When I started playing Planetside 2 on Aug 14, 2013, my motivation was extremely straightforward; I wanted to participate in giant battles with hundreds of players slugging it out in first-person shooter combat. Far as I knew, Planetside 2 was really the only option if playercount was your single defining criteria, as it’s the leading juggernaut in the relatively niche MMOFPS market. I wanted to be a tiny pawn in a giant, unfathomable war machine, where powers larger than myself or the hundreds of soldiers around me waged a never-ending game of dominance. For that reason, I did almost no research before plunging in. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to follow orders and keep my head down.
Planetside 2 has three factions, the purple Vanu Sovereignty and two others that were colored red and blue. I don’t know what either is called because I picked Vanu because they have the cutest butts. I needed to at least know the colors in order to tell which one I was fighting at any given moment, since the blue ones seemed to have the most dangerous guns and would always kill me faster. My character was a dark-skinned female named Bogardt, not that it mattered a hell of a lot because everybody wore these sci-fi catsuits and face-concealing helmets and the game was in first-person anyway. I started out as the medic class for obvious reasons and pretty much never switched. Watching health bars go up is honestly my favorite pastime in multiplayer shooters, and the medics in Planetside 2 have this cool laser gun thing that looks like a 16mm film camera, it can either heal teammates or revive dead soldiers’ corpses. So my early years in Planetside 2 involved leaving spawn, running for maybe thirty minutes until I found (and died on) a battlefield, then making use of the new closer spawn to repeatedly jump back into the fray. The battles were everything I’d hoped for; combat was incredibly deadly as a low level medic, and attempting to actually kill anyone with my pulse rifle or (god forbid) the dinky secondary pistol was a recipe in failure. With dozens of different firefights all around me, I quickly learned that my only real hope was to place as many meat shields as possible between me and the glowing spam littering the rooms with corpses for me to revive. Oh, and never go outside. Outside is where the vehicles lived. Vehicles were robotic flying death machines that annihilated all the groundlings until other vehicles arrived and killed them.
Battles were all control-point based; any given territory was usually being held by one team, and the second (or sometimes second and third) team was attempting to seize it from them by capturing its control points. If the attacking team owned enough of the territory, a counter would start ticking down and, upon completion, obligingly grant the territory to its new owners (the best part is when the impenetrable spawn rooms switch allegiance, forcing the cowardly enemy campers to flee like rats to their gruesome deaths). This would expose all adjacent territories to attack, and the cycle would begin anew. The participating soldiers would also be handsomely rewarded with experience points for their efforts. As I slowly started realizing this, the part of my brain obsessed with metagaming clicked on and I realized that abandoned enemy territories would make great XP farms for the patient prospector. And thus I segued into my second tour of duty, where I stopped playing the game correctly and began scouring maps, selecting faraway territories with no population, and sprinting very slowly over there for the chance at some free XP by capturing uncontested bases.
Sprinting in Planetside 2 has no cooldown; you sprint for as long as you keep the button held down. Nevertheless, these journeys would often take thirty minutes to an hour of just running, and my pinky wasn’t interested in holding down W+Shift for that long, so I learned a neat trick where you could bring up the steam overlay while sprinting, close the steam overlay, and your character would sprint without needing to keep any buttons held down. I’d usually have a Youtube playlist of pop music happening in the background, at the time I was totally into comedy music like Macklemore and Lonely Island, and I have many fond memories of doing my college homework to the tune of Andy Samberg while Bogardt marathoned her way through desolate alien landscapes. It was almost apocalyptic, very peaceful. Technically there were ground and air vehicles I could use to expedite my journeys, but at the time I hadn’t realized that Vehicle Points (the things you buy vehicles with) regenerated really fast, and figured I had to earn them somehow, so it was logically safest to just save my starting VP for when I was prepared to use them intelligently.
