Last year Sony Online Entertainment (SoE) took a look back and decided to do a revamp of it’s much loved (10 years and still going) MMOFPS PlanetSide with a new Free 2 Play version (though subs are available that give players bonuses and additional station cash monthly). In 2009 SoE started building what was to become the the successor to the original game. I say successor and not sequel because Unlike a traditional sequel, PlanetSide 2 is not a direct continuation of the story of the original game. Instead, the team have chosen to write PlanetSide 2 as a new imagining of PlanetSide, complete with a detailed history of the first settlers to arrive on Auraxis and back stories for the three empires that are now at war over the planet.
So why am I reviewing this now? When I first started playing the game last November, I decided I wanted to wait to review the game until things had shaken out to give it a fair shake. PlanetSide 2 when it initially launched the game was missing a few things that help new players like a Tutorial and VR Training area. While this wasn’t as much of an issue for those fans who played PlanetSide 1 before this did add to the learning curve for truly new players. Now that these features have been added and adequately tweaked I feel it’s a good time to take a review of the game.
First some background, much of the game’s gameplay resides around the 3 waring factions. As in PlanetSide 1 Players take the role of a member of one of the 3 factions fighting for control of Auraxis. The Terran Republic (TR) the authoritarian government of the old world. The Vanu Sovereignty (VS) who believe that only though technology can humans evolve. Last but certainly not least, the New Conglomerate (NC) Pirates, Rebels and Freedom Fighters loosely organized to oppose the dominion of mindless technology and oppression. The TR are known for their use of rapid fire weapons and miniguns, large magazines. The VS via the use of their technology are distinguished by a lack of bullet drop, high accuracy, and low recoil on their weapons. Finally the NC are devastating at short and medium ranges but with a slow reload time and magazine sizes.
This is a game that does Free 2 Play well but not great for a couple of reason. First the while all weapons can be obtained with real money (Station Cash) they can also be earned with an in game currency certification points preventing players from having a “Play to Win” mentality. The only items that you have to by with actual cash are cosmetic in nature (which include a few weapon variants (Like gold plated pistols)). However the game does have a notorious tendency to buff new weapons extremely high and then next parch Nerf them in to the ground to “Fix” them. This has frustrated many players who will often buy a weapon with cash and find it worthless shortly afterwards. This sadly is one of the larger cons of the game and one of the areas the developers do need to work on. That being said I think it’s also may indicative of a larger problem in the team’s QA and how interact with the design team and test the game.
The basic gameplay is familiar to most FPS gamers with each faction fighting to capture individual bases via capture points. The number of points you need to capture depends on the size and type of the base but generally ranges from 1-3 points (though there are a few bases with 4). These points then need to be held for a set amount of time to capture the base. The overall goal being dominating each of the 3 continents to gain various resource bonuses for your faction. It’s at these bases that players can obtain Weapons, Vehicles and Aircraft and respawn to take the fight to the enemy. However even in the most dire situations all empires retain their foothold at their Warp gate on the planet where they can obtain equipment and transport between continents.
Players advance though 2 methods, first though capturing facilities and bases, killing other players and vehicles players earn XP which advances them in battle ranks (current cap of BR100). And secondly as they play they also earn the secondary currency know as Certification Points (Certs) certs can be used to gain a variety of skills or as an alternative method for obtaining weapons. It should however be noted that weapons obtained with certs are only unlocked for that character. In addition certs are earned when offline though at a slow rate though this can be increased dramatically with a subscriptions to the game. Using these certs players can advance their abilities and add new skills and equipment to Vehicles, Weapons and classes to help them specialize in the various forms of combat. An example of this is when using a Sunder (the games ubiquitous ground transport vehicle) players can spend 50 Certs to add the Advanced Mobile Station to the vehicle to allow players a mobile base to respawn and equip. Players have a huge variety of skills and equipment available to them though this system and it will be a rare player who will ever max out all their skills.
From the instant the player is first dropped in to combat on the battlefield the players will find the game’s mechanics familiar and easy to adapt to particuarlly if they are familiar with PC FPS games. With a solid server and network backbone the game rarely has major issues locating players and you don’t often see any major network latency or rubber banding. The games weapons are fun to play with and offer a good variety on all classes which should allow everyone to find something that fits their play style. Ground and Air combat is extensive and adds an element often lost in modern FPS games but essential in a game as vast as PlanetSide 2. Most importantly the game allows incredibly massive combat with two and even three way battles often happening with numbers in the hundreds of players. Now that said the aforementioned QA and balance issues do cause problems here but even then with the shear variety of combat I have rarely found myself frustrated and not having a good time after a session of PlanetSide 2. That being said combat can often get repetitive with players often finding they are battling over the same facility night after night against the same people.
Unfortunately the social side is where the game really lets it’s self down. As an MMO the game is meant to be played with others but many players never play in squads and about most players are not part of an Outfit (the games guilds). The game has 2 methods of communications in game chat channels and built in VOIP communications. Players can join a public squad at the touch of a button (Insert by default) allowing players to jump in to the action with other players instantly. While much of the tools for outfit management are excellent the game doesn’t give players a reason to join an outfit so many don’t bother since they can join a squad so quickly and easily. This sadly has caused many players to leave the game and has caused issues with retention long term. It is one area that SoE are working to improve and they have made some though not enough steps towards this. I would like to see SoE concentrate on this solely for one of their upcoming game updates as it’s one of the areas I think lets the game down.
PlanetSide 2 brings a lot of content (ever increasing with the game patching often) to the table and has lots of legs. Players can find tons to do and will rarely run out of great goals to set for themselves. Are there still issues with the game? Sure but that is to be expected in any MMO which are living breathing environments ever changing and evolving. While it does have it’s weaknesses the game has vastly and dramatically improved from that which was launch last November. I for one haven’t stopped playing and enjoy the game and it’s community. So I’ll harken back to my days of PlanetSide 1 and watch as once again the War Poodle takes to the skies over Auraxis to fight freedom and the New Conglomerate. Will you join me?
- Platform: PC
- Launched: Nov 20. 2012