It could be said that Sony Online Entertainment was a bit ahead of its time in pushing the MMOFPS with the original PlanetSide back in 2003. The technology just wasn’t there yet. Even so, the original PlanetSide developed a cult following, and apparently enough of one to warrant SOE developing a sequel. PlanetSide 2 comes to us in an age where the shooter genre is truly at its height and MMO technology is at a point that it may very well be able to support the lofty goals SOE had with its predecessor. We’ve spent some time in the beta and over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be playing through the game and putting it all to the test.
THE ROUGH SPOTS (Week 1)
Character creation in PlanetSide 2 is more about function than anything else. The first choice players will make is to choose their faction, and this is done in order to sort the server list in a way that presents servers that would benefit most from additional players of said faction at the top of the list. This is an interesting decision that helps to maintain an even ratio of the game’s three factions on any given server. I can’t say how much this particular feature helps in that regard, but faction balance has been pretty solid in the time I’ve spent with the game.
Unfortunately, the quality bits of character creation pretty much end there. You won’t find many ways to customize your character when you first create it in PlanetSide 2. You’ll basically pick a race, gender, and name, and you’re done. This isn’t to say that PlanetSide 2 doesn’t offer additional ways to visually customize your character once you get in game, but if you’re looking to be a special snowflake in PlanetSide 2 with your soldier, you aren’t likely to find a way to accomplish that in character creation.
The game’s tutorial, if you can call it that, is equally deficient. Once you’ve created your character, you’re treated to a short video that gives you some flavor for the game’s theme and introduces you to a little bit of the basics of PlanetSide 2. Once that video finishes playing you are immediately dropped via a drop pod into the game world, often right into the action.
If you’ve never played PlanetSide 2 before, or if you’re new or inexperienced with shooters, this can be pretty intimidating and even worse, confusing. While an experienced shooter fan may not be fazed, the confusion is sure to be part of the beginning experience for just about any player. The menu area does provide you with handy tutorial screens for each page that help explain the various aspects of the game, but things are a bit less intuitive when you’re just running around. Sometimes it can be hard to find the action or understand where you need to go. If you do manage to figure out the right place to be, understanding how to capture a particular objective can be confusing at first as well. There’s simply a ton going on all at once with all the players and vehicles and trying to make sense of the various peripheral objectives floating around your HUD at the same time can potentially be frustrating.
THE SHINY PARTS (Week 1)
If you aren’t overwhelmed with the experience and manage to get a hang for what’s going on, the beauty of the game shines through particularly well. At least so far, SOE has succeeded where the original PlanetSide fell short: PlanetSide 2 is first and foremost a solid shooter.
The game has seen many revisions over the course of beta to improve this critical aspect and it really shows. When you’re not experiencing lag, the hit detection is good, there are a variety of classes available, and the gunplay is tight. So far, nothing appears particularly overpowering and it’s easy to slide into a role and feel like you’re making a difference in the fight.
Whether you’re on foot, in the air, or riding in a tank, you’ll always earn experience towards certification points that you can spend progressing your character in any of these areas. Heck, you can even dump points into a Squad Leader progression tree that equips you with tools to be a better leader in an often chaotic game that demands the organization of a cohesive force in order to make real headway in capturing territory.
THE WAIT AND SEE (Week 1)
There are some areas of the game that we’re just going to have to see play out over the coming weeks to judge, as our impressions here are based on the last couple of days of beta. Chief among these concerns are the issues of bugs and the impact of the game’s business model on keeping players on an even field. PlanetSide 2 was a particularly buggy game throughout the beta test and while things have improved exponentially over the last few weeks, it remains to be seen what sort of bugs will crop up in the final game and what their impact may have on enjoying the game.
Similarly, the subscription membership and Station Cash store were not available during the beta, so we’ll have to see what the balance between paying players and non-paying players ends up being over the next few weeks. Of particular concern is the impact on certification point gain rates. These rates have been in flux throughout beta and SOE ended up making a change near the end of the test that promises to improve the acquisition of unlocks by roughly 30% in general. Even so, it’s hard to say at this point what players with accelerated gains, and thus more developed characters, will have on the overall balance of the play experience when compared to those who progress at the normal rate.
Will tank drivers with fewer unlocks be able to stack up against other tank drivers? Will low-certed pilots be able to survive once significant anti-air power is prevalent? We’ll have to wait and see.
Check out more of our PlanetSide 2 coverage!