First things first: despite my almost 900 hours on record in Steam, the amount of time I spent in this game is around 2500+ hours between all 3 factions.
Another premise is that I am not a player of the original PlanetSide, having historically loathed mandatory subscription models over a one-time pay-to-play or micro-transactions model. I have heard many great things about the original game, though I'm not sure—having seen several gameplay videos—whether that is mere nostalgia of a golden age now long gone, or actual objectivity. There are several aspects of PS2 mechanics that are a galactic improvement over the original, which featured mechanics that I am sure felt dated even back in its 2003 heydays.
Of course, that aspect is far from being the main cause of discontent amongst the playerbase, seeing as PlanetSide 2 certainly has well-refined gunplay and vehicular warfare. The real issue concerning the game is whether it really is anything more than one large Battlefield Conquest match that only ends when you log out. Before answering that, I will go into a little bit of my own PlanetSide 2 background.
Back in early 2012, I was one of the many discontent Battlefield 3 players who had been blinded by the flashy advertisement campaign for the game and decided to go for it. Needless to say the game itself was not worth the price, but it wasn't all bad, as I have met friends I have remained in touch with ever since. One of them linked me to videos and descriptions of this game, saying it encompasses our idea of what a Battlefield game should be like, but with much more to it: an open world, massively online multiplayer first-person shooter, can you imagine that?
Obviously, the first thing I do is sign up for the closed beta and wait for the moment I would receive a key with trepidation. Real life didn't let things go easily, and the day I received my beta key, I was away from home and only with a laptop that could barely run Minecraft. Meanwhile, the game hits release, and the only way I could experience the thrill—at least vicariously so—was to watch YouTube videos in excitement and awe.
Having come back home by early February 2013, I decide to take a bit of dust off my PC by installing the game and playing it. Miller (EU) was the server I'd choose, as at the time of me starting up the game, it was the one with the higher population in my region. I tried all three factions in the space of a few days, creating a character, then deleting it, then recreating it to try the other factions. What caught my eye is that the bulk of the fights would take place in roughly the same areas, namely The Crown and its immediate surrounding areas.
Up until that moment, the game looked extremely confusing and chaotic to me. However, fate wanted that, during one of these test playthroughs, I would hop into a random guy's tank and after a rather lengthy session of killing, we would add each other as "Friends" through the in-game function. He asks me if I were interested in joining his outfit (a.k.a. a guild), and me being a one-man-army kind of player, I was initially very sceptical, but decided to give it a try.
Entering this first outfit, I found that the game's most important aspect was certainly the social
one. It's comparable to other MMOs, but me being a FPS player with no real penchant for that type of games, I was certainly astounded by being in a community with over 300 other people! These outfits set goals for themselves that they try to achieve through gameplay, which is mostly condensed into prime-time and special events. This would keep the game alive even when otherwise dead.
At the time, the continents were still using the now-replaced (warning: game-specific jargon in italic
) Hex system
, without any closed Lattice lanes
like today. This allowed for flanking strategies which made leading a large scale force rather challenging, occasionally causing cases of those infamous ghost captures
. The game was nonetheless enjoyable, especially during prime-time and mostly in what is seen by all factions as the main continent to contest: Indar.
This created many exciting battles, with hundreds of people fighting for one small piece of territory, which often proved to be too much stress on the server's resources. Nonetheless, we were doing something you can't do in any other game at an unreplicated scale. This would not last much longer, however. In fact, two changes were crucial in altering the way the game played: Lattice lanes
on Indar, and the infamous, rightfully dreaded Alert system
The former solidified the rather fluid and flexible old Hex
capture system into a rigid one, forcing platoons upon platoons into an irresolvable, massive grindfest
around the newly formed chokepoints. This meant that the game became much more static and easier to decipher on the strategical viewpoint. The system had been requested heavily by the nostalgic PlanetSide playerbase, as it had appeared in the original game, albeit with a wholly different set of mechanics and gameplay tailored to suit it. This was not and still certainly isn't the case for PlanetSide 2.
Besides that point, the game was certainly still playable, even though the other two continents at the time were mostly a ghost land. To change that aspect of the game, they decided to introduce the infamous Alert system
. This would consist in a set of rather straight-forward objectives—initially capturing a continent, then also specific facilities, either globally or in a specific continent—to be completed in a limited amount of time, with a final reward. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Well, in theory, yes. In practice, this skewed what at the time was normal gameplay in favour of redeployside
, also known as rapidly re-deploying from one base to another to quickly defend them. This was mostly at the favour of the faction with the highest population, with each server having its own faction bias. Essentially, we had gone from "capture/free Indar" to "wait for alert, then pour all your forces into x
for profit". The population soon started dwindling, not only due to these two great development missteps, but also due to the degrading performance caused by lack of optimisation.
Time a few months, the "Operation Make Faster Game"
was announced. This consisted in a promise by the SOE President, and the developers themselves, to focus entirely on optimisation. After a while, the patch was pushed into Live servers. This brought back many players, as the noticeable degrade in UI look and overall quality of animations was compensated with much better overall performance. This was short-lived, as content started being dropped into the servers, and with it, new causes for overall performance degradation.
This was the history of my first year as a PlanetSide 2 player. Without mentioning the extremely half-arsed job at balancing the three factions without making them play the same, which caused months and months of the same weapon or vehicle being overpowered without anything being done to it. Moreover, the gameplay remains equally devoid of consequence: you log in, achieve a great objective in the hours you play, log out. Tomorrow, or even later that day, all the hard work you put in is erased.
This did not even include much about 2014, as I would say it was a pretty unremarkable year for the game's developmental cycle, and I was inactive throughout its last quarter. The most striking aspect of last year is the fact that the servers have since been performing horribly, with nothing being done towards it. This, coupled with the recent layoffs, as the company was recently sold and renamed, honestly contribute to my general disillusion concerning the game's future.
With all of this in mind, I sadly cannot recommend the game. However, by all means, give it a try. It's free.