The only thing I can tell you for sure about the gameplay in PlanetSide is that it seems to be a battle that is constantly on recycle. You take over a base, and the enemy takes over another. You shoot a dozen enemies, and they shoot a dozen of yours. You get shot out of the sky, then you mount a gun and blow someone else out of the air. It's never-ending, an endless war over territory and pride. This is all the technical stuff.
Why are we fighting? I have no idea. I'm sure there is plenty of lore on the website or wiki, some fantastic explanation for what exactly my motive is in getting myself murdered over and over, but honestly I don't care. I have played PlanetSide off and on over the past several years, and I just needed to play it at this time. The week prior was a rough one, filled with glitchy games and articles that did not come out exactly how I wanted them to. It was, for a stay-at-home writer, a rough week. I needed PlanetSide to give me some fun. Some real, tangible, tasty, blow-'em-up fun.
Click past the cut and I'll tell you what I found.
First of all, yes, PlanetSide is an aging game. It shows in the way it looks. Don't worry -- PlanetSide Next is coming, supposedly, so you'll have a much prettier way to kill your enemies soon enough. But I enjoy the graphics of PlanetSide. I like how they run on older machines and still hold up. They do the job just fine. The truth is the most hardcore members of the community would probably be all right with playing a game of "white box vs. blue box" simply because, as for raiders, performance is the most important thing. While I can say I don't care about graphics as well, I can't say that I never stop and smell the pixels in PlanetSide. Sometimes the different planets are truly pretty, and the skies are almost always interesting to look at.
Yes, I know I just got shot while looking at the sky. That's kind of how I do things. I tend to lie back and slowly find my way into the battle. I make a great gunner (if I have a great pilot) and do really well as part of a group. One-on-one battles? Yeah, I have no chance in those. I've seen players who have memorized every map, who know every nook and cranny and possible enemy load-out and the proper reaction to an enemy's strategy. I respect those hardcore guys and gals -- they love their game. As long as they are having fun and are being generally pleasant (which I found to be true of most players) then more power, and bullets, to them.
Still, I wanted to pilot one of the mech-like BFRs, the Battle Frame Robotics. I wanted to stomp around in a suit of armor, to form lines with my other BFR operators and rain death upon our enemies. Within an evening, I was doing just that.
See, as you level in PlanetSide, you gain certification points that can be put into new skills or vehicle licenses. I simply went to a station, "forgot" my current skills (resetting all of my points), and put them into what would eventually add up to an ability to drive a BFR. I made a pilot who knew how to use a sniper gun on the side so that between BFR reset times, I would be able to hide out and shoot my enemies from a long, safe distance away. That first evening I started to regret my decision because of the rough controls of the BFR, but soon after I had the hang of it and was literally laughing out loud as I ran into battle while inside gigantic, robotic armor.
My fellow pilots and I would form small groups and stomp toward the enemy, find a nice spot on a hill overlooking the opposition's base, and literally start pouring on the hurt. Yes, alone a BFR is easy enough to take down. They're cumbersome and can't aim quickly. In a balanced group, however, or while backing up a good squad of foot soldiers, a BFR is magnificent.
Let's not get carried away, though. Certain tanks and personal armor are magnificent in the right situation as well. Everything still feels really balanced in PlanetSide. Yes, there have been many angry SOE forum posts written in protest over the years, and I'm sure that "balance" is a favorite topic, but overall I found that for every powerful battlefield device, there is something that can take it out. I never felt too powerful, or too overpowered, in the game. If something didn't work, I would try another strategy. If a certain goal was hard to achieve, my fellow warriors worked together and achieved it. PlanetSide always gives you options. The maps and planets are large enough that there is always some territory to go after or to defend, so I never became bored of the same landscape.
So in the end, I can only say that PlanetSide is simply a joy. Shooting things is to gamers what hiking is to a nature enthusiast or good materials are to an artist. A good shooting experience is even therapeutic; it is a good time without any regrets. Sure, you can game in a million other ways, but when the shooter is as fun as PlanetSide, it is primal. Do yourself a favor and enjoy the game... don't worry about how many kills you get or how much better you are than someone else. Simply log in, shoot things, and run around. You won't regret it.
Also, please pay no attention to the guaranteed, obligatory "SOE abandoned this game; it will never be developed further" complaints that you will hear or read. PlanetSide is a game that has its issues, like any other game in existence, but it's generally frozen in time with the few bugs and issues it has. Get over it, get in, and start shooting things. A lot.
Next week, to celebrate the launch of Faxion Online, I will be taking a deeper look at it. Here's hoping that many of the performance issues are tidied up, or this will be a long week.
Now, go log in!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!