My first few moments upon loading up and jumping into Planetside 2 elicited a rather loud and prolonged chuckle. I have read a few reviews and blogs regarding it so far and the one factor they had in common was to be immediately shot and killed upon entering the fray and sure enough, 10 seconds upon loading in i was flat on my back staring at the sky. This is why I think new people to the game will instantly hate it with a passion and the reason why those who stick with it will lavish their praise on on it. Death is a certainty and will come often and a lot of the time will come without warning.
The reason I think people will immediately hate or love Planetside 2 is that it really tries to throw you right in the action and for quite a while you will have absolutely no idea what your doing.. I still barely know what I’m doing most of the time. Also with the way the map and the respawn interface is designed it really promotes the act of jumping into the biggest battles going on at any one time. Big respawn buttons to head into the hot spots which have a tendency to fall in the middle of the enemy, even the respawn interface sorts the available spawn points by distance so your very likely to end up in the line of fire. If your not used to the battlefield it will have you being killed very often, so often as to get frustrating. All the while this is occurring you are trying to learn your class, the keybindings, the nuances of combat, the map and terrain and the different mechanics… it is just to much to throw at someone.
While the frantic pace of these large battles, the ebb and flow, and the massive amounts of casualties is absolutely one of the main appeals of PS2 throwing a noobie straight into the fray is just making them fodder for the others. A never ending cycle if you don’t know any better and this I think can be far better explained, the mechanics showed, and maybe even a little tutorial section. Now I know there are some decent tutorials on the website but I think most people who are just trying it out want be bothered looking at these, I have watched a few of them and they still left me feeling a little confused as in the end there is nothing better than learning something firsthand.
I don’t know really, maybe just dropping people off in the beginning at the warp gates where they can explore the systems at hand in relative peace… a few little pop ups here and there explaining the menu, the customisation, class overviews, vehicle types, and the map would be appreciated by many. Hell give them a free tank or plane, something awesome straight away so they can feel the thrill of driving through such gorgeous environments where planes zoom around the sky, distant explosions break the silence, and then the sweet sweet rush of mechanical combat. That slow part at the start though is the key to breaking people in and that extreme juxtaposition between the combat and the quiet is enthralling.
Once you slow down to catch your breadth, look around a little and explore the vast underbelly of mechanics and customisation is where you really start to appreciate the combat you were getting massacred in before.. and by god is the world beautiful, in every sense of the word. I could run or drive around these maps for a long long time just taking in the scenery (and have) and I would never get bored, I read a recent blog piece (can’t remember where) about longevity in mmo’s being tied a little to the feeling of being able to live in that environment. I could make a home in Planetside, a little corner of the world to build my own little armory or tank workshop and I would be very happy.. even with the impending threat of aerial bombardment.
They are the most beautiful backdrops to large scale war I could have ever imagined, aesthetically and graphically. Talking to a friend recently about the game I actually used a swear word to describe the game saying it was pretty as F*, now I know at times I might have a potty mouth as part of my on line persona as the social niceties seem less encompassing but in real life I am quite the priss when it comes to these, I like writing them but saying just feels so wrong at times.. that was the power of PS2 and it really is that pretty.
Everything seems so well designed from the lush forests and the sparse trunks of great Elms, the rocky mountains, outcrops and ravines, to the sparse frozen Tundras. It all makes the world feel so right and so real, a living breathing thing that only highlights the decimation, destruction and drama of large scale combat. I have stopped many times during combat or in random spots on my travels, long enough to get sniped in the head and just taken it all in. At night time, the fights take on a new scale as laser trails fill your field of vision, the lights of jets and troop carriers fill the sky like shooting stars, and the explosions light up the area for those brief but beautiful seconds.