One thing I should note, I hadn’t yet figured out what experience points (actually called Certification Points) did exactly; I just knew the game wanted you to have them. It would grant you a lump sum of CP upon logging in every day (it doesn’t do that anymore), it would grant you CP passively for remaining logged in, and it would grant you CP for any sorts of accomplishments like killing, healing, constructing, capturing points and repairing. But after some time, I began to get annoyed by the inevitable conclusion of my solo covert reconnaissance missions; I would gaily capture point after empty point until drawing too much attention to myself, upon which a single enemy player would bother to fly out there and repeatedly trounce me in hand-to-hand combat until I was unable to realistically capture anything without him showing up and ruining it. So I finally learned how to buff my abilities and also unlock new weapons, in order to give myself a fighting chance. I replaced my pulse rifle with the Thanatos shotgun because it was significantly cheaper than all other shotguns available for the Medic class (nowadays they give the Thanatos to everyone for free). I also purchased a few cool tidbits to fill slots that come empty by default; my grenade slot became filled with the amazing Revive Grenade that rezzes everyone in a tight ring around the spot it detonates, and my utility slot was filled with C4 which I basically treated like a replacement grenade because I was too scared to go where its intended target (vehicles) dwelled. I think I also got some other ability that let me heal everyone around me in a radius if I hit a certain key. There were lots of healy bits at my disposal that I didn’t often use due to my lone wolf playstyle, but I was drowning in certs so why not. Arguably I should have considered switching off of Medic, but it felt like a core part of Bogardt’s character, and I liked the health regen.
Speaking of certs, you can also use them to get weapon parts for your guns, I remember this quite clearly due to spending forever meticulously testing all the parts in the practice arena, not wanting to screw up and waste valuable certs on something inferior. Despite having so many, they were hard-earned and the severe time investment gave them a value all their own. My first two purchases, after much thought, were an expanded mag for my shotgun because I only ever got one magazine before dying, and a flashlight for when I played on Hossin, a swampy and very poorly-lit continent. Then it turns out both mods equip in the same “rail” slot and my shotgun can only carry one at once! Good job making those certs count, genius!
After that experience I abandoned the entire concept of mods and focused on choosing a new secondary weapon instead. The Beamer pistol is literally a wasted slot; I had over a hundred hours in the game and zero kills with it, especially because weapon-switching is painfully slow and TTK is painfully high, making a secondary weapon in itself largely useless. If the game had any utility secondaries I’d have grabbed one in a heartbeat, but because it didn’t I chose to make my own. I purchased the newly-released Hunter crossbow and gave it a flashlight and x6 scope, turning it into a makeshift binoculars that also dealt long-range damage, to complement my close-range shotgun. I think I have like 4 kills on it, but each was a highlight in itself.
I doubt any other review of the game is going to claim this, but my favorite part of Planetside 2 is how peaceful it can be. There’s something to be gained from just exploring the landscapes. You won’t find any of the normal perks to doing so; there are no collectibles or secrets, there are no specially-designed spots and the bases are all copy-pasted assets of each other with varying sizes to correlate to how many points they’re worth, but what’s cool is just the fact that this is even possible. Most multiplayer shooters lock you steadfastly into the battlefield; there is very little exploration and the team is counting on you to march into combat and pull your weight. Planetside 2 isn’t.
Besides, that makes the rare encounters all the more memorable. One time when I was wandering through the endless icy terrain of Esamir, I came across a snowman!
