introducing the unlockable hero characters on both sides as enemies. Additionally, you will receive Hero coins for every successful win, which helps pay for special card packs that expand your card collection. These missions also help you complete quests (such as “Win two games as a plant hero”), which often reward you with Gems that can purchase card packs. Those gem-based card packs provide uncommon grunts and possible Rare, Super Rare, and Legendary cards, and can be earned fairly enough that you don’t need to spend gems right away.
As you get later in the game, however, these Plants vs Zombies Heroes challenges get mighty tough. For example, every fifth mission is a boss battle, where the opponent usually has an advantage. Defeating boss battles earns you 100 Hero coins, though, getting you a free pack of Common cards. To throw you out of your comfort zone, late-game missions will also present unique challenges, such as levels where every plant and zombie gains +1/+1 damage and health on the field at the beginning of a turn.
Most importantly, for competitive purposes, is the online gameplay. You can face off against other Plants vs Zombies Heroes players in either casual or ranked games, each providing Hero coins on completion. However, in Ranked mode, earning a win gets you several stars, with up to three earned during winning streaks. Disconnecting or losing, however, will lose you one star. Reaching ten stars will vault you to the next level, providing Gems necessary to buy additional card packs.
What makes this system great is that you can’t slip back a level, and most of your competition stays within the same level range. Starting at Wood League, every couple of levels you advance to another league, earning hundreds of gems in the process as a reward for advancing to higher competition. As you make your way through Bronze League and hit Silver League, however, you only earn one star for a win and two in a win streak. The natural advanced skill of other players becomes a mitigating factor for progression, but it teaches you techniques through live practice.
What Makes Plants vs Zombies Heroes Different Or Interesting?
What I love most about this game is just how complex it is despite the genre it resides in. Hearthstone is the gold standard when it comes to digital card games, yet I’d argue that PvZ Heroes has more layers of depth than meets the eye.
The implementation of tiered lanes, including water-filled and higher altitude lanes, creates a tactical scenario where you need to account for where you place your cards. At the end of the day, getting your opponent’s health down to zero is most important, but some of your cards will do better at the first lane. At the same time, relatively fewer enemies can enter a pool lane, making it easier to chip health damage with a lane likelier to be empty.
Another factor that lane design creates is the idea of attacking enemies in multiple lanes. Certain Plants vs Zombies Heroes decks revolve around late-match tactics that involve splash damage or multi-lane targeting, something that isn’t as big or as prominent a factor in other titles. With the attack phase starting combat on the first lane on the left, a well-placed splash hit could wipe out the enemy in the second lane before it’s even their turn, opening your grunt up for a direct attack.
In other digital card games, players can use certain classes to create multiple different styles of decks and gameplay tactics. In Plants vs Zombies Heroes, you often have more types of plays at your disposal due to heroes using two classes at once.
For Heroes, this includes Guardian (defensive), Kabloom (explosive attacks), Mega Grow (stat boosts and bonus attacks), Smarty (mitigating attacks that freeze or bounce opponents from the field) and Solar (extra sun resource, healing, and strikethrough attacks) classes. Zombie heroes use two of the following classes: Beastly (high damage cards with Frenzy attacks), Brainy (extra tricks, bonus brain resources, and shield-dodging Bullseye attacks), Crazy (attack emphasis on aggression and direct on the hero), Hearty (tank cards with healing and armor) and Sneaky (attacks in water, moving lanes, and protection through gravestones).
Depending on the hero you choose, you can only use the cards acquired from the classes it’s aligned with to build a deck. However, as you acquire rarer cards or multiple different cards of the same type, inherent attack plans can be built through deck optimization. For example, you could start out playing Green Shadow as a ranged aggressor that focuses on multiple attacks, then build a freeze deck that focuses on preventing enemy attacks as you get better freezing cards.
This may sound a bit overwhelming to a Plants vs Zombies Heroes newcomer, but in reality, it means that you can build an effective, competent deck early and win with a bit of luck and proper implementation of what cards you’re dealt with. Furthermore, the types of decks players can build are varied in their approach, keeping things fresh from a gameplay perspective.
Is Plants vs Zombies Heroes Free-To-Play Or Pay-To-Win?
Plants vs Zombies Heroes is free-to-play in the fairest sense.
One of my biggest concerns surrounding these mobile digital card games is just how predatory the idea of whale-hunting can get. All it takes is the few highest payers to keep a mobile game afloat, and the drive to spend money on tons of card packs might kill a game’s fairness in competition early. Thankfully, PopCap has implemented numerous ways to earn the Gems necessary to buy premium card packs.
First off are the standard quests. Every three hours, the player can complete a quest for Gems. Most of the time it’s 10 Gems for a simple task (“Win A Game”), sometimes it’s more (“Do 300 damage to your opponent’s health” for 150 Gems). Additionally, once you gain a new character (sometimes earned in Quests), you receive Hero Quests that grant additional Gems and cards for that hero’s collection.
With 100 Gems buying one premium pack (with options scaling up to 60 packs for 5,000 Gems), a patient player saving up the early onslaught of free gems can build up a competitive deck in due time. Of course, there’s always someone who might be crazy enough to drop $100 on the biggest Gem pack in order to receive a bunch of Rare, Super Rare, and Legendary cards, but doing so early on presents two problems. 1) Some of those Legendary cards will, likely, end up being new heroes, reducing the number of viable cards added to your collection. 2) Without learning the game over time, it’s hard to optimize proper deck construction.
Ultimately, someone doing their research can spend some money and quickly vault up the Ranked multiplayer leagues by dropping money in Plants vs Zombies Heroes. However, as each season lasts a few months and there’s no prototypical leaderboard, a non-paying or low-paying player isn’t left out to dry.
How Can I Learn More About Plants vs Zombies Heroes Strategy?
Luckily for you, that place will be App Trigger sooner than you know it!
I’ve become somewhat fascinated with Plants vs Zombies Heroes over the past few months, so much so that I will be creating guides, strategy posts and news articles following the ongoing development of the game in the days, weeks and months ahead. Links will be shared here as time goes on.