Now the environments aren’t just for looks either and have been painstakingly crafted with making the best combat environments in mind. Little dips in the terrain are there for a quick respite in the run to the next spot of cover, deep roots of trees hiding small groups in larger battles who frantic fire back, ridges and mountains leave the perfect area for ambushes. Everything could and usually will be used in the heat of battle as cover is your primary friend on the battlefield, the fields or open areas are for death and best avoided or traversed quickly. The Terrain in itself creates so much varying strategy during combat as opposing teams try and out position each other or try to cut off reinforcements and it is these environments that allow small experienced squads to be just as effective as the large zergs at countering the enemy
I really don’t know how to describe the combat, I’m not really a shooter aficionado but what i would say is something like battlefield being giving the drugs that turned bane into the back cracking monster he is. The scale of battles in PS2 is really incomparable to anything I have played before and I think I am in love. The maps are HUGE, even the individual sections have some great scale, and then on each server there are three varying map styles to fight over. When contesting over the main points it can be 50 or more personnel on each side firing at each other, 10’s of tanks rolling across terrain, and a bevy of planes in the sky above in their own intricate dance. Seriously Arenanet call these guys and have a chat about their server architecture as apart from the recent launch hiccups it performs wonderfully. Yes the frames are apparently low for your over rig but 30 fps is very manageable, especially since it runs smoothly and renders quickly.
The shooty parts feel like a shooty game should, the weapons have a nice weight to them and the impact of firing has very noticeable recoil that needs to be controlled and maintained. The many different weapons have their own unique style that makes combat feel rather different when you have them equipped, different recoil patterns that dictate your firing pattern, and the size that fills up the screen.
Twitch skills are supremely important here as is your ability to aim properly, and the responsiveness of the system is really quite good to handle this sort of combat on such a large scale. I can be pinking away at someone for some time and then get a few lucky shots to the head (very lucky for me) and that person will be going down remarkably fast.. which is just amazing and very rewarding for those who take the time to aim. Now there are a few hiccups I have seen with this, when people are lagging out it can be a lot harder to hit as there can be visibly juttering but that is more a client side issue so can’t be fixed to easy, for the most part though aiming is dead on.
The sound is quite marvelous as well and is so vastly different between the weapons but adds to the chorus of war happening around you, assault rifles clang around, laser fire pinging, and the whoosh of a rocket firing next to you all add to the experience… the experience of war. And that is exactly how combat feels in Planetside 2, like you are a part of a raging war not just seeing some dramatic set piece on your run through a defined narrow corridor. The experience is all so open and changing, allowing people to experience this war in exactly the way they want to whether it be on the back lines sniping key targets, a grunt on the front lines, or piloting some machines of mayhem
Pay to something.
You could argue something along the lines of it being pay to win I guess as certain weapons in the shops are better killing machines and considering how much I played and how expensive they are you may not see many in a while. But the good bit here is that they are all just about equally shit compared to the starter until you start unlocking the various mods and unlocks, which you do for the starter as well. These unlock points can only be gained through playing leaving all of customisation accessible to the cheapskates and casuals alike who either don’t have or don’t want to spend real money. They do make a difference, an equal matchup between 2 people will probably have the purchased weapon winning (not an objective fact) but all that is immaterial in a way as fights are rarely equal. Skill matters, if your better at using the terrain and aiming you wil always win. Death is usually quite fast as well, like an fps should be and the difference in killing power between the weapons when your getting targeted by someone competant is next to nothing.
Also it is interesting to note that if your actually a good player, a maverick in the skies or a well trained unstoppable terminator then you earn decent points. Reports are out there of people earning between 500-700 an hour, at that rate they would have unlocked everything in about a month of play. Pretty dang sweet. I’m terrible so that is probably beyond me but that’s why I work and have disposable income.
To me right now it just offers more options to those who lead busy lives or who have less than adequate aim that may need a boost. I dropped a few dollars already to unlock certain weapons, and am even subbed for now as I enjoyed the experience enough to be playing for a while to and doing this just allows me to have more options straight away rather than better.
