I recently got the opportunity to enter into the PlanetSide 2 Beta and join the mayhem. Having never played the original, I was diving headfirst into an established name with little knowledge of the concepts or ideas behind the game’s large-scale conflicts.
PlanetSide 2 is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter set on the vast, ravaged planet of Auraxis. You play as one of three military factions: the New Conglomerate, the Vanu Sovereignty, or the Terran Republic. Unlike most traditional MMOs, there are no quest systems, no raids or dungeons, no crafting. The object of the game – the sole purpose – is conquest. Take control of tactical outposts, research labs, and other fortified structures and earn more resources. The resources gained are used for a variety of functions, including spawning vehicles, resupplying certain weaponry, and purchasing upgraded firearms. There is no ultimate end game in PlanetSide 2, no final boss or goal. The fighting never stops.
It’s a game where hours of struggle could persist into the long hours of night. Because it’s an MMO, it’s a persistent world, meaning that you could stop playing while your faction is making a push on a certain base, come back later, and see that they’re still making their assault. The scale of combat in a game like this is simply unprecedented. Up to 2000 players across three factions locked in an eternal struggle for control. PlanetSide 2 will also feature a Day/Night cycle, which will give combat an even greater strategic element. Do you wait until nightfall to assault a base, under the cover of dark, or do you attack in broad daylight? This is the definitive PVP experience anyone could ask for.
The game feels familiar for any fan of shooters, but it’s not the simple run-and-gun kind of gameplay found in a Call of Duty. Combat is more tactical, more strategic. The aid of vehicles – from large assault tanks and transport vehicles to a number of different fighter jets – makes battles on land and in the air equally important. The first night I played, I witnessed a truly awe-inspiring scene. I was playing with a friend, who was experienced with the game and was showing me the ropes. And as we were driving around, an entire convoy of tanks rolled up alongside us and made their way toward the nearest point of interest: nearly forty tanks on screen moving as one cohesive unit to attack the enemy base. You just don’t see that kind of thing in any other game.
Upon creating your character (which is a simple matter of picking a face type, skin color, and faction), you’ll drop right into the game starting as the Light Assault class. There are half a dozen classes in total to choose from, each with a unique special ability: Light Assault has a jetpack that allows them to maneuver vertical terrain more easily, and gives them access to many vantage points; Heavy Assault can engage a protective shield that enhances their existing outer layer of armor for a set duration; Infiltrator can gain temporary stealth as they sneak into bases or find prime sniping positions; Medic can revive fallen teammates, and both heal themselves and others; Engineers can repair damaged vehicles and drop ammo resupply boxes in the field; and the Max is a special class that costs a certain resource to turn into, but they are a powerful unit wielding two automatic rifles and operate inside of gargantuan bipedal mech.
Throughout your time in the game you’ll earn the various resources that I mentioned, each with a specific purpose. But perhaps the most important one of all is Auraxium, gained specifically from defending or capturing bases. Auraxium is used to purchase superior firearms through the in-game store. Because of its difficulty to gain, and because most of the items you can buy with it are fairly expensive, they are usually well worth the trouble when you do acquire them. Players will also gain Certs, or Certifications, while playing, and these are used for character upgrades. You’ll be able to earn weapon attachments, enhanced skills, improved vehicle performance, and more.
There’s certainly a lot to be said about a game like this, which as it stands now is still a ways off from release. PlanetSide 2 has no release date in mind, but is set to launch with the freemium business model akin to League of Legends: the game will be entirely free to play and will feature an in-game cash shop, but the items sold are mostly cosmetic, with nothing there that will give paying players a distinct advantage over others. Further, these same items can also be earned through normal gameplay progression if you do not wish to pay for them.
Although I’m still fairly early in my experience of PlanetSide 2, there’s enough there for me to say that I am incredibly excited about the full product. There’s a particular moment during one of my sessions that I’ll always remember. We, the New Conglomerate, were attacking a Terran Republic base. We’d been at it for a good hour or two. It was the definition of a battle of attrition. Neither side would concede. But slowly we chipped away at their defenses, and before much longer, we’d destroyed the generators powering the shields that protected the innermost sanctum of the base. And inward we went: our tanks rolled up, our infantry charged through. The Terrans were outnumbered, and soon the base was ours. We had reaped the rewards of a long, hard-fought struggle.
And then I opened the map. And on the map, there are exclamation marks used to designate points of conflict. Upon zooming out for a full view, I saw roughly five exclamation marks across the entire zone, five other bases under siege. And then I realized that our little skirmish that we’d just fought so hard to conquer, and push the opposing faction out, was only one of many. That battles just like this, some smaller, some larger, but all with the exact same amount of attrition, were being waged across the entire world. All at the same time.
And that is awesome.