PlanetSide 2’s Critical Mass update overhauls capturing continents

Planetside 2 Critical Mass

It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off PlanetSide 2 [official site], admittedly. When I last played Daybreak’s mega-scale FPS for any length of time they had only just recently introduced base-building to the game, with the resoruce-carrying ANT units returning from the original PlanetSide. With the release of the massive Critical Mass update this week (the first major overhaul of 2017), they’ve introduced sweeping changes to the balance, including how infantry and vehicles interact, but most notably changing the overall flow of the game and concluding the battle for each continent with one last massive all-in fight.

The official patch notes for the Critical Mass update are nothing short of enormous, so let’s pick out some of the highlights. The first and most important is how the campaign for each continent wraps up. Previously, the end-game was nebulously defined, and players often found themselves victorious or defeated without being anywhere near the front-lines. Obviously far from ideal for either team, and a notable anticlimax after a hard-fought campaign.

In an attempt to address this, the team on the verge of victory will be assigned one final Alert objective, calling in units from far and wide. If the defending team wins, the battle returns to its normal rhythm, but if the attackers claim victory, the continent is locked down as an armada of spacecraft bombard the losing team off the map in a spectacular final light-show in the winning team’s colours, forcing play to move to the next continent under threat. Players on both sides are also rewarded – win or lose – with unique goodies, the quality of which depends on how decisive the victory was, and how much each individual player was involved.

Other notable changes involve an overhaul to vehicle-on-infantry combat. Infantry anti-armour weapons are now faster-firing and more plentiful in ammunition, but much less viable at sniper-like ranges, allowing vehicles more opportunity to get up close and bring weapons to bear. Heavier tanks now only take increased damage from hits to their rear armour, making them better at leading a charge. It’s all good common-sense stuff, allowing infantry freedom to do their thing at ranges that make sense, while armour is now better suited during advances.

There are some interesting new gadgets introduced as well, such as the Engineer’s sticky Nano-Repair Grenades. No longer will you have to embarrassingly run behind a tank, desperately trying to fix a vehicle that seems to have no interest in standing still. Instead, you can just attach one of these to the offending vehicle. Through the magic of space-nanites, it will proceed to un-explode, restoring the armour of the unit and any in the immediate vicinity too.

It all seems like a good and coherent set of improvements, although if Steam Charts is any indicator, it hasn’t exactly brought players rushing back to the game, despite Daybreak’s best attempts to get players back on board with a contest to snap the best screenshot of a continent lockdown in action. While by no means abandoned, and Steam players only accounting for a percentage of the total player-base, it seems that PlanetSide 2 is in decline, and it’ll take more than a rebalance to bring people back.

PlanetSide 2 is free to play through Steam and from Daybreak.

36 Comments

  1. jellydonut says:

    I’m pretty sure almost no one plays this game via Steam, they use the PS2 launcher.

    • April March says:

      I am having a hard time thinking of why anyone at all would play it through Steam. Then again, I can’t figure out why people use tablets either, when for 90% of them a smartphone or a notebook would be better suited for their usage, so I’m not an authority on why anyone does anything.

      • MillieMoore says:

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      • modzero says:

        Reading books while riding a train. That’s the one and only use, pretty important to me though.

        For using tablets, that is.

      • fish99 says:

        I watch Twitch on my tablet. Phone is too small, laptop is too heavy/bulky and doesn’t have 16 hr battery life. For consuming media tablets are very useful and portable devices.

      • Chrysopoeia says:

        Like Fish99 said, but producing media as well; I’m an illustrator, and I use a tablet PC to do my work. They’re great because it doesn’t have to be bolted onto a desk like a pen display, and it’s powerful enough to run everything but high-end games while out and about.

        As for Steam, though, the only reason I could imagine would be showing your game time to friends.

  2. geldonyetich says:

    Glad to hear they’re still working on this, but honestly the reason I bounced off Planetside 2 was because I hate the Battlefield 2+ like ballistic model. It’s designed around setting up impenetreble kill zones and ganking people from undetected positions. That might be more realistic than the Tribes model, but so is watching paint dry. It was a bad fad in FPS that I am happy to see games like Overwatch bury for good.

    • Sound says:

      Hey, could you go into detail on what this means? I’m not familiar with these ballistic models, and how they behave.

      • geldonyetich says:

        When I use the term, “ballistic model” here, you might be thinking in popular vernacular of realistic modeling of ballistic behavior.

        Nah, what I’m actually trying to communicate is that the way this game models gunplay produces a bad gameplay experience, not just in the way the projectiles are handled (which is just rudimentary hitscan, if I recall correctly) but also how players move, aim, attack, detect eachother, and work together.

        It’s modeler after Battlefield 2-3 because that was the popular game at the time, but ick, never enjoyed them. Doom, Tribes, Overwatch – much better.

        • geldonyetich says:

          Minor corrections.

          (which is just rudimentary hitscan, if I recall correctly)

          I didn’t. According to one source, “Planetside 2 adds ballistic trajectories to all weapons, requiring players to aim above their target at long range; certain Vanu Sovereignty weapons have no bullet drop in exchange for slower projectiles.”

