PlanetSide 2 is an absolute titan of a game. Having originally launched for the PC almost three years ago, developer Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) has finally brought its massive online shooter to console where it now awaits a new audience. While there might be some early rumours of an Xbox One version now that Daybreak have cut ties with Sony, it’s in the here and now that you can download this free to play game on PlayStation 4.
Unlike many of the genre’s heavy hitters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, there are no “matches” or “rounds” in PlanetSide 2. Instead, everything takes place within one persistent world (per server) where three factions are constantly at war, fighting over facilities, compounds, and other waypoints in a never-ending battle to expand their territory.
The thing that will take most players by surprise when they first log into PlanetSide 2 is the sheer scale of it all. Even Koltyr, a base camp continent that only houses low level players, is huge in size, but it’s dwarfed by the vast regions that await those who rank up high enough to emigrate.
Although a continent’s map and its features will almost always stay the same, the patchwork of bases and landmarks scattered on its surface will change ownership by the hour, every hour. Each one of these strongholds is manned by actual real-life players, and no NPCs. To win one for your faction you must mount a tactical offensive, carrying out several critical objectives in order to capture it and force the enemy to retreat.
At the very narrow end of the spectrum, you’ll play as a grunt, spawning in before locking onto an objective and getting your hands dirty. Aside from capturing and destroying points of interest such as shield generators and control centres, you can aid your team by performing various other actions.
Engineers, for instance, can hang back to repair tanks, ships, and troop carriers whereas the Heavy Assault class can do the opposite, blowing enemy vehicles apart under a hail of rocket fire. No matter which class you select upon spawning, they all have their role to play and, more importantly, can hold their own in a firefight.
When popping off headshots and gaining ground on your enemy, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much your actions can impact PlanetSide’s metagame. Zooming out from each individual skirmish will show an entire world map painted blue, red, and purple, the spread and decline of each colour charting their sustained war effort. Eventually, as players continue to rank up and network with their fellow soldiers, they’ll gain the power to command entire squads, platoons, or even entire armies.
Despite its initial overwhelming complexity, the game will start to make sense the more you play. By learning and co-ordinating with other players you’ll soon start to pick out which objectives need taking, where support is needed, and how best to outfit each class loadout. Once you’re over that initial curve, you will start to feel less and less like cannon fodder, realising just how much influence you have in both battles and the overarching planetary war itself.
Despite accomplishing an almost impossible feat in game design, PlanetSide 2 isn’t without its problems. Luckily, many of these are fairly small, such as the lack of non-premium appearance options for avatars, more weapon/gadget variety etc.
With much of the groundwork having been finished, we’ll no doubt see Daybreak turn their attention to these blemishes, hopefully working in some of the lore currently found online into the game itself. As much as I enjoyed forging my owning war stories, knowing the different factions and even having a spread of non-functional NPCs would help breath some much needed character into the game, beyond the astonishing scale and the eternal fighting.