Review: PlanetSide 2

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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.

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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.

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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

On Stage wiht the Kilmaine Saints at the Celtic Fling Ceilidh!

This happened a few weeks ago but figured I would fill folks in on an unofficial off the books troop a few of us had the opportunity to do the other day and how it came about.  As some folks know I am a fan of the Kilmaine Saints who are an excellent Irish Punk band from Harrisburg, PA.  While at a show back in April with a few friends we were talking with the band before the show and an on of us joked that that it would be a fun to hop on stage in Kilts and Armor and do a number with the band.

dark-helmetThe original Plan included putting Brendan (Lead Vocals) in this…

Amusingly the idea stuck, and so the plan was hatched to do this with a small group of friends at the Celtic Fling & Highland Games at the PA Ren Faire in Manheim, PA. We worked closely with the band online and at various shows (often planning out the idea in ice and straws at the bar).   The plan ended up fairly simple we would have 6 troopers escort the band on stage to the tune of the Imperial March and then the band would play “The Saints are Up!” from 2010’s The Good, The Plaid, & The Ugly.   We kept the plan under wraps to keep the surprise and no one was aware what was going down until we walked in to the venue in armor about 6:30pm a couple hours before the Ceilidh (and very few even then) and to keep the disruption minimal we hid till it was time to go on outback of the Boar’s Head Stage.

When it came time to preform, I am not sure who was more excited us or the band you could really feel the excitement in the air as we all prepared to go onstage. Alas it then became a period of hurry up and wait with our performance being one of the last of the night.  This however gave us ample time to pose with various bands for photos.   The one question that remained for both us and the band was how would the crowd react? We felt and we pretty sure that it was going to be positive but there was still that nervousness on what would happen if it wasn’t.

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When the time finally came to go on well lets let the footage speak for it’s self!

I have to admit it was one of the most fun evenings I have had in a long time.  The band, the Celtic Fling, and most important the crowds were awesome. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and everyone was just awesome.  Lots of thanks have to go out to the Kilmaine Saints for going through with the plan and the Celtic Fling for letting us pull it off.  If your around the Mid Atlantic region and want to have a great evening of fun check out if the Kilmaine Saints are playing an head over for an amazing show!

For more info on the Kilmaine Saints check them out in the following places:

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheKilmaineSaints
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/kilmainesaints
  • Google+: https://plus.google.com/114820151038510335726
  • Web: http://www.kilmainesaints.com/

 

Review: Hard Times in Dragon City by Matt Forbeck

This past week I had the opportunity to read the first book of Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy “Hard Times in Dragon City”.  First a little background on book, this book was part of the 2nd Kickstarter of his 12 for 12′ series of books in which he proposed (successfully) to write 12 novels in 12 months all backed by users of Kickstarter!

This fantasy take on the Hard-boiled/Noir fiction novel it centers around Max Gibson, who along with his companions has seen better times since retiring from adventuring nearly a decade ago.  The novel is set in Dragon City, a massive city on the verge of constant destruction.  The city is populated by a variety of fantasy races and surrounded on all sides by a sea of the living dead.

Called to identify the family of a long dead dwarven adventuring companion by the guard, Max ends up swearing to solve the horrible crime and bring the killer to justice. The story then takes the reader on a grand tour of the city from it’s darkest alleys to it’s highest and most rarefied peaks. Can Max solve the mystery or will he end up getting in over his head?

While this story contains many elements familiar to fans of the genre, Matt Forbeck builds a fascinating world on the brink of destruction and failure.  Populated with characters that the reader can both identify and hate, or even at times both.  Forbeck takes on some of the dynamics often ignored by many fantasy worlds, like the social interactions of the different races and strata of society, and how the immortality of the elves not only effects their attitudes and outlook but the city itself.  With some great pacing, this ends up being a fun and fast read which leaves the reader wanting more.

Hard times in Dragon City is currently available in both eBook and physical mediums from a number of sources (ebook only from: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Robot Trading Co (UK), Pazio and Smashwords & Physical Print on Demand or Ebook from Drive thru Fiction)