It’s safe to say that the gaming scene has witnessed what is easily more than a fair share of MMORPG’s in recent years. From the classics of Everquest and Ultima Online to the game-changing hit World of Warcraft and the myriad (yet slightly boring) EVE Online, there seems to have been no expense spared in sending eager players forth for gold, loot, and the life-consuming quest for an epic mount.
Now this would be all well and fine with me, but by some strange peculiarity we seem to have been left with a superfluous plethora of titles that, whilst borrowing heavily from Blizzard Entertainment’s magnum opus, seem to have been unable to capture its staggering popularity and lasting impression.
Titles such as AION and Bioware’s much-hyped Star Wars: The Old Republic have been preceded with unprecedented levels of hype, only to wither and wilt after a post-release player craze.
Thankfully, a game is on the way that looks to reintroduce the MMOFPS to the gaming scene, and judging by the beta, it does so in supreme style. Read on for my first-hand experience with PlanetSide 2.
Weights and Scales
PlanetSide 2, for those of you not in the know, is the long-awaited sequel to the much-lauded 2003 game, PlanetSide, and after what seems like a millennia, it’s finally at our doorstep. The main concept of the game is best summed up as being Battlefield 3 on science-fiction steroids – That is to say that you are plonked (or rather teleported) into the middle of what is essentially a virtual first-person battlefield, complete with infantry, tanks and aircraft scurrying across the digital warscape in an attempt to reach the coveted 100-kill victory condition or to accost the legendary flag, at which point yet another game will draw to a close.
Or will it? On the contrary, the world of PlanetSide 2 knows no peace nor respite, only an endless, raging war between three distinct factions. All of this taking place on an absolutely huge map; where areas the size of Battlefield 3‘s Caspian Border make up but a region of the bigger picture. All of this, of course, is seamless; making the trip from loading up a squad on a dropship to entering the intense fray around a bio-laboratory a completely immersing, uninterrupted experience. Whilst this is happening, you can guarantee that there are several hundred scores more players doing the same thing, creating what is a warzone huge in scope and with not a detail spared.
So, what is there to do on this supreme theatre of war? Well to dispel any confusion, PlanetSide 2 is at heart an FPS – You choose a class, get given some guns, with which you go and shoot people. The more people you kill, the more points you get for your team when the match ends. Although in this particular battle, there is no end; for this game, like a ‘regular’ MMO, is completely persistent. No longer will you have to wait about for an arduous period of time waiting to get into an available game, instead, you’ll be plonked into the world right where you left off, as you were with not a single bullet unaccounted for.
So, what’s your objective? As mentioned above, the colossal map of PlanetSide 2 is varied if a little bit plan in places; your mission is simply to capture as many of the world’s territories and facilities as you can, whether you choose to go it solo or as a team. Capturing points of interest on the map, whether it’s an outpost, an airbase or a titanic research station, will yield resources and specialised requisition points for advanced vehicles and weapons. From then on, it’s a matter of rinse/repeat, only this time you’ll have the bigger guns. It sounds rather monotonous, but by the heavens is it fun! From exploring the colossal map, to engaging in mass firefights after a precarious drop into the thick of a combat zone to spearheading an armoured column, everything about PlanetSide 2 looks and feels absolutely awesome. The best part? Teamwork is extensively encouraged, rewarded, and also readily available by way of a simple system for joining player squads and platoons. Kills are rewarded with points, which you can spend to unlock vanity items or new weapons to be acquired.
At launch, PlanetSide 2 will be completely free to play, with no subscription fees required. I can’t say that this isn’t odd considering that the game is both huge in scope and requires (as an FPS), a huge amount of precision in regards to data management and synchronisation. For that alone I’m surprised that they’ve instead opted to monetise the game in the form of microtransactions.
Thus payment model, whilst conceptually sound, has been lately been plagued by a spate of poor implementation, with many games simply bypassing any balanced thought in favour of a lucrative if unscrupulous ‘pay for power’ system, which essentially allows players to gain a competitive edge via their bank balances. In this regard, PlanetSide 2 has instead taken a system of opportunity; you pay to ‘unlock’ a weapon, then you have to acquire by progressing in-game as you would do with any other. The only items you can buy ‘off-the-bat’ are cosmetic. Overall I can’t say that this is a system I don’t advocate; as it gives a good incentive to spend money in a way that doesn’t give you an immediate gameplay edge.
Admittedly this article has begun to breach the boundaries of preview status, and is beginning to sound more like a review. I’ve gone meticulously through riveting and epic gameplay, fabulous visuals, and a microtransaction system that has an emphasis on skill and effort rather than wealth, and out of it I’ve made what is essentially a pre-release review. No worry however, as I can safely say that if this beta is any herald of the finished product, I’m rather looking forward to its release!