When I heard of PlanetSide 2 during development I shrieked at having missed the predecessor to such an ambitious game, this game sounded perfect for me, it was everything I’d ever wanted yet somehow I had missed it in my earlier gaming years. As I was many players are lured in by the massive armour columns, the bombing raids and the pretty light shows, all happening in a persistent world with a thousand other players, mind-blowing stuff for an FPS gamer who also enjoys the company of MMOs.
Problem is most people get lost before they even get started and soon give up. You see, PlanetSide 2 does a terrible job of explaining itself to new players. PlanetSide is a fairly complexed beast, there are 6 infantry types and 6 vehicle types (non-empire specific) land and air each with their own place in a battle. For each of those infantry kits and vehicles there are a dozen weapons and upgrades often allowing it to be applied differently in battle. And before you can tackle that you still need to learn how to play – where you should be and how to navigate and capture the few different base layouts. Oh and while trying to learn all that there is the chaos of hundreds of people getting blown up around you. To add fuel to the fire the game interface can be obtuse at times.
There is hope!
Learning PlanetSide can be a fun and fairly easy process if you search the squad menu (under social) for a Squad with an outfit tag (Outfit being PlanetSide for clan), if you are in luck these squads will be recruiting. Outfit platoons (a group of squads) typically have a commander who most commonly uses in-game voice communications to tell you where to go and what to do, from there you just follow your new teammates and learn from them. When you join a squad you can even drop in on their location with the click of a button. And if playing with a group of unfamiliar voices doesn’t sound like your cup of tea the chances are your favourite PC Gaming community has an outfit you can join, have a look through their forums. Alternatively you can always ask in-game or look through the official recruitment forums for your server.
PlanetSide isn’t meant to be played solo or even in small groups, it’s a team game meant to be played with large groups of players. When people jump into a new game they typically don’t have a group of 40 friends to play with nor do games often require it. There is no other game like PlanetSide, so the developers (SOE) are learning as they go.
Being relatively new to PlanetSide myself I feel it would be beneficial if SOE added smaller objectives that are easy for groups of new players to complete giving them space to learn. The challenge there is adding them in a way that still feels like your actions matter in the greater scheme of things, because ultimately that is what the PlanetSide experience is all about, oh and the Vanu winning.
Outfit play is fun, right?
There are many games like PlanetSide that through trailers portray their game to be an epic battle between opposing factions and often it is superficial. Sure those epic battles happen now and again but they are far and few between. PlanetSide on the contrary literally is a living battle. When you enter the world of PlanetSide you can literally drop into those crazy epic battles with the click of a button. However, most outfits will avoid those battles in favour of attacking and easily capturing less populated bases around the map which yields more cert points that are used to buy weapons and upgrades. This means that while playing with an outfit you will most likely be avoiding any large battles and capturing undefended bases, but eventually when you run out of territory to take you will run up against a considerable defending force and be engaged in those really interesting battles. The poor optimization (also a high priority on SOE’s to-do list) of PlanetSide 2 doesn’t help matters either, outfits that do want to play in those bigger battles on higher population continents often cannot because of lag issues.
All of that said, playing in an outfit is without doubt the way to go when playing PlanetSide, the amount of fun you can have in a large organised group far outweighs that of a small or unorganised group. You will probably play in a casual outfit until you understand the game better, and most casual outfits will help you along the way. Naturally you can’t expect a casual outfit to pull off more advanced strategies and will most likely stick to the basics, while still fun you might want to move beyond the basics when your game knowledge is there. When ready should you choose to there are many really good PlanetSide outfits with Veterans from the original game that should offer a more full experience, you can find and apply to join these outfits on the recruitment forums linked earlier.
There are enough weapons and upgrades in PlanetSide to keep you playing for as long as any other MMO, and enough variety in play-style to make each fight different. While you could argue that it takes far too long to grind enough cert points to unlock all the weapons they are side-grades and not upgrades meaning they don’t give you a distinct advantage, so you can’t buy power. The most obvious imbalance in the game between new and experienced players is in the vehicle weapons and upgrades. The vehicle weapons that you start with are fairly useless compared to the upgrades experienced players will have, and they are quite expensive so it may take you a while to farm the certs for t hem, especially since they aren’t top priority. Again this one falls back to playing with others, there will be enough people in your outfit that have those upgrades and are able to spawn them for you to ride in that it doesn’t matter. And as long as the game continues to attract new players (which it will) and those new players are balanced equally between empires the number of people who don’t have the upgrades on all sides should be the side.
SOE’s dedication to the PlanetSide community and history of support for their titles instills confidence and their constant addressing of issues in the game is very encouraging. Now is a good time to start playing because things are only going to get better with SOE having already announced a whole slew of content for the future including all 10 continents from the original (3 currently), weapons and possibly vehicles. All the cards are on the table.