Sadly this was before I owned the binoculars crossbow, so I couldn’t get a very good look, but I was damn sure that there was somehow a snowman on top of that rock. I shot it and it exploded into little crystals, also surprising since Planetside 2 doesn’t have environmental destruction in any capacity. Did some research online and found out that the Winter Event was going on; if you found and murdered ten snowmen you could gain the rank “Snowblower”. My nomadic playstyle felt perfect for this, but despite much adventuring I never saw another. On the plus side, it finally convinced me to splurge on a dune buggy to zip around the landscape that much faster. On land or air, I personally gravitated towards the cheap, fragile speedster vehicles even if my only known way to depart the Scythe jet was ejecting myself as it crashed spiraling into the ground, dying of fall damage, then respawning at the nearest base to grab a dune buggy. The light assault class has a jetpack, I should really play as her, but the few times I deviated from Medic it was to experiment with Engineer. Engineer comes with what I can only describe as a “Medigun for vehicles”, letting her just sit there and slowly heal whatever technical stuff tickled her fancy. There was a even a class called MAX who was basically a dude in a tanky mecha suit, and he could only be healed by Engineer. Engineer also had the ability to throw little boxes on the ground that resupplied nearby teammate’s ammo, which was great for placing near chokepoints while on defense in the giant juggernaut labs, surfing the web on my phone, and then just showering in creds. I should describe the Heavy Assault right here, as they’re the only class I haven’t mentioned yet, but I literally never played it. I think they’re the guys running around with rocket launchers.
You could also get more credits by being part of a squad. Like Battlefield, PS2 gives you the option to jump into a platoon, which means that up to seven of your teammates will have green names and you can watch what they do from the mini-map. The leader has a yellow name and a little star. That’s about as far as I explored the concept, as I usually wound up on the complete opposite side of the continent before long, even when playing the game correctly. But having seven random teammates who grant you bonus XP for reviving them and having an extra “squad deploy” option from the death screen is only a positive, so I usually elected to join one whenever I started a new session.
There’s another level of Planetside 2 hierarchy, the Outfits. These are more extra-curricular and you jump in presumably with your friends so that you can all queue up together in game, or you join one of the large well-established ones for the free street cred. SPUF had one back in 2013, it was created by Dr. EvilBrain and I was invited into it, but it was for the blue team and I never got around to making a second character. I have an inherent bias against the blue team because their weapon theme is “high damage but high recoil” and screw that. I hate recoil more than anything in my shooters. Each faction in PS2 has a theme to their firearms; blue favors short-range because of the aforementioned accuracy issues, red favors medium engagements, and purple (Vanu) uses beam weapons, meaning they lack bullet drop but their damage decays at range. This nevertheless means they fill the “long-range” niche in the triangle. And then there are the Nanite Systems weapons; a fourth capitalistic corporate faction that sells versatile catch-all guns boasting high customizeability and jack-of-all-trades stats. The real downside to NS weapons are the amount of credits you’ll need to sink into purchasing them.
If there’s one thing Planetside 2 is completely lacking, it would be naval combat or any concept of aquatic mechanics. Apparently nobody can swim, because the few times I found bodies of water and jumped in to see what would happen, I died. I feel like this is a missed opportunity for the game; nautical warfare could be pretty freaking awesome, and it would be easy to add as its own “continent.” An ocean map dedicated to large aircraft carriers and islands, where vehicles are necessary to traverse the landscape and combat takes on the form of marine assaults and ship-to-ship combat, would be really amazing and probably not that hard to design, especially since nobody can swim so it’s still two-dimensional. Almost all the work would be in making the ships, but considering they just added the new Construction minigame, I think they could handle it.
I don’t understand the new construction thing at all. In a nutshell, players can build a fortress in the map Sims-style and then everyone can fight over it in the line of duty. I know the parts cost something, something that appears to cost real world money, so on my end that isn’t happening. I participated in the assault on a player-made fortress and it was fun, pretty much felt like an assault on any old base except that the architecture didn’t follow the layout themes of the rest of the game. It’s a good addition all in all, giving F2P runts like me more things to do, and allowing the hardcore players an opportunity to play a bigger role on the battlefield. I can imagine it must feel pretty awesome to construct a fort and see hundreds of players skirmishing either to besiege or defend your work. But in general, I don’t much care for anything they added after I first started playing, especially the whole Implants concept. Basically, you constantly get these Implants (or the batteries that power them) that drop and they do weird minor things like “you can automatically tag enemies who shoot you” or “you can hold your breath longer” (this game has scope sway). But by turning them on, you drain your battery reserves at a rate proportional to how powerful the Implant is, and you can only get new batteries by crafting unused Implants or buying them with real money. Sounds suspiciously pay-to-win but in some weird super minor way that I can live with, however it stuck this bright red “your battery is DRAINED!” icon smack dab in the lower center of my screen that nothing can make go away, and it triggers that part of my brain that handles this. Plus I’m not sure what in-universe justification there is for these Implants to rain from heaven into your inventory.
