Sony Online Entertainment have created many great MMOs since being founded in 1995. There latest game is a F2P, MMOFPS called PlanetSide 2. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, I did indeed say Free to Play, Massive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter. I love First Person Shooters and love the concept of MMOs, so I decided to give PlanetSide 2 a go. After 10 hours (13 to be exact) of playing PlanetSide 2, I feel I am able to give you all a basic rundown of the game and my experiences.
Before I say any more, I want to stress that the concept of PlanetSide 2 is amazing. There are thousands of players in each server, all supporting one of three factions. These factions are competing for control of three continents that each span massive amounts of land. Just this concept alone is a great feat, and I’m glad to say SOE has pulled it off.
Each of the three continents has a different terrain. Indar is a desert area with canyons and little vegetation, Esamir is covered in ice and snow with lots of open plains and small hills, and Amerish is populated by vegetation and grassy plains. In these continents are stations that the factions have to fight over to hold and capture. The stations range in size from small spawn areas with one capture point, to massive structures that have shield generators and up to four capture points. Although the bases are pretty much the same on each continent, the change in terrain makes everything look different.
SOE has done a great job at giving PlanetSide 2 a sci-fi look. Everything in PlanetSide 2 has a hi-tech, yet still maintaining some modern designs, feel to them. Bases and buildings are filled with computers and digital equipment on the walls, some weapons shoot laser-like bullets, and vehicles are a good mix of modern and future tech. I have a fairly new and powerful PC, but I tend to run PlanetSide 2 on medium settings because sometimes in big firefights the framerate drops a bit. Mind you, this only happened about 3 times in my whole 13 hours.
Accompanying the visuals is a modern mixed with futuristic sound. However, weapons sometimes don’t feel like they have much of a punch to them because the sound effects make them sound like paintballs sometimes. On the other hand the sound of a convoy of vehicles heading towards an enemy tower is very rewarding to hear. Also, although PlanetSide 2 has in-game voice chat it can sometimes be hard to hear people over the game music. I’ve tried tampering with audio options, but nothing has worked.
At its core, PlanetSide 2 is a First Person Shooter. At times, I found shooting to be a little floaty, but a big majority of the time shooting feels as smooth as most AAA shooters. There are 6 classes to play as, further adding to the replayability. Each class uses different guns, has a different ability and has there own set of unlocks. I played most of my time as a combat medic. This meant I got a medic gun, which heals and revives allies, and my ability allowed me to heal everyone around me for an amount of time (depending on how many upgrades I applied to it). Medics are a must when trying to capture an enemy base because it helps keep as many soldiers pushing forward at once to a maximum. The medic’s ability is also good for groups to survive a counter attack. My teammates and I survived many close calls from grenades by having a few medics activating their abilities all at once.
Friendly fire is always on in PlanetSide 2 so you learn to quickly check before you shoot. The best squads were the squads who didn’t get in each other’s way when they were in firefights. I did witness a funny friendly fire moment when we were capturing an enemy base. Someone threw a grenade (he tried to tell us it was an accident, but I don’t believe him) at a bunch of our troops. Everyone who saw the grenade backed away, but at least 6 people died. Then all the medics rushed over to get XP by reviving them.
Vehicles play a big role in PlanetSide 2. There are tanks for land firepower, two different types of ships for air support, ATVs for single soldiers to get places quicker, and mass transportation vehicles (also known as Sunderers). Sunderers can also be deployed at a destination to act as a spawn point, so it’s important for defending players to destroy any they see ASAP. Several times I witnessed, and was apart of, a convoy of Sunderers, tanks and air support vehicles heading to opposing bases and capturing them. It is breath taking to realise that all the vehicles around you are controlled by real players.
Experience and Unlockables:
PlanetSide 2 does have a leveling system, but you don’t really get anything for leveling. Instead, you are given certification points. These points are also awarded for doing many other things in PlanetSide 2, like capturing and defending points. You use certification points to upgrade your abilities, a few armour buffs, to buy weapons, and to purchase attachments for your weapons. I didn’t notice it, but I was gaining certification points fairly quickly. I like this XP system and I think it’s a good change from trying to plan out which stat trees you are going to follow, etc.
Free to Play or Pay to Win?:
A lot of Free to Play games encounter problems where the things you can buy give you a much, much great advantage over those who don’t pay. I’m happy to report that I don’t think PlanetSide 2 has this problem. The things you can only buy with real money are things like extra experience. Every gun can be purchased if you save up enough certification points, or you can buy them if you want. I had some spare SOE station cash so I bought a gun, but that’s only because I preferred a faster firing rate over more damage. I’ve killed players who have guns other than the default gun (whether they bought it with real money or not, I don’t know), and have been killed many times by players with default guns.
PlanetSide 2 was very overwhelming for the first 4 hours or so. You are just thrown into the world without really knowing what certain icons mean or how to play. As you play, you eventually work out what all the different icons mean and how you go about capturing territory. I think SOE could have at least provided a key or something to help new players.
I’ve been playing on the Australian servers and, except from the initial release when there were a few ISP issues that SOE fixed promptly, I haven’t noticed that much lag. At times a few players lag, but nothing game breaking. Considering the amount of players online at once, SOE have done a phenomenal job in the latency department. I even created a character on a US West server and didn’t experience any latency issues there either.
For an immediate summary of PlanetSide 2, think Battlefield in a sci-fi setting, but much bigger. SOE have done a great job with PlanetSide 2. The visuals and sounds do a great job of creating a sci-fi look and feel. The different continents, multiple classes, and large unlock system are why I’ll be still playing PlanetSide 2 for a while. The concept behind PlanetSide 2 is amazing and I’m glad SOE managed to back it up with some great gameplay.
PlanetSide 2 also has an in-game video recorder that is actually really good. Stay tuned to Analog Addiction for more PlanetSide 2 content in the future (maybe including some videos). I urge everyone to go and download this awesome, free, game now!
Nathan Manning is an Editor for Analog Addiction. He’s glad someone has taken the ambitious concept of MMOFPS and made it work. You can find him on the Briggs server, and on Twitter.