Planetside 2 was originally released in 2012, long before the Xbox One or PS4 were even available. Is the gigantic Free to Play MMOFPS still worth playing?
In a word: YES. Not because it’s a free game with a bucket-load of content, but because it’s a free game with a bucket-load of awesome content. This is everything you need to know about Planetside 2.
Free hugs, free money, free candy (except from suspicious looking vans); we can all universally agree that free is good.
The problem is that when it comes to games, free can (but doesn’t always) mean “free, because it isn’t good enough for someone to pay for.” Free games can be imperfect; brilliant concepts with an amateur delivery. If you squint, you can see what may have been with a full team and a decent budget, but the reality can feel underwhelming.
Not with Planetside 2.
Content. So Much Content.
This is the meat of the game. Some free games feel the need to cut back on content, with additional content available as paid extras, or DLC. Not here.
The war is waged between three factions – these factions are essentially the army you want to fight and die for.
First, we have the Terran Republic; conservative imperialists who are determined to bring the chaotic elements of human civilisation under their own authoritarian rule.
Next, we have the Vanu Sovereignty; a transhumanist cult of academics, intellectuals, and technology worshippers who believe that human destiny lies in the further development and exploitation of the alien Vanu technology.
Finally, we have the New Conglomerate; a group of libertarian rebels demanding greater freedom from the authoritarian rule of the Terran Republic. To some, they are traitors, rebels and terrorists. To others, they are heroes, freedom fighters and protectors.
Make your choice wisely; you cannot change Factions without creating a new character. Free accounts are given three character slots, enough for each faction, however, you will not be able to switch servers.
If you’re struggling to choose, go with the Terran Republic on Cobalt and add JohnSantina, or go with Vanu on Emerald and add GrownGamingDOTcom. I hear they are both pretty awesome (not really).
Once you’ve chosen your faction, you’re given access to 5 character classes, plus the intimidating MAX class. You can change your class whenever you die before re-deploying, at terminals or at Sunderers (mobile infantry vehicles) during