And that I think is the fundamental of Planetside 2 right now, it is a game of vast options and approaches to combat, and about providing options that are tailored to each individuals preferences. The unlock system is actually pretty expansive and there are so many options and progression paths to take. There are options for each and every class, vehicle, and airplane that allows it to be tailored to the whims of the player but also to the demands of the mission at hand. I can equip my heavy infantry with long range firing capabilities if the frontlines are too chaotic in order to better support the war effort, I can equip tanks and vehicles with different weapons in order to maximise damage against what enemy type they are facing, or I can equip my Sunderer with heavy armor and the ability to drive straight through shields (my favourite) and directly into a fortified enemy base.
It is a remarkably diverse system that offers up more options but because of the way it is designed with limited upgrade slots it is always a decision to specialize in a certain way, leaving it up to the player to maximise their load out depending on the situation. Also I think a good decision was to make it a global point system that can be used for any weapon or class regardless of whether I have even played it at all, if you have a few points saved up you can jump into any role immediately to fill the needs of the group. Because of this during the fights there is just so much differentiation with classes and vehicles that you never really know idea what you will be facing and who you will be facing it with.. it makes for a very diverse battlefield and I think with more time and as people unlock more and more that the battlefield will become even more diverse.
Long lasting strategy
Right now i think people are still stuck in the OMG must pew pew mood, and get rather stuck in their zerg with plowing onwards into everything but there is so much more going on behind the scenes and I think once people get more coordinated, build better strategies and learn their classes we will see a rich meta that goes on which encompasses the large warfare and small teams engaged in guerrilla warfare. Resources are won and gained based on the provinces you own with different bashes having varying vehicle types that can spawn, because of that knowing what your attacking is very important.. attacking a tank depot and a menagerie of planes and heavy infantry fitted out with tank busters, attacking one of the bigger air depots and you will need some fly swatters.
Even with the way the map and province control is designed there is a strategy akin to a game of checkers going on.. the good kind that includes critical thinking and not the games played when your like 10. Provinces of one faction need to be connected to each other and cutting them off from the battlelines makes them much easier to capture as spawning options become limited, and the ability to spawn controls battlefields. Capturing a camp or complex is usually only possible by cutting off enemy reinforcements by either camping the spawning room or finding the vehicles acting as mobile bases. And these mobile bases rain supreme on many battlefields, it is honestly like a game of hide and seek at times with either finding the best cover for them, or sniffing out where the enemy is coming from.
There are just so many avenues for the individual, small group, or large zerg to engage in combat but we are only seeing a very limited amount right now as communication and coordination are rather limited. This will change in time though as people become familiar with the combat, the customisation, and underlying mechanics as they will feel more comfortable trying out new strategies and new styles of fighting. I can also see people becoming a lot more coordinated with their efforts as joining groups is relatively easy and their are quick and easy ques for different types of help needed via the V button. Also it is because Planetside has an integrated voice chat system with some complex keybindings that will make it far easier for people to quickly communicate their, needs and plans with anyone and everyone which will allow far better strategy to be developed mid combat. It will take time for people to settle down and aclimatise of course but a very decent framework is their already.
Now there is one big but for people that is rather reminiscent of the talk surrounding GW2’s WvW and that is the why bother. The battles are too big and prolonged leaving no sense of achievement, every battle seems like the same thing. Or there’s no juicy carrot. Well you know what, screw that, it is what it is and that is being a part of a war that is bigger than just you with many more important people and groups than you and that will keep going regardless of whether you’re there or care. If you enjoy the experience be it zerging around, guerilla warfare, or just transporting people from place to place on a big ass plane(someone was doing that for hours… Seriously) then yah for you, if you don’t then piss off and stop ruining my games with retarded whinging for progression systems. Extrinsic rewards will never make gameplay or an experience better (objective fact), in fact because they tend to make people overplay systems to the point of burnout it’s actually worse.
Enjoy Planetside 2 for what it is; well designed large scale combat in a beautiful world with a decent customisation system and average fps. And its pretty much free.