Shoot any and all purple spaceships that fly overhead! Do you hear me!?
The MMO and FPS worlds have conspired a few times in the past, but they’ve always left room for improvement. A massive, immersive world with thousands of players battling for turf is something plenty of PC gamers are looking for, but to developers it’s a technological nightmare. As a result, a healthy amount of promise has gone unrealized over the years.
In comes 2012’s PlanetSide 2 to save the day, or at least it hopes to. It comes in swinging with ambition to deliver the large-scale combat everyone wants to be a part of, mixed with the depth of an MMO, all with no financial investment needed. But does PlanetSide 2 deliver on its potential, or is it just another false blip on the MMOFPS radar?
Before you can begin playing PlanetSide 2, you need to make a character. Outside of choosing an alias and a server to play on, the options are limited, so you’ll be in and out of character creation in no time. Once you’re done making your generic avatar, you’re dropped right into the heat of battle—literally. You’re given little to no instruction, and chances are you will greet the death screen before you have time to settle in. If you’re lucky, you’ll actually see what killed you.
You’ll be quick to realize that the large world of Auraxis where PlanetSide 2 resides is unwelcoming, which will likey prompt you to browse the official PlanetSide 2 site and watch an hour of instructional videos. If not, you may find your kill/death ratio plummeting to record-low levels. If you do happen to push through the overwhelming first few hours, there’s some genuine fun to be had on the other side.
One of the reasons PlanetSide 2 can be a challenge for new players is its sheer amount of options, the first of which is the deep class system. You can choose any of the game’s five archetypes before deploying including Light Assault, Heavy Assault, Medic, Engineer, and Infiltrator. Each of the classes serves a crucial role in team-play and, more importantly, the big picture: your faction’s success. Mastering the strengths of each class takes a lot of time but comes with reward once you begin taking out enemies left and right and supporting your teammates.
As you participate and excel in combat, you’ll earn certification points that can be spent on unlocks and enhancements for classes and vehicles alike. The Engineer can unlock the potent anti-tank mine, while a tank can forego its secondary weapon for an anti-air solution. The array of options is rich and leaves you in a constant state of making decisions on how you want to specialize.
Speaking of vehicles, rather than arguing over spawns you can spend earned resources on a vehicle of your choosing. You can summon the ferocity of a tank, the agility of a jet, or even climb inside a MAX suit to unload rockets onto your hated foes. Resources are acquired over time, and each vehicle has such a profound impact that you’ll want to save them for when the time is right.
The game’s three factions are all very distinct, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. While the New Conglomerate is slow and powerful, the Vanu Sovereignty is elusive and precise. Factions even have their own vehicles and armaments, so you’ll quickly become full of pride as you spill blood with your comrades in battle.
The main theme in PlanetSide 2 is that you’re in a massive world participating in epic battles for territory. The grandeur of combat is in full force with a beautifully sci-fi-themed display of aircraft explosions, teammates podding in to reinforce, and hundreds of enemies converging on complex battle landscapes. On a semi-negative note, PlanetSide 2 requires a formidable rig in order to run smoothly. Sure, the game has massive structures and tons of actions going off at once, but even on the lowest settings the game sucks every last drop of power from a mid-range PC. In other words, it isn’t optimized well.
Unfortunately, lag makes a strong impression on the larger battles, and chances are you’ll see people teleporting and rubber-banding around you. There are times when you’ll be enjoying the experience and then begin to notice other players walking through walls and floating in mid-air. Or, you may find yourself falling through the game world and freezing during loading screens. The frequency of it makes the game feel like a rushed job, and nothing’s worse than game stability standing between you and your enjoyment.
Although there are three continents, each varying in topology and style, they feel disjointed. To go from one to another you merely teleport from a map interface. This, in addition to the lack of direction, player-built structures, or story elements, is indicative of PlanetSide 2 being solely committed to combat. While this may prove a good quality for the player who just wants to go out and shoot at targets, it neglects its MMO roots.
Playing alone can lead to a feeling of isolation, but thankfully the game incorporates squads and outfits. It’s very easy to join a squad and the teamwork they spur is critical to success. Outfits are PlanetSide 2’s equivalent of guilds, and they offer all basic functionalities. There’s little in the way of spontaneous communication, but there are plenty of tools to group up and work together with others.
PlanetSide 2’s uneven execution makes it fall short of what it aspires to be: the well-rounded MMOFPS many have been craving. It’s fun to squad up with friends and make an impact on the game world with class synergy and the potency of vehicles behind you. However, sequences of enthusiastic, large-scale combat are marred by lag and frustrating bugs. It gets the FPS part right, but misses the mark with its shallow MMO qualities. If nothing else, PlanetSide 2 is a free-to-play game that can spark moments of excitement, but just don’t set your expectations too high.