The title gives it away. I like Planetside 2. I like it a lot. In fact it’s the ONLY game that has taken me away from Guild Wars 2.
Epic right? Yeah you know it is.
Planetside 2 is set on the war torn world of Auraxis where three factions fight it out for control over its resources.
From left to right we have The New Conglomerate, a loosely connected group of rebel factions and idealistic freedom fighters, fighting against the hegemony of the Terran. Next the Terran Republic, a militaristic government, using its Imperial authoritarian might to impel humanity to peaceful coexistence through any means necessary and on the far right (although politically that space would be occupied by the TR’s) The Vanu Sovereignty, a technocratic faction that believes humanity can only evolve by rediscovering and tapping the lost technology of the Vanu.
Naturally I’m NC, cut me and I bleed blue, freedom at any cost! But it’s surprising how quickly you end up identifying with a faction; looking at forums and chat rooms on Twitch there’s a strong sense of identity and loyalty, even amongst those new to Planetside 2 (and up to the point of rampant xenophobia amongst some Planetside 1 veterans). But that’s great. In SWTOR I didn’t see myself as loyal to the Empire or Republic, they were just a convenient device to say “hey see that guy over there? Go fuck him up” so I started to wonder why? Well there’s a good reason, although it’s only my opinion. We form such bonds in Planetside 2 because we go to battle, not a PvP skirmish, we’re fighting a war. Sure there have been other games where sandbox combat is on a large scale but Planetside 2 is best played using combined ops.
I remember feeling sceptical during the initial announcements when it was suggested that tank and air guilds would form and overal lcommanders would call on these groups by name. I thought it was a brilliant idea but would never happen, you see Call of Duty has made FPS players, for lack of a better word, selfish. Squad based gameplay in things like Battlefield balanced that slightly but it’s very easy to slip back into that style of play. Which is fine on a 16 man map. But how do you contend with situations like this with a squad full of run-and-gunners:
Short answer is you cant. What you’d end up with is a very short (but hilariously doomed) charge. What little damage your selfish team mates would inflict would be countered by medics (who are certainly my favourite class). No, in Planetside 2 you need a little of everything. Enemy dug in? Well call in the tanks, keep their heads down and move in under their protective fire. What’s that? No cover on the approach, too much heavy weaponry there? No problem, call in the Air Cavalry.
It’s no exaggeration to say that even in the low population state of the beta I’ve been in battles so large, and so well coordinated it’s rivalled blockbuster war films. Put on some epic music in the background and the gameplay hit’s new levels. The only thing that is lacking is whilst it’s very disappointing to lose an objective and retreat under heavy fire, it doesn’t feel like you’re losing territory the same way losing an entire planet might in the Playstation 3 exclusive Dust 514. None the less, with hordes of Vanu swarming over a hill towards your base and 4 of the 5 control points gone on your hub, fighting becomes desperate. But there have been a few occasions where rather than letting us all die and simply respawn elsewhere, empty Guardian heavy transports have been flown in to extract us, moving us to a new objective. This tends to happen at a squad / outfit (the equivalent of a guild) level but reinforces the bond between the commanders and the troops on the ground. I think that’s one of the main reason such devoted loyalty to your faction develops. Because the other guys aren’t just players in a game, they’re people you went to war with, if only for an hour or two.
But what if none of your friends play Planetside 2? Then this is the most important thing you can do when starting the game. Hit the F11 key. It’s insta-mate, Buddyfinder, hell you could even call it Match.Com Auraxis. F11 will automatically place you in a squad and as you should have worked out by now, lone wolfing will only give you a fraction of the experience available. Not only will you die a miserable and lonely death you’re likely to be overwhelmed before you even cause the enemy to break stride leading to frustration. Of course this only loosely applies to snipers, playing as part of a squad should still be your first priority, even if you spend most of your time on your own. Those ranked up on leadership points (and it doesn’t take much) will be able to place a spawn beacon instantly bringing you back to your allies if you happen to find yourself shot, burned, exploded or smooshed by the enemy. And there’s no excuse not to work as a team, you know why? In-game voice chat. It’s crisp, clear and uses an easily accessible but unobtrusive push-to-talk key by default (Z). Even if you don’t want to talk, you can listen
Something else that helps players bond in Planetside 2 is mutual protection and aid. Medics are fearless individuals, charging into heavy fire to revive a fallen ally. Sure they can defend themselves, armour may be lighter and their Gauss rifle may not be as powerful or have an ammo clip as large as other troops but they aren’t weak; despite this, other soldiers will protect their support troops because they keep you fighting and rather than just being someone you yell at for not being there when you dash off into enemy fire without telling anyone 9a regular occurrence for me in BF3), they’re an important part of any fireteam from the outset.
