The heavens align on the eighteenth day. So it was written, so it shall pass. And when the great conjunction occurs, then the enpurpling of the world shall be complete. And no-one shall say that dub-step is over-used in trailers. Because it will be the music of the heavens, and the angels shall open their mouths to utter “Wub Wub Wub”. And we will shall be merry.
Jim: The most thrilling thing about 2012, for me at least, was that this wasn’t my top multiplayer experience. While much of my time is spent playing and thinking about single-player games, it’s always the games where I am up against other people that really engage me. No matter what other games and game designers accomplish, there still remains the unyielding fact that working with and against other people – especially when games are complex and intricate – heightens much of what gaming means to me. To duel and defeat other human intelligences (and to co-operate with friends and strangers in doing do) remains the most rewarding aspect of gaming for my psyche. Consequently I had firmly anticipated Planetside 2 being the game that took the largest part of my attention in 2012. But that wasn’t to be.
Nevertheless, what SOE have done here, in what is largely an overhaul and remake of the original game for today’s market (F2P) and today’s gaming PCs (lots of demand on both CPU and GPU, and a beautiful, enormous world that I’ve used to awe and shame console-owning chums) that is faithful to the original vision of a true MMOFPS. And that has disappointed some – they have pointed to the lack of real change between this game and what we had in 2003 – and perhaps the naysayers are right. In terms of providing something More and New for the MMO world, it fails, at least for now. But I don’t or can’t care. I am too busy indulging my love of imaginary space war on the fine vitas PS2’s three lavish battle-continents.
It’s a game that only rehashes a vision, but it’s also a game that actually seems to wield the technology to draw and deliver the game we’d originally seen hinted at.
That vision, of course, comes with numerous problems. Not least of these is that so many people bounce off the game entirely. It’s unforgiving, complex, and without a real win condition. It’s better thought of, I think, as a giant deathmatch/objective-based FPS server. But when it’s understood like that, we tend to imagine we can solo, tend to imagine that we can “win” a game, or something. Planetside doesn’t work like that. And that will cause some people to argue that it doesn’t work at all.
But it does. At least when it gets things right. When the pieces fall into place. That’s not necessarily what you want to hear, but I think this is one of those games that plays a good tune most of the time, but just occasionally improvises its way into the sublime. To understand that, you have to be there.
The point about this game for me, though, is in the spectacle, and in the vast array of tools that are laid out for battle, and the ways in which they can interlock in an vast alphabet of possible engagements. The experience of attacking a lightly defended base with a few infiltrators is so different to a battle between two tank-columns in a mountain pass, that they could almost be different games. The palette here is broad unto breaking point, and that means it’s going to be a fount of stories and anecdotes as the soldiers of Planetside come up with battles which defy expectation.
I’ve not yet done a WIT for the game. And that’s because I know that, in part, I’d just end up reeling off battle stories. Viewing closely, at a purely mechanistic level, so much is broken or wrong. There are features which just don’t function as intended, a myriad of skills which are not working or are unworkable, UI issues, “feel” issues, readability issues, all kinds of problems. None of that has mattered to me because of the “OMG this happened!” factor of it. Balancing that in a review is probably what I should be doing, but I’d rather just push this one at people and say “try it!”. You know, that’s going to be the issue with free games, isn’t it? That it’s too easy for lazy writers like me to suggest you should at least try it out. But in this case I think it’s valid. If you don’t like it, fair enough. I love it.
Planetside 2’s evolution will define its legacy, but its launch has been enormously entertaining.