In June 2003 I began playing a game called Planetside by Sony Online Entertainment. For the next two years I would play that game and to this day consider those days to have been the most enjoyable of all the years I have been a gamer. The original Planetside was fun, an awesome experience. But as with all games, it eventually began to die a slow death – with fewer and fewer people playing it. I left Planetside to go play World of Warcraft in 2005. Then in 2012 Planetside 2 came out and I was lucky enough to be a beta tester. I was excited at the prospect that a successor to the one game I truly had enjoyed was here. But right from the start things were not good. The game was nothing like Planetside, it was some crazy hybrid of other games combined with something that was similar to the original. The game wasn’t anywhere near as fun to play as the original, capture points were taken and then lost within minutes, sometimes under a minute. The lattice system that had made Planetside the fun game it was, gone. While they have incorporated it back into the game, a recent visit back to the game did nothing to improve my impressions. So what were the major differences and why did they cause Planetside 2 to be nothing but a tedious and boring game?
1. THE LATTICE SYSTEM : In Planetside there was a lattice which linked bases together. An enemy faction couldn’t take a base unless there was a linked enemy base. In Planetside 2, it was a free for all. If someone took one of your bases, you could easily recover it within a matter of minutes. There was no structure, every battle was strewn all over the place. That made for a very unenjoyable experience.
2. TOO MANY BASES : In Planetside you had about 8-14 bases on a continent (depending on continent size), each base had one or two tower buildings associated with it. There were also a few towers here and there that were not. This presented a nice number of targets, some of which you never even touched. You could take a tower regardless of whether or not you had a link to the base it was next to. That opened up some awesome defensive and offensive battles. In Planetside 2 however there are way too many bases and all of them rely on some kind of faction link or presence. This just made things over-complicated and added more annoyances to the game than were needed. Instead of 8-14 standard bases and unlinked towers, you had a haphazard mess of things that could be taken and then lost in a very short time. Not only that but defending a tower in the original Planetside was something that groups loved, because it was defendable – you could sit in a tower for over an hour and just hold it from wave after wave of enemy forces. Even the smallest bases in Planetside 2 are wide open and nearly impossible to defend. They are just building shells with open doors and wide open spaces – there’s no where to really dig in. Once the enemy camps your spawn, it’s over. At least you could defend your spawn significantly better in the original. Sony forgot one important rule: Keep it simple stupid!
3. AIRCRAFT : In Planetside the aircraft were an absolute JOY to fly, sure you couldn’t do barrel rolls or loops, but the aircraft flew beautifully. In Planetside 2 you couldn’t let go of the mouse or you’d end up flying into the side of a mountain or falling from the sky. The vehicles didn’t hover worth a crap, flying them was even more painful. Hitting your target was a painstaking process. In Planetside I was a master of the Reaver – I could hit targets while flying at full speed, or hovering. I could fly under base entrance arches, through the forest and it was an incredibly fun experience. I can’t say the same for Planetside 2. The other major flaw was that aircraft were assigned to factions. One had the Reaver, another had the Mosquito and the other the Scythe (which was not in the original game). In Planetside, all factions had access to ALL aircraft. In Planetside 2 they wanted each faction to have their own aircraft – which goes against the whole story of Planetside in the first place. The New Conglomerate, the rebels, always used stolen technology from the Terran Republic. So what happened? The NC couldn’t get their hands on the Mosquito this time? Just dumb.
4. BATTLE RANKS & COMMAND RANKS : In the original, when you played you got experience which went toward gaining Battle Ranks, every time you leveled up a Battle Rank, you gained certification points that you could spend on improving your soldier. You could buy new capabilities with these points. When you commanded a squad, you would instead get experience toward Command Rank. When you reached a new Command Rank (the max was CR 5), you gained new abilities for leading squads. The most sought after ability was the Orbital Strike. As a CR 5 you could call down a massive blast from orbit that would obliterate everything within a huge radius. In Planetside 2 – this was GONE! You would gain Battle Ranks, but there was no Command Rank that was equivalent to the original Planetside. Gone were the cool tools you could obtain such as EMPs, Orbital Strikes and so on. While you did get certification points in Planetside 2 when you leveled up – they were feeble in comparison to what you got in Planetside. That takes me to the worst flaw of Planetside 2.
5. REAL MONEY FOR VIRTUAL CRAP : Planetside had NOTHING in it that took real money, other than the $14.95 monthly fee. Planetside 2 was released as free to play, but yet had an enormous number of items you could buy with real money to make your soldier look better or weapons you could buy which, despite the claim they weren’t Pay to Win items, did in fact give people an advantage. This was the sourest aspect of Planetside 2. I would have gladly paid a monthly fee to play rather than have to deal with the necessity of paying real money or not being able to use the better weapons in the game. This takes me to my next point.
6. FREE TO PLAY = BAD COMMUNITY : Planetside cost $14.95 a month to play. In my opinion that was the best filter for keeping out the worst kind of players – not all, but most. Planetside had a very tight knit community, even between factions in some cases. In Planetside 2 because the doors were flung wide open to everyone, to play for free, it invited some of the worst kind of people into the game. The community that had been so tight knit now fell to pieces because you now had people who didn’t give a fuck about anyone or anything. They did what they wanted to do regardless of whether or not it was unacceptable.
7. POOR PERFORMANCE / CLOSED VISION : I am combining these two points because they are linked with one another. First and foremost was poor performance – Planetside 2 was the worst performing game I have ever played. I played it on a 64-bit Windows system with a really nice graphics card and 16gb of memory. While other games had smooth frame rates, to get the same I had to turn Planetside 2’s graphics down to the lowest setting, even after multiple patches were released that claimed to improve performance. I went into the game just a few weeks ago and again, the performance was less than acceptable for a gaming system that is 2 years old and upgraded. The next point is, I use a Mac for my work – and also for gaming. Now this will get the dander up in most people – but the fact is, Planetside 2 should have been made available to the Mac community without requiring them to use a virtual machine or boot into Windows. This closed vision cost them a lot of potential gamers who play solely on a Mac. That was one big mistake.
8. NO CONTENT : This last point is a good one. When Planetside launched in 2003 there were a multitude of continents to play on. Planetside 2, at launch time, had one. One fucking continent!?! They promised more continents would be coming – but it took them an enormous amount of time to get them out. Hossin, the fourth continent, was only released in the past year – and the game has been out for almost two years. That was a very sore point with me. So for the longest time you had an enormous number of people playing on one continent – and that was very annoying to say the least.
So in closing, I will never play Planetside 2 again. Never. Even if they do release an OS X client. Sony dropped the ball in a big way with this game. They destroyed a franchise that was beloved by a lot of gamers and took something that was an awesome experience and trashed it. This has also ruined my respect for Sony Online Entertainment, I can’t say I’ll be playing anything from them in the future. Planetside was awesome and they took it, twisted it and mutilated it for one reason – money and the masses. A really sad way for such a great game to end.