ZAM gives its rundown on SOE's Sci-Fi FPS MMO
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
The final words of Roy Batty may seem like an odd way to start a review of PlanetSide 2 (PS2), but it’s often the strains of Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner that seem appropriate when playing SOE’s Sci-Fi action epic.
And though I haven’t laid my widening eyes on flaming hulks near Orion, I have seen a swarm of Mosquitos, Liberators and Galaxies swirling in chaotic grace over a 200 strong column of tanks and armored personnel carriers; the land and air linked by the blasts of cannons, guns, missiles and laser turrets.
It’s the sheer poetic majesty of PS2 in its full, unbowed glorious war that makes it unlike any other game in the industry.
For the new recruit, things can be utterly overwhelming, not just due to the spectacle but from the confusion that being dropped – literally – into the middle of a battlefront can cause.
Although a cursory introduction to the game’s map is given at log-in, there is no doubt the best way to learn the game is in the company of others. Not only will you learn PlanetSide 2’s intricacies with a much greater degree of depth, playing in a good outfit, platoon or squad will flip the game almost instantly from a frustrating morass of chaos into an unforgettable tour de force of action, excitement and sheer fun.
Though there certainly needs to be improvements in making those first 15 minutes more accessible to the new player – something I previously spoke at length about, with developers Matt Higby and Tramell Ray Isaac – I find the need to form social bonds a refreshing facet.
Often MMOs in the modern era are so concerned with making the individual comfortable, they are coddled away from joining in the massive, social element of the genre.
Not so with PlanetSide 2. Outfits are the guilds of the game, from within which you can form squads – which hold up to 12 players – and then platoons made of squads that can assault the various bases strewn across the three continents of Auraxis.
Each base holds both a resource importance – used to fund the various vehicles and armaments you need to fight the war – but also a strategic, geographical importance across the continental maps.
Locking an entire continent for a faction – there are three – means bonuses across the whole server, such as reduced costs when purchasing your flying assault carrier. Each outpost takes on its own significance when you are in the middle of a fight to control it. I’ve taken part in battles for a single Amp Station that have raged on for hours.
There is rarely a sense of being bogged down or out of options though, even in a game where losing territory happens as regularly as the movement of the tides. You can always redeploy elsewhere, perhaps heading back to your faction’s warp gate to rethink your strategy, spawn a fleet of air assault vehicles and then get back into the action. Or you might be wiser losing the battle for one post to take surrounding areas and win the immediate war.
The depth of play means that smart commanders and well-drilled units will always be able to make a difference. Well-organized groups can, and repeatedly do, triumph over larger, less disciplined forces.