          It’s modele[d] after Battlefield 2-3

          Obviously 3, since 2 was several years prior. But I mention 2 because I liked 1’s gameplay, 2 was where I felt it derailed, and 3 was where it was really bad. Planetside 2 plays a *lot* like 3.

          • MrUnimport says:

            The Battlefield-style (BC2 I should think) gunplay was one of the big draws for me. I think the problem is that it just doesn’t work out at the 100-player level. PS2 is a very solid shooter on a small team basis, but it gives players incentives to concentrate into unstoppable deathballs, and the tools to move around the map extremely quickly. The result is that commanders don’t want to engage in fights unless they can win, which means attempting to outpop the enemy as much as you need to to secure quick victories, and not persist in losing fights when your manpower could be better used elsewhere. Unfortunately, this often puts commanders and underlings at direct odds with each other in terms of the kind of fun they want to have; players hate being forced to ‘ghostcap’ empty bases, but it might be important on a strategic level, whereas commanders hate being ‘farmed’ on an unsuccessful attack, though players might find the fight engaging even if it’s hopeless.

          • fish99 says:

            If you can’t even remember that the game isn’t hitscan I’m going to assume you didn’t play it much.

          • geldonyetich says:

            I’m going to assume you didn’t play it much.

            According to Steam, I played it 134 hours. How’s your assumption working you for you?

            I’d say it wasn’t so much I didn’t play it much as much as I didn’t play it recently. I can’t be expected to remember a detail like that when I haven’t played it in years. (Though I did boot it up briefly a few months ago to test out how well it played on my new system, but it was pretty dead, so I didn’t really get to do much gunplay.)

            Having played a lot of the first Planetside, I would have loved to play more Planetside 2. However, because my overall experience with it was overwhelmingly depressing, I really couldn’t get into it much, despite my best efforts.

        • Flopper says:

          You didn’t like BF2 or 3. But fortunately millions did. So they chose the right game to model off of. Clearly this isn’t your game because you think things are impossible.

          If anything, in PS2, anything is possible.

          One of the major draws for my small group and I is hitting back lines and flanking. We’ve never been denied an area because of the “ballistic model”.

          A simpler way of stating your point would have been. “I’m not good at this game. I don’t like this game because of it.”

    • Chromatose says:

      I’m not sure if this is related, but I bounced off the game super hard because the time-to-kill seemed wildly inconsistent – like, I could unload entire clips at people and they might die maybe 50% of the time, but usually I’d be cut short by them firing back in retaliation and killing me in a fraction of the time. Skilled players could get the drop on you and kill you instantly, whereas the few times I was able to get the drop on somebody, I’d merely aggravate them and receive a thorough pasting in return.

      Not to mention the amount of times where team-killing was almost a daily reality. People on the same faction as me would often deliberately move into my line-of-sight and block shots I was trying to take as an excuse to retaliate and kill me.

      IDK I feel like the game has far more foundational problems than the fixes that are being outlined in the package. Nearly five years in, and the game still feels exceptionally hostile to anybody other than its most hardcore adherents.

      • L3TUC3 says:

        Found the NC player.

        • Chromatose says:

          A very astute observation. If it’s the case that New Conglomerate are underpowered compared to the other two sides, does that not suggest the game has some pretty serious balancing issues? Although FWIW, I also dabbled in the other two factions and that wasn’t really the case. I get the hunch it’s more like the game just has lots of really obscure kinks to the metagame that aren’t really explained.

          • rpenm says:

            He’s referencing the fact that NC players are notorious for team-killing.

      • geldonyetich says:

        If I were to elaborate on specific experiences why I feel it’s, “Bad,” I would probably say something like this.

        But what makes it bad is it creates a very frustrating, unwelcoming environment. A lot of players will give up the nth time after getting ganked in futility. The rest will eventually bore and leave anyway.

      • rpenm says:

        Each weapon has an optimal range and associated tactics, so having the drop on another player is not sufficient. In addition to being better at scoring headshots and managing recoil, veterans just have better tactical knowledge to out-TTK new players.

        This long after release, any game that rewards skilled play will have a horde of veterans making life difficult for new players. It’s a tough design problem.

        • geldonyetich says:

          I would argue the problem is far worse than the inevitability of a veteran skilled play pwning new arrivals. The very fighting model of the game is such that it does not clearly communicate to players how they can do better. Further, the most successful tactic of the game is basically to set up and gank people who never even detect you. Put those things together, and it’s far beyond the realm of, “L2P Newb” and into the realm of an inherently inaccessible, unfriendly experience to new players, no matter how many tooltips you stick in it.

          On top of that, I’m pretty sure that latency and lag are both problems with the engine. Back when it first came out, players with cutting edge CPUs could absolutely pwn people before they could even *react* to their presence, due to optimization problems. You can see that in various YouTube videos where they brag about their kill streaks, look at their targets, they didn’t even know they were *there*. It’s not because those players were bad, it’s because their clients were absolutely not informed before the game killed them. Internet latency further exasperated the problem by adding additional milliseconds to what was already an unrecoverable fight due to machine lag being unable to process what was going on in time.

