The combat in PlanetSide 2 takes place on enormous continents packed with defensible structures and environmental hazards. And while SOE plans to launch the game with three continents total, current beta participants have so far only had access to the canyon/forest/desert terrain of Indar.
Lucky for those testers ready for a change of scenery, SOE has just announced the addition of Esamir, a second playable continent that promises to bring a host of new challenges along with new visuals and new hidden secrets.
We sat down with SOE's Leonard Gullo and Tramell Isaac to get an up-close look Esamir and find out what lies in store for those willing to brave its harsh climates.
Before we delve too deeply into Esamir, it's important to understand exactly what a "continent" is in the context of PlanetSide 2. Unlike other FPS games that drop players into matches, ask them to capture or defend points, then reset those points when a new match begins, PlanetSide forces players to take a longer view of victory and strategy. Fights can last for hours, days or even weeks, meaning gains made during one play session will be left to other players to defend or abandon. There are three factions competing for resources, and the end goal is for actions on all continents to be tied together via a global resources system. In other words, it takes teamwork and strategy to be victorious, and victory is often the result of thousands of different players playing at different times.
To put it in terms perhaps more MMO fans will understand: Take Arathi Basin's control and capture gameplay, give everyone guns, then make the map as large as the entire Eastern Kingdoms. Finally, drop a bunch of vehicles in for transportation, defense and assault, and watch as players attempt to outsmart each other in an expansive, ever-shifting battle.
Indar, the existing continent, boasts a wide range of environments and an abundance of player facilities ripe for the taking. Players will find canyons, forests, a desert and a variety of strategic situations designed with specific solutions in mind. Esamir, the new continent, is similar, but has a more unified theme of frozen tundra and expansive spaces. The map is barren and open, with roughly half the number of player structures than Indar in a similar amount of space. It's a continent that provides players with long travel times and large areas in which to move instead of the fast-paced, constant chaos fights that unfold on Indar.
SOE incorporated player feedback from Indar tests to make Esamir structurally and functionally different from the content that already exists, creating an environment that supports slower, more stable matches with more travel time and organization. It will demand a different skillset and different approach, and will likely rope in a different type of player. Everything on Esamir, like Indar, is designed by hand to enhance this overall design goal. Civilian outposts, biolabs, tech labs and other facilities litter the landscape, and each one has a story to tell and strategic significance.
Playstyles through design
SOE also changed the way it approached the philosophy of design when work on Esamir began. With Indar, the devs designed each sub-area of the continent to have a preferred method of capture and defense. Some areas are clearly for air domination, some demand infantry. Such designed provide a measured and consistent method for players to learn the best ways to snag each point and hold onto it for the duration of a match.
With Esamir, the studio took the exact opposite approach. The areas are not designed with any specific capture strategy in mind. And while the map as a whole depends heavily on vehicular combat, there's no guarantee that capping a point via air superiority in one match will work again in another. Esamir is intended to be a less predictable battlefield that rewards patience and creative thinking over applying the same old tactics time and time again.
SOE has a bold vision for PlanetSide 2, and if it's able to achieve this vision in the way the devs described, the game will be quite the contender in the (admittedly niche) free-to-play MMOFPS arena. We'll have more on the game next week, but for now, we have to admit that we're excited to see what SOE has up its sleeve when it comes to future plans, additions and the game's official launch.
Have you jumped into the beta? What are your thoughts so far?
Editor's Note: SOE has confirmed that Esamir will go live for all beta participants later today.
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