The biggest problem with Plant vs. Undead is that it’s bereft of original ideas. You’ve probably already gathered that from its name. A play on the blockbuster mobile game series Plants vs. Zombies, it borrows not only its inspiration’s genre but also its aesthetic. The supposed play to earn gaming also sticks to tried and true mobile game monetization strategies, although now tied to the NFT play to earn gaming space instead.
But being a slave to previous success stories is hardly a crime in the play to earn gaming industry. Just ask Mario. He could point an accusatory white-gloved finger at just about every platformer that’s followed him down his green pipe. Games can be mimics but still be plenty of fun all the same.
So, is Plant vs. Undead fun enough even as a play to earn game? Is it the gameplay that has seen the NFT game’s PVU token drop in price from US$25 to US$0.25 in just 3 months? Let’s find out
Introducing Planet Plants
Being original isn’t in the skillset for the developer of Plant vs. Undead or simply isn’t of interest. Case in point: the play to earn gaming is set on Planet Plants. This is despite the fact there is no shortage of animals running around.
That said, these animals are now the undead. A meteor crashed into the planet, bringing some sort of disease that has turned the creatures into mindless zombies hell-bent on killing all the Mother Trees dotting the colorful if cartoony landscape. Luckily, the other flora of Planet Plants also mutated following the meteor’s arrival, giving them special abilities and powers to fight back.
Fade to gameplay, where undead creatures amble towards a Mother Tree while your army of plants goes all Triffid on them.
What formats is Plant vs. Undead on?
The developer of this play-to-earn game has gone with a mobile-first approach, with iOS and Android supported as of the end of 2021. There is also a hint of a PC version on the website, but when I clicked on it to download that version, no game was forthcoming. Consoles haven’t been ruled out, but they also haven’t been explicitly mentioned.
Tower defense at its core
The heart of the gameplay is classic mobile-style tower defense gaming. You have your army of plants, starting with 6 freebies and then building from there with plants that are randomized NFTs that require an investment – either monetary or in time – to acquire.
Player Versus Environment (PvE)
In the player vs. environment (PvE) experience, you find yourself in a stretch of forest. The Mother Tree you must defend is on one side, and the undead creatures – think turtles, snails, butterflies, and wolves – are strolling in from the right. In between are 8 grids on which you can deploy a selection of your plants.
Once placed, these plants will defend the Mother Tree without any hands-on action from you. They’ll fire off their unique abilities, delivering damage based on their stats. The stats can be accentuated by how they are placed, allowing you to mix and match the 9 elements – or better yet, group them – to up your attacking power.
Adding to the strategy is your Light Energy (LE) pool. When you start, there’s a capped amount, and actions such as leveling up a plant, deploying a plant, or moving it to a different grid spot deplete it. Thankfully, every time you kill one of the undead, it tops back up. So, thinking fast on your feet in the small gap between waves on how you want to spend LE to change your attack strategy is where the game hits its stride.
As well as gathering Light Energy during combat, you also earn a small PVU drop at the end of each wave. This is the game’s token, which can be exchanged for real cash. Waves are never-ending; you just see how long they can last.
Player Versus Player (PvP)
The PvP mode, which as of November 2021 includes ranked arena matches, follows a similar gameplay experience. However, you’ve also got to summon the undead creatures you want to send against your opponent, which adds another layer of strategy. It’s important to note that when playing in PvP mode, you use a clone of your NFT plants in battle, not your actual, precious NFT. Learn more resources and tools about axie Infinity.
But it’s also a farm sim
In the moments outside of the tower defense gameplay, you have Farm Mode. This is where the game steps on a bindy and stumbles into some stinging nettle. The play to earn gaming runs on 2 economies: Light Energy (the in-game money) and PVU (the real-world token). They are interchangeable. You can play to earn Light Energy from grinding away in the game or top it up with a purchased PVU token at your leisure.
Your goal in Farm Mode is twofold. Firstly, you want to buy land to grow a crop of plants, which can harvest you a certain amount of Light Energy every day. But better yet, purchasing a seed takes some serious LE grinding or some PVU. A seed will grow into a randomly selected NFT plant that can be used in combat. It’s randomized between 9 elements, 5 classes, and 4 rarities. Giving you a significant lift in combat, it holds an accurate value on the open market.
Farm Mode isn’t a set and forgets, however. It needs to be managed. You need to buy pots that only last days, water your plants regularly, scare off crows, and deal with weather events. You must nurture the things to ensure you keep getting Light Energy or a plant fit for fighting.
What does the grind look like?
Resource management and toil gameplay can be immersive. Just look at Animal Crossing, Jurassic World Evolution, or even Minecraft. But here, the demands don’t feel like they are designed for fun, but instead to entice you to spend. Pots only last a handful of days. Water is used and needs to be replenished daily. Random events can appear at any time, forcing constant checks. Even when you play a seed, you must wait 24 hours for it to flower for some unknown reason.
So, is Plant vs. Undead any fun?
The core tower defense gameplay may not be innovative, but it’s still fun. The inoffensive visuals, escalating threat, and constant – if shallow – micromanagement of your defense strategy is enough to keep you engaged. The interface is reasonably easy to follow, although selecting which 8 plants to deploy into any game isn’t obvious. And the sound effects of plants firing punish your ears.
I would have preferred a more rewarding way of understanding how each successful wave is upping the value of your plants – especially given they’re an NFT. And indeed, that side of things, which is vital given Plant vs. Undead is an NFT play to earn gaming, feels a bit nerfed. There’s no breeding, for example, to allow you to create genuinely unique plants of your own. Each plant is capped at how many times it can be used in a mode, ultimately undervaluing it. It’s a tactic that would make it a poor return from the perspective of renting it to play to earn scholars.
Farm Mode has potential, but as of December 2021, it’s withering on the vine. There are counters and timers and constant checks straight out of the Mobile Monetisation 101 handbook, putting roadblocks on the fun. For example, you must buy your water. You can’t go forage for it. You can’t craft a bigger bucket, dig a dam or build a water pump and some sprinklers over time. It’s not tied to gameplay.
At its core, Plant vs. Undead has the potential to marry tower defense gameplay and farm simulation into a fun experience – not an authentic experience but a fun one. But as a play-to-earn game with NFTs of genuine value, it’s unclear as of the end of 2021 if you can invest in this game for anything more than said fun. As in, you’ll likely not make a fortune.
In my opinion, there are quite a few improvements that need to be made to the gameplay – all of which would take the focus off timers and counters and put it more on interaction and discovery – for it to scale back up to a force in the NFT play to earn games space. And far less dumping of PVU by the developers.