I’ve had more “oh, damn, it’s 6am and I haven’t gone to bed yet” nights in the last week than I’ve had in total since I retired, and it’s all because of Planetside 2.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Planetside 2 is a massively multiplayer online first-person strategic shooter. That’s a whole lot of adjectives; put simply, you run around going “pew pew” with laser guns, there’s a lot of people playing at the same time, and there are goals and objectives beyond “pew pew a bunch of them before you get pew pewed back.”
In many ways, the game is a more complicated version of a game mode I was obsessed with many years ago, Unreal Tournament 2004‘s Onslaught mode. At the depths of my addiction to that particular mode, I would come home from working at LSU at 1700 or so and not stop until 0200 or 0300, night after night, for weeks on end. I stopped because it was utterly wrecking my wrists; as a keyboard-and-mouse game, I was doing a lot of repetitive strain on my right wrist in particular as I played.
Planetside 2 is basically Onslaught scaled up 64x or so. There are three teams/factions; the goal is to be the team with the most territory. You can’t just drop deep into your opponent’s land and capture there, because the only vulnerable territory is that connected to your own by the “Lattice,” which is generally (but not always) the stuff that’s right next to it on the map. What this means in practice is that the “front” of the fight is constantly shifting but almost never crazily distant, as your faction either successfully claims a bit of territory and pushes further in, or loses territory and is pushed back.
Now, I’m playing on the PS4, which makes it a bit of a double whammy of a mess: I’m already not exactly good at first-person shooters, having lost my high level of coordination as I’ve gotten older, and using a controller rather than keyboard and mouse just makes it worse. But that’s actually mostly okay, because the game has a bunch of “support” work that you can do. I spend most of my time as an engineer, repairing vehicles and other things around the bases, and the game rewards me for doing so.
That said, the game has some major issues. It’s free-to-play, and while its monetization strategy is only mostly scummy, the real problem is that it’s a free-to-play game… on a console… in the dead of summer… where you shoot people. If you don’t already know what that means, let me tell you: it is absolutely overrun with twelve year old boys who think cursing is the Coolest Thing Ever and constantly kill their own teammates because it’s funny. There are moments of utter brilliance, when you get in with an organized group and manage to fend off a nasty assault or execute one of your own… and there are moments of utter frustration when the person whose vehicle you were keeping alive turns the turret and shoots you for no good reason.
And while the monetization is only mostly scummy, it is scummy. The rate at which you get experience (“certifications”) in the game is low, so it strongly encourages you to drop real money on the game to unlock stuff.
But there are some clever things too. For one, most of the weapons are “sidegrades;” better at some things but worse at others. You actually really don’t ever need to buy a new weapon for most of the classes, and if you do it can come much later. That’s surprisingly respectful for a F2P game, where often the person with the most money gets super-awesome ultra better versions of the standard weapons.
Now, I know that I’m not supposed to play massively multiplayer online games, because I know what a time-sink they can be. But I suspect that I’m going to run Planetside 2 dry in a week or two; it’s fun, but ultimately pretty same-y, and unless I can convince some friends to play with me–it’d sure be nice to team up with actual adults rather than prepubescents–it’s going to end up too lonely to sustain. But for the time being I’m having fun, and given that I haven’t paid a penny for the game (and don’t plan to), why not?
(If you’re interested in teaming up, drop me a note. I know no one will, but I feel like I’ve gotta try.)
In conclusion: Planetside 2 is pretty neat. It’s given me sleepless nights. Would play again.