As an FPS Planetside 2 plays well; controls are crisp and uncomplicated. There are no fancy moves like prone or vault, lean or peek. You can aim down sights so it is a little more modern than CS:GO but apart from that you’re pretty barebones. You have primary and secondary weapons along side special abilities for our class but most are a button push away making it easy to use them on the fly. Lets take the medic for example again; On loadout I have my Gauss rifle, a pistol and a healing green laser of wonder for patching up clumsy soldiers. But if I hit the F button I can unleash a burst heal that restores health to all those within it’s radius, a skill that grows more powerful depending on the number of injured nearby. This skill is another reason why troops will protect a medic, with them in the centre of a formation (the safest place) they’re able to turn the tide of a well placed ambush quickly with one key strike.
A real game changer are Galaxy drops. Galaxies are the buses of Planetside 2, except they fly and carry 4 heavy player operated turrets. They are extremely well armoured and also act as mobile spawn points. but what can really shift a battle is that they carry 12 troops who can be deployed anywhere. And when I say anywhere I mean it because a unique feature of a Galaxy is that players can jump out of them from any height without losing health. It’s no beta bug, this is a major feature. Picture it, the Vanu have a strong line of defence like the video above, imagine what could happen if a single Galaxy drop occurs behind them. 12 men are a game changer. So what happens when you fly to a base with 2 or 3 Galaxies loaded with troops? Well things get epic fast and a fairly relaxed defence becomes something far more urgent.
The beta isn’t without problems (but pre-release it wouldn’t be perfect). It’s a very pretty game, with large open spaces and weather effects so graphically it’s demanding. Throw in 300 people battling it out in the air and on the ground and framerate drops occur. Sometimes staggeringly severe. There are some occasions I can understand, there was a sandstorm (so the air was extremely hazy) and my NC brothers were trading long range fire with some Terran scum across a valley, my FPS dropped from 60 to 3 completely out of the blue. But I can forgive that. However it kept happening. So I figured I’d play a bit on my work PC rather than my personal Alienware. The M17xR3 is no slouch but here are the key specs of my office computer: AMD FX-8150 Eight core (3.61 GHz), 16GB Ram, 3GB AMD Radeon HD 7900, so when I say this thing has a little more punch, I’m being modest. On high the game ran with 80-90 fps, wonderful, absolutely amazing but yet again I had a drastic framerate drop first to 15-20 fps and back, then to 5 fps. If it was stable at low I could tolerate it but it comes along randomly lasts for a minute then returns to normal. Doesn’t appear to be tied to what’s going on it just… happens. I know it’s beta and to be expected but it does ruin the experience especially if you’ve had a great run but end up dying because of it. The game is yet to be optimised so I can’t be too harsh on it for that.
Overall I am very impressed, not only with the game itself but of the attitude of the players. I haven’t experienced any Planetside 1 veteran elitism, nor encountered too many hooray-Henry’s who take charge of a squad and lead them into unwinnable situations. It’s a mature game with a mature group of players, and that has nothing to do with age it’s all about the mindset. You play Planetside 2 to get the best parts of an MMO (scale) and an FPS (action) throw in some brainpower then make that experience free to play and you have yourself a powerhouse title.
So before I sign off, I urge you all, register for the beta, beg borrow or steal (no please don’t steal) a friend’s account but find some way into this game right now. And make the smart choice. Join the New Conglomerate. Freedom at any cost!
Find out more on Planetside2.com