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PlanetSide 2's Critical Mass update overhauls capturing continents

Blinded by the light

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.

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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.

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Dominic Tarason