October 25th, 2012
Author: Josh Hatherell
PlanetSide is an MMOFPS (massively-multiplayer online first-person shooter) that has some great ideas, but a below average net code. The game, in general, was awesome and promoted teamwork, but due to the strange mechanics with flying, hitboxes, strafing and overall game performance, PlanetSide lost the community it was built for and slowly faded away. Then out of a black abyss comes word that PlanetSide 2 has been greenlit for development. Honestly, I was beyond excited to hear this as I played the original PlanetSide for six years and still had the bug.
Shortly after beta was announced, I was spammed with messages from old friends and outfits (guilds) that I had run with saying they would be doing reunions and playing PlanetSide 2 once it released. The amount of people who reached out to me, people whom I had not heard from in years, was mind blowing--could PlanetSide 2 be the gem that brings players back to a game they had quit almost seven years ago? There is no simple answer to this question yet, but I do have my speculations based on the couple of weeks I have spent in beta so far.
[PlanetSide map, using the lattice system]
I was ecstatic the moment I received my beta invite and downloaded the client immediately. Upon startup, I have to say the GUI (graphical user interface) for the character creation and selection isn't too different from the original one. This was the first ray of hope that PlanetSide 2 could be the successor to the original that I had dreamed of. I created my character on one of the US-East servers in the same fashion that I had in the first one. Different name this time around, but still the same empire, the boys in blue, the shotgun Smurfs, the New Conglomerate. Let’s back that up a little bit.
A Quick Retrospective of PlanetSide
PlanetSide was a base-control game, where three factions vie for control of bases on different continents in order to own the continents and receive global bonuses. The three empires at war are:
New Conglomerate (NC): Blue and Yellow (hence the nickname Smurfs). The NC are the "freedom fighter" underdogs of the game. They didn’t have crazy religious views or desires for an overbearing empire; the NC was the rebellion. The trademark of the NC was “go big or go home”, as they boasted the biggest guns, but with slow fire rates. The NC tank had the biggest cannon and the NC heavy assault weapon was a tripled-barreled shotgun.
[NC soldiers resurrecting a fallen soldier]
To recap, NC: Rebels with big guns (think of the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars).
Terran Republic (TR): Red and Black. The TR are the fascists of the game. They believe in total control of the republic over everything. TR are known for weapons with a high rate of fire, but lower damage. They have a “more is better” mentality, as the TR tank has two main cannons and the heavy assault weapon is a mini-chaingun.
[Black Widow Co. a TR outfit in the spawn room]
In recap, TR: Uses a lot of bullets as quickly as possible, tyrannical (The Galactic Empire).
Vanu Sovereignty (VS): Purple and turquoise. The VS are the nerds, the very angry nerds. All VS weapons are energy-based and gimmicky (that’s their thing). The VS are the oddballs with hover tanks and the Lasher, which fires orbs that would attack infantry.
VS recap: Energy weapons along with odd tactical options.
Players would choose an empire and level up their character's battle and command rank by taking bases, killing the opposition and staying alive. Generally, players would find themselves devoutly loyal to one empire; however, it was not uncommon for players to play characters in other empires, sometimes for variety. Outfits (guilds) were also a way to mix things up because having enough players meant more options to assault, defend, and harass bases and enemies.
The Progression of the Beta
Now, PlanetSide 2 has taken all of the great things from the first game and put a nice spin on them. The three empires are still around, but with more differences between them while maintaining a fair balance. Each empire has specific things that make them unique while not being so outlandish that they make the empires overpowered in certain scenarios.
First off, weaponry is pretty much entirely empire specific this time around. The NC have the Gauss rifle still, but also have the mercenary (smg), bolt driver (sniper) and Gauss LMG. The TR have the equivalents of all these with different names (Cycler, Chieftain, etc.) and the same with the VS (Pulsar, Pulsar Compact, etc).
This also translates to the MAX units. Maxes have empire specific weaponry attachments, such as the Heavy Cyclers, Scatter cannons, Pulsar, Quasar, Pounder and Falcon. Anti-aircraft currently involves Buster cannons, which are in the common pool of weapons for the MAX units for all three empires.
The empire specific vehicles are back and there are more of them, such as:
The main battle tanks: The Prowler, continues to have two cannons, the Magrider, which can still hover, and the Vanguard, which continues to carry one huge main cannon.
Empire specific air cavalry: The Mosquito is now TR specific instead of in the common pool, the Reaver is now NC specific and the VS have the brand new Scythe. AirCav seems balanced so far and players can purchase (using points earned in-game) additional weapons for their AirCav, such as air-to-air (A2A) missiles, rocket pods, and air or ground specific machine guns to replace the main cannons of each plane.
Unfortunately, no other empire specific vehicles have been released at this time, but I am hoping for the empire specific buggies to be back as well as some other surprises.
Currencies in the Beta
I mentioned in-game currency earlier, and a quick explanation is needed as the first game relied solely on cool downs. In-game currency is done in five different ways: Certification points, Auraxium and three other resources are used to acquire vehicles and items.
Certification points are used to approve certain modifications to vehicles, weapons or command options that the player has access to, like the ability to certify a laser sight, fore grip and 4x scope for an assault rifle. The feature to use flares or to upgrade performance on an air vehicle is also done through certification points.
Auraxium is an in-game currency, much like IP from League of Legends. Auraxium is gained by taking and controlling main bases, and is used to buy new weapons from the in-game store. Weapons range from new infantry weapons to vehicle weapons. From what we know, these weapons can be bought with “station cash” (like RP in League of Legends), that is purchased with real money. Once an item is purchased, it is free to use by the player indefinitely.
Three Other Resources: These are in-game resources used to spawn vehicles from terminals; they are also used to resupply certain equipment for infantry, such as grenades and C4. Holding outposts and other areas generate these resources. They are not used for anything, but in-game vehicle spawning and resupply.
Bases and Territories
[new map that utilizes a hex system]
Territory and base control is done much like the capture points in Battlefield. The map is comprised of many hexes and each cluster represents a base or outpost. Outposts have a single capture point while bases have seven. Holding the control points until the capture meter fills will award the empire with control of the facility and its resources. So, the objective is to capture strategic areas on the map and eventually control more areas than the other empires.
Instead of certifying specific skills and gaining access to weapons, armor and equipment in a progressive way as it was done in the original title, PlanetSide 2 uses a class-based system. There are six classes:
Infiltrator: Sniper with low armor, but has a tactical cloak.
Light Assault: SMG including a jetpack. Probably the most fun class.
Combat Medic: Heals other players and equips an assault rifle.
Engineer: Repairs armor, has access to ammo resupply and a placeable turret and can carry an SMG.
Heavy Assault: Rambo. Has a LMG and Rocket Launcher with the personal shield ability.
MAX: A Mechanized Assault Exo-Suit equipped with heavy armor and two hard points for weapons. Simple and devastating.
The Best is Yet to Come?
That is pretty much everything in the beta so far. The developers are continually putting in patches, fixes and more content, so there is a lot more to test and balance. Even without all of that content, I am in love with this game and I know that it will bring one of the largest crowds of gamers together creating some of the largest, epic and insane battles.
[A fond look back at the devious devs spawning and stacking Galaxies in sanctuary]