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An Afternoon In Amerish

Blue Sky Thinking

With huge changes appearing in the latest Planetside 2 patch, I decided it was time to pull my purple battle trousers, and head back into the fray.

Or, more accurately, amble like a lamb in the ultra-picturesque verdantly-carpeted meadows of temperate third continent, Amerish. Ooh, flowers!

Amerish, Planetside 2's third continent, is achingly pretty. Less a scarred battlefield, more a fabulously rugged ultra-pastoral science fiction holiday destination. For every battle fought there I've also spent a moment looking out over lush, hazy valleys as a perfect sun sets behind ancient, shattered mountains.

You've probably seen the continent trailer before, even if you're not in the beta, but it's worth a look.

Planetside 2's environment designers have hardly missed a beat in their science-fiction vista creation, and Amerish is the prettiest of the three by some margin.

I spent some time there this afternoon, racing about in the twilight, and then into the game's night, and then in the slightly misty morning, battling with an NC incursion on the VS Eastern flank. We fought furiously for control a bio-lab's weird jungle innards, and then the fight spilled out onto nearby plateaus: blistering exchanges of laserfire lighting up where the action was going at any one time. We knocked tanks out with rocket launchers, tackled enemy spawn points with small arms, and I managed to kill myself by flipping a quad bike at a crucial moment. Typical scenes from of any Planetside 2 action so far, albeit with the all changes of weeks of incremental fiddling by the devs.

The main thing that pleases me when playing the game now, and it's one I've mentioned before, is that the Sunderer has been beefed up as the main spawn point. With its mobile base system engaged it bolts itself into the ground on deployment. Amerish's terrain is ludicrously rugged, and perfect for hiding the bus-like vehicle near to enemy bases, giving your side a point from which to fall back and head out again once killed.

Anyway, temperate battle-paradise aside, things have quite changed a bit since the early beta, particularly in the way base-capture influences the wider game. Larger bases now have much more far-reaching effects, producing bonuses such as regeneration for the holding faction for the biolabs, and requiring a tech-lab for the production of main battle tanks. This means there's a greater overall reward for holding these locations, and will inevitably drawn more attention from organised factions in the game. Moreover, there are mega-bonuses for entire factions if they manage to capture an entire island.

Take Indar and you reduce the cost of items purchased with Infantry resources, take icy Esamir and you reduce the cost of vehicles purchased with mechanized resources, take Amerish and you reduce the cost of aircraft purchased with aerospace resources. These might sound like small beer, but the cost across hundreds of players will mount up, not to mention giving the more strategic players a target to aim for.

I have to admit that it still isn't clear to me whether SOE's approach to tweaking territory capture – the most important mechanic in the game after shooting dudes – is actually working. They explain: “With the new system, there will be three factors that determine the capture of the base, control node ownership, adjacent territory control and player leverage.” What this means is that the more people you have near a control node, the faster you capture it. You can stand further away, too, so that's nice.

But there's more: “Well, now the ticket count is zero-sum. This means that when a base is attacked, it starts off at 100% owned by the defending empire and the attackers have got to burn down the defender tickets at the same time as they increase their own. If they wrestle control back from you, they'll have to burn down your progress as well. For multi-control node facilities such as Biolabs, or outposts like The Crown, having people locking down the nodes becomes more important than just rushing to the next node to flip it, not only because the people posted up on that node are keeping it from being captured by an enemy, but also because they're helping to move the capture needle faster for your empire.”

I think that sounds better. I am honestly not sure. I'll have to play a bunch more to see whether it actually feels as intuitive as SOE are claiming it should. They've made a huge number of changes in this beta, and with a game as big as this it's been hard to keep track of them without playing all the time. I've still barely worked out half the interesting builds in the class and vehicle certification menus.

That aside, though, there are two things left for this beta. One is seeing what optimisations they can still bring in to get it running better on lower end PCs. I am not sure Planetside 2 will be game enough for many people to want to upgrade. Some will, of course, but older, weaker machines are being left behind, and that's a shame when Amerish looks as pretty as it does.

The other is seeing SOE get this beast to launch, so that we can actually play with anyone and everyone, and have brimming continent populations at all times of day. This has been a long beta, and the need for more general player traffic is clear. When that happens, the RPS Army can really roll out.

Only one week to go.

For now though, I'll get some chums, and go kill some more NC. The valleys of console land might ablaze with Black Ops and Ancient Evils awakening, but they all look pretty weak next to one of Planetside 2's full-blown tank battles. And those three max kills we got this afternoon were just too sweet. And I really want to try the new Lasher. I'll stop. You've got other things to read. And I need to go play.

Planetside 2 is released on the 20th of November.

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Jim Rossignol