Now that Guild Wars 2 has launched, that other title with a “2” in the name is getting lots of attention from MMO fans, especially those whose interests run more in the FPS than the RPG direction.
Me, I’m more of an RPG guy, but I’m excited for the potential of PlanetSide 2, and based on the trial I had a couple days ago, it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.
First, the basics, for those who aren’t in the know: PlanetSide 2 is a massive FPS playground, where three factions – the Terran Republic, the New Conglomerate, and the Vanu Sovereignty – battle for control by taking over territory on a large, open map. It’s full three-way PvP action, 24/7, and the only time you’re really safe is when you’re chilling in your faction’s base camp – and even then, watch out for friendly fire from griefing teammates.
A bunch of journalists – some of us clumsier than others – were treated to a “FragTour” from SOE, led by designer Maggie Crohn, who took us around to a few bases to attack, defend, and cause general mayhem.
First of all, as advertised, the game is gorgeous. When you’re standing on a hill a few hundred meters away from a battle and can see the artillery trails and explosions in all their high-definition glory, it’s truly a sight to behold. You could spend all day doing that and get your money’s worth – and it’s a free-to-play game, so maybe you will.
And if you’re going to perch on that hill, why not bring a sniper rifle along? The infiltrator is one of six classes you can choose, respeccing each time you die or whenever you reach a terminal, and while there will be customization available to each, we had to make do with starter equipment in our beta tour.
But enough of the basics. How did it play?
First of all, PlanetSide 2 will be harsh on the casual shooter fan, but SOE has never marketed it as appealing to that crowd. If you’re like me, you’ll face a steep learning curve and lots of frustration as you get fragged over and over again. (I think I currently stand at three kills and 23 deaths.)
But if you like shooters, you’ll love PlanetSide 2. Even from my noob-ish standpoint, it’s pretty obvious that the combination of tight controls – at least for infantry; more on that later – and map-wide dominance gameplay should keep people entertained for a very long time. And even if you’re relatively unskilled, like me, you can still find ways to contribute to your team and have a good time.
We started out by all loading into an airship to zoom to the battle. The maps are huge, so unless the fight’s right outside your doorstep, you’ll almost certainly want to hitch a ride to your destination. One easy airdrop later and we were right in the middle of a firefight, capturing control points and grinding the opposition into a fine powder.
I was specced medic, so I mostly tried to stay near the people who looked like they knew how to shoot things (especially Maggie), and keep them in fighting shape. I even managed to capture a point – several are needed to capture a base – and assisted in a few kills before getting run over.
I took some of the other classes out for a spin, and they all have a distinctly different feel, so you’ll probably find something you like. I’m not much good in a straight-up firefight, so I spent some time sniping as an infiltrator and, along with medic, found it rather to my liking.
I’ll give credit to Maggie for trying to keep us all together and somewhat on task, and the squad features certainly help, but the disorientation level ramps up very quickly, to the point that there’s almost too much going on and too much information in the HUD to process, between nametags, point objectives, waypoints, notifications, equipment panels, and so on, all of which are viewable at a probably too-long range. (You can turn off the HUD, but that also takes away your reticle.) I like to think the sense of information overload will lessen as I become more acclimated to the game. We’ll see.
We also did a little vehicle training, first in single-player ATV-like four-wheelers, ramping up all the way to airships. Again, I see people pulling off some pretty sweet moves, so it’ll probably just take a while to get used to the controls, but if you fly, expect to crash a lot in the early going.
All that being said, perhaps some small training area would be in order, so you could learn the ins and outs of vehicle control without worrying about live fire or flying off the map, as I nearly did several times.
Personally, I preferred riding shotgun – or chain gun – and letting someone else handle the driving while I do the gunning. I logged in again the night after our tour and hopped in alongside another player in his tank, and we had a rousing time blasting away at the enemy, at least until we ourselves were blasted and had to bail.
If trying on a new shooter is like trying on a glove to you, you’ll love what PlanetSide 2 has to offer. If, like me, you’re a little more gun-shy, it’ll take longer to adjust, but you can still probably find a role you like and stick with it. The game’s experience point system, known as “certifications,” will let you improve your abilities and you’ll be able to upgrade your gear with in-game currency or Station Cash, so you can be the best darn combat medic out there and still contribute to your team, even if you couldn’t hit the broadside of a stationary barn with a sniper rifle at 50 feet.
And, when all else fails, hop in and let someone else do the driving for a while. Especially if they have “SOE” in their name.