          Even the original Planetside had a bit of that going on. Not the CPU bottleneck that Planetside 2 had, but rather an issue where players could strafe back and forth and this would cause them to rubberband on their opponents crosshairs as the prediction code attempted to keep up with them but instead ended up projecting their location as far from where they actually were.

          • MrUnimport says:

            > Further, the most successful tactic of the game is basically to set up and gank people who never even detect you.

            Not really sure what this means. The top players routinely play aggressively. It’s their understanding of the game’s recoil mechanics, extensive practice, use/abuse of full heal medkits, habit of running in packs, and other skills that let them basically shut out groups of average players entirely.

  3. VeNT666 says:

    I attribute the fall of this game entirely to RPS stopping playing in any major form.
    I understand why the team fell apart. But it doesn’t mean I don’t miss those nights.

    • Biscuitry says:

      What happened? Was there some sort of drama, or just people moving on to other things one by one?

    • CMaster says:

      A lot of the people who played are still about, although admittedly not playing any one game. You can find them on the RPS Discord (I’ll be spambotted if I link it though).

      It’s not just RPS that demised though – I gather that most other outfits that went for that side of play decayed away long ago, leaving just the true zergfits and the outfits of elite farmers.

      • MrUnimport says:

        That’s the real tragedy. The tactical layer, the mid-size outfits, withered and died one by one. The leaders and skilled players gravitated towards the ‘MLG’ outfits who were all focused on racking up as many kills as possible, as many headshots, maxing out their stats. Hopping from one fight to another as long as the farm was good. They were very open about their desire to view the game as a deathmatch arena and to maximize their score in accordance with the provided statistics. Meanwhile all the lower-skilled players, bereft of coordination, just joined up with the biggest outfit going, the ‘true zergfits’, who thought they were doing a service while making the game intensely boring for anyone involved.

    • Rizlar says:

      o7

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      they’re over at discord.gg/rockpapershotgun (We have a vanity url!) – or click my name, the profile links to the discord :)

  4. PHPH says:

    This game ran poorly for me. I had annoying and constant stutters that crippled the experience for me, especially in a shooter. While reading around, it was apparently something that affected a large number of people, most, if not all of which, ran AMD cards.

    It’s fun, but ugh.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      When did you last play? They combined the PC and PS4 codebases a while back, and that included a whole mess of optimisations.

  5. Biscuitry says:

    I haven’t played in a few years (they’d not long since added continent locking and base building wasn’t a thing yet) so take all I’m saying here with a generous pinch of salt.

    I never really got into Planetside 2 the way I did with the original. Something that always comes up when the first Planetside is discussed is the way it was great at creating war stories for us to tell. The 1% is a classic one that has been told on this very site, but there were always little personal ones you’d pick up. I never got that from Planetside 2.

    I do have a few stories, all from the beta, but after a while it all ended up becoming a bit samey.
    “Remember that time we spent all day defending/attacking The Crown?” “Which one?”

    I wanted to love Planetside 2. I still do. But if it was never memorable enough to tell stories about, what chance did it have?

    Oh, all right. I do have one good one. For a while in the beta, Galaxy dropships were also mobile spawn points the way Sunderers are now. I managed to park one /inside/ the dome of a biolab, wedged up between the dome wall and a building. I like to think we won that one because the Vanu were laughing too hard to shoot straight.

    • wickedparadigm says:

      I had the same. I keep popping back in the game thinking “oh I’ll just have to get used to it” and leave after half an hour mumbling something along the lines of good old times in Planetside 1. The game for me got too vertical, all too often you just don’t know where the shots are coming from.

      I would love to like it but it just isn’t what I loved in PS1. I can remember many stories about my time in the first title, and just about none in PS2.

      And being a galaxy pilot at heart makes me really cry for the good old times. Provoking Orbital Strikes by parking in the courtyard and then dodging them was fun! Being in a Rexo with a Bolt Driver and using it as a shotgun indoors.. mmm

  6. BaronKreight says:

    I nejoyed this game back in the day. Decided to reinstall today. Got a you’ve been disconnected from the serever message. Let’s see what their support has to say.

  7. Splyce says:

    PS2 really failed to capture what made the first one so good, which is to say that it lost its soul or character. What I remember most about the first installment was the pacing…it seemed like a much slower game in practice, with the build up taking longer and making each deployment or decision to move your platoon across the map meaningful. Daybreak nee Sony Online decided to make a twitch shooter that played out over big maps. It’s like taking a suspenseful baseball game, and giving it the pacing of an NFL game in practice, if that makes sense. Frenetic, fast based, in the middle of the fight now-type gameplay laid over the skeleton of something that wants to be a strategic, mixed forces, large scale battle game.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah the spawn mechanics and desire for ‘instant action’ were something the developers seemed to wrestle with the whole time I played. Best moments were always mobilising en masse with vehicles and air support etc. <3