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PlanetSide 2 has added orbital strikes and massive warships

Bring your brown spandex

After several delays, PlanetSide 2's biggest update for years, Escalation, went live overnight.

Players of the massive scale three-way sci-fi FPS will now have access to giant shields, orbital bombardments, tank airdrops, and the most exciting bit: carriers. You see the big fellers up there? You could be in one. Or, more likely, have to team up with enough people to take it down.

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The Bastion Fleet Carrier is a gargantuan, one-per-faction warship summonable by outfits who've gathered enough resources to craft its components. One player will steer it, while others man its nine turrets and the remainder of its 48 seats are for passengers. Outfit members can respawn there, and its mere presence will probably summon air fleets and panic tank drivers. It promises to be an absolute monster, totally changing any battlefield it looms over.

Taking one down sounds interesting too. It has eight specific weak points that must all be kicked in. It slowly regenerates but can't be repaired, so fighting it hopefully won't be the usual "engineer repairs vs rocket/sniper shots" tug of war.

Escalation is the heftiest update since player-made bases were added in 2016, and potentially bigger. It's focused firmly on "outfits", essentially clans of organised, often very experienced players.

Outfits that capture and hold bases will accrue resources over time, which they can use to call in a massive bulletproof dome, airdrop a vehicle or a squad of people, and even call down an orbital strike to melt that column of Terran dorktanks. They're also making the Crown more valuable, which, well. Maybe the single battle that's been going on there since 2013 was starting to slow down?

Less dramatic additions include Outfit Wars, a separate contest taking place on an asteroid (see above), changes to resource acquisition, and a non-violent, cross-faction area to chat and trade in. Players joining an outfit will gain loyalty points by capturing or defending bases with other members, giving them more access to items provided by outfit leaders. There's an obvious keenness to get people talking and working together even more, since a lot of players tend to lose interest without people to play with.

Not me, though. I play as a solo infantry schlub, so most of the changes won't hit me directly. But outfits tend to be the driving force behind the most spectacular battles though, spearing heads and breaking deadlocks, and some of the good ones even recognise when randos like me pitch in. The mega-fights are great but it's the tiny skirmishes and unofficial, momentary teams that happen unplanned that I love.

It seems that Daybreak have put their eggs back in the old basket after canning PlanetSide Arena, their attempt to get in on the battle royale goldrush, when it failed to get significant player numbers. Former figment of RPS Brendan Caldwell and I played a few hours of that and I kind of liked it, but mostly it just made me want to play PlanetSide 2 again.

Over the years, average player counts have naturally sunk to a fraction of the game's heyday of 2013-14. But they've been recovering somewhat in recent months, and climbed to a four-year high after midnight. It certainly seemed busier when I ran around in the pretty swamp for a while, distracting turrets and being a lot better at blowing up tanks than a retired infiltrator ought to. The fight lingered after a base capture a lot longer than they do when it's very quiet, which I've always enjoyed. The cozy climbdown is the best bit, after all. I hope the changes pay off. It's a fun game, you know.

Full details about the Escalation update are available on the Daybreak forum.

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