Courtesy Giggly and SOE
“War. War has changed.”

It’s been a while since I’ve played Tribes: Ascend. While I still think the skiing movement mechanic and the unique weapons make it fun in the middle of the game, some of the periphery aspects of the game and its business model left me feeling sour. It’s hard to stay invested in a game with ongoing development when you get the impression that the dev team cares more about producing super-powered weapons for an initial rush of cash than they do fixing existing problems or heeding feedback from the community. League of Legends occasionally has this problem as well from time to time, and while Planetside 2 can also feel like the devs have gone too far one way or another, I just can’t stay mad at it.

I tried a bit of the original Planetside back during my World of Warcraft days. A MMO shooter seemed like an innovative idea. Shooters tend to be at their most chaotic and unpredictable (which leads to fun times) when games and servers are full. Most of them limit the size of their games, with something like 16 players to a team. That’s one of the main things that sets Planetside 2 apart: its scale. Instead of 16 players to a side, engagements can involve any number of players, and I’ve seen battles take place with hundreds of players swarming around a base while hundreds more rush about defending it. There are no NPCs or boss monsters or dungeons: all of the conflict is generated by players, vying for control of resources on a distant world.

It would be very difficult to get any positive results without some organization, which leads me to the second point in Planetside 2‘s favor: the outfit. Like guilds in other MMOs, an outfit makes a huge difference in yielding enjoyment from the game. While there is a proximity voice chat feature in the game, I’ve found it’s a great deal better to find an outfit that has its own voice solution, like Mumble or Ventrilo, to facilitate communication and organization. You can enjoy the game as a lone soldier following no orders but his or her own, but this can also be a lonely and confusing experience. In an outfit, you know where to go, can communicate what you need to the team or offer contributions of your own, and if the outfit is right, you can leave proximity voice for things like a teammate broadcasting music to put you in the right mood.

Finally, Planetside 2 puts an emphasis on combined arms, from foot soldiers with various weapons to ground vehicles in multiple roles to aircraft. And all of them can be customized with weapon loadouts, perks, armor options, even camouflage and vanity items. This is the part that appeals to the theorycrafting portion of my brain. I find myself asking many questions as I pore over the options available to my classes. What’s the best way to dish out a ton of damage as Heavy Assault? Is the Infiltrator better as a close-quarters stealth assassin with a suppressed SMG, or a long-range sniper with the best scope? How can my Engineer best protect the Sunderer that supports our advance? So on and so forth.

I think it’s these factors combined that keep bringing me back into Planetside 2. Sony Online Entertainment may not always strike the right balance, but with the addition of things like the Engineer’s AV turret and the upcoming VR trainer for pilots, they seem to be moving in the right direction, which is more than I can say for some other developers. They’ve put together a game that makes you feel like you’re part of something large and expansive, and for my part, makes me want to experience more of it. I want to keep earning certifications that yield more interesting loadouts, improve my skill at flying so I can escort our dropships or pilot one of my own, and I definitely don’t want to miss the next time the outfit advances down a hillside, firing our plasma rifles as a teammate plays “Disco Inferno” over proximity.