“PlanetSide 2” throws a killer party

by Cody Franklin

Photo courtesy Sony Online Entertainment

“Size always matters.” That’s the motto for “PlanetSide 2,” Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming massively multiplayer first-person shooter. If the July 12 Prove Your Allegiance event at Floyd’s 99 Barbershop and Command Center Community Day event the developers hosted at SOE’s San Diego headquarters on July 13 is a taste of that motto, gamers have much to look forward to with “PlanetSide 2.”

Sadly, I was unable to make it to the earlier event and see creative director Matt Higby lose his glorious locks to welcome the beginning of beta testing in person. However, I did attend the Community Day event, along with approximately 200 other fans that showed up to get their hands on the long-awaited sequel. SOE certainly knows how to host a great event. Fans were able to mingle with many of the developers and attendees were also showered with free food, drinks, candy, “PlanetSide”- themed dog tags and of course, beta keys. However, highlight of the event for most gamers was getting a chance to play the game for the first time.

After the opportunity to play, I’m happy to report that “PlanetSide 2” met and exceeded my expectations with flying colors (red, blue and purple, to be exact.) Shooting felt very tight and responsive, finding just the right balance between the too-weak weapons of the original PlanetSide while not falling to the standards of “Battlefield” or “Call of Duty.” The vehicles took a little getting used to, especially compared to those of the original game, but I quickly started to smash the opposition in the surprisingly-nimble Scythe.

Being a free-to-play game, some fans are worried the game’s micro-transactions will lead to “pay-to-win” situations.
From what I saw in the in-game store, nothing you can buy with real money far overpowers what you can win with blood and sweat. I was thoroughly impressed with just how many attachments and customizations there are for every class, gun and vehicle in the game. Sadly, I was only able to play the Matt Higby’s favorite faction, the New Conglomerate, so impressions on Vanu and Terrans will have to wait.

Speaking of Higby, I had a chance to sit down with him in his now nearly-hairless state and ask him a few questions about the game. Higby surprised me when he mentioned that engineer turrets are likely going to get an AI-controlled aspect of some kind in the future. He mentioned internal testing showed Engineers needed to get something out of their ability that didn’t require forfeiting other gameplay entirely. However, he said it depended upon feedback from the beta regarding how they would handle it.

One of the biggest changes from the original “PlanetSide” was adding a player-based resource system where certain aspects such as grenades will cost this in-game currency. Higby confirmed that, while you can use certification points to reduce the cost of certain resource-based items, they will never be entirely free.

For aircraft pilots, Higby mentioned the flare system currently allows gamers to use them for a guaranteed save once every 20 seconds or so, however they will likely be changed in a future build. Instead, aircraft will have a limited number of flares but can use as many as they want at any time. Each flare will have a certain chance to save you from incoming fire, so pilots will have to decide if its worth spamming flares all at once for a near-guaranteed save, or take their chances and save flares for later.

Finally, Higby said that, while the build we played at the event did not include the heavy assault favorites from the original game, such as the Chaingun, they were being tweaked internally and were nearing completion; this includes the Lasher, a gun that evokes some of the most mixed reactions in gaming.

Overall, everything I saw and heard about “PlanetSide 2” left me even more excited than before. The Community Day and Prove Your Allegiance events showed that SOE is making a big push to have the community be involved a lot more than in the original “PlanetSide.”

It was a pleasure getting to meet the developers and interview Higby, and the free pizza certainly helped. Considering how much they did to commemorating the launch of beta, I can only imagine the spectacle that will accompany the full release. Be sure to keep an eye on Aztec Gaming for additional articles about “PlanetSide 2” and more games that are going to reshape the gaming world, one hex at a time.