The lore for Planetside 2 is very throwaway but does itself justice by being interesting. Basically, some space-faring humans traveled through a wormhole and got stuck on this planet, and eventually found ancient alien tech that let them become immortal in the sense that a deceased person can immediately revive at the spawnpoint of their choice. Gradually, fighting broke out between the dominant empire, the rebels, and the Vanu who are a cultish splinter faction that wants to keep studying the alien technology and unlock more secrets. This is all completely irrelevant to the gameplay, but it helped me role-play my character better, because I can imagine it’d suck being born into a world of constant warfare where you (and everyone you know) are automatically drafted into the military and forced to fight for eternity. I suspect I’d also crave the open silence of the boundless plains, seeking freedom from the pointless violence among the stillness of desiccated nature. But even as Bogardt travels wearily through the wilderness, hoping against hope for a chance to feel a shred of individuality beyond that of her rank, signs of war are all around her and inescapable. Desolate bases routinely pop up on the horizon, spectators to countless forgotten battles. She must still carry her shotgun and binocular-bow because any strangers she comes across can (and literally always do) try to kill her. And if she strays too far from her duty, a five-second timer appears while a harsh voice screams “You’re out of bounds! Get back to the battlefield, trooper!” There’s no escape for poor Bogardt; not even the sweet kiss of death can free her from her eternal conscription.
Unlike her, I was able to cheerfully abandon the game as soon as I maxed out the Medic class, and have only booted it up again in order to try and fail to get some screenshots for this article. It appears they’ve significantly altered something in the launcher which has completely separated it from Steam, and the in-built screenshot function (and my ordinary computer PrintScreen) have also failed to take screencaps, so all I can do is discuss my new revelations after trying the game after a long hiatus. For one, holy crap is the field of vision tiny. This time around I constantly felt claustrophobic and cannot fathom a helmet that would limit my peripherals to this degree. The settings didn’t appear to have any adjustment options, though I did discover a button that toggles sprint and I wish I’d checked for that back in 2013. Cosmetics appear to be more of a thing now, there’s even a helmet that lets me see my character’s face but sadly she looks like the most generic human ever created by God. Also I’m not a huge fan of the new loading screens. The old ones showed beautiful landscapes of the continent you were traveling to, letting you know if you were about to get your ass handed to you in a desert, arctic, swampy or forest biome. The new ones just show one team of soldiers murdering a single hapless member of another faction, they honestly look pretty tacky and I don’t get why none of them show actual fair combat. I can’t help but try to picture what improbable circumstance would ever lead to a sniper meleeing a lone enemy while his oblivious teammates form a ring around the victim. However, I am happy to report that the playerbase is still alive and well, and that’s the most important thing. You’ll have no trouble finding a populated server if you give this game a go.
And really, you should give it a try. It’s free-to-play, after all. If you like shooters, Planetside 2 carries a very unique gimmick with its giant battles, no other game can really hold a candle to the sheer breadth of the world presented you. Don’t take my long clueless rambles as evidence of what the game is like, if you play it correctly you will get as much fast-paced frantic action as your bloodthirsty heart desires. If you want free stuff, I personally checked and both of these sets of promo codes are working, you can get decals and cosmetics and even a knife. Just don’t be discouraged when you originally get stomped by everything and everyone; no matter how bad it gets, just remember your KDR won’t ever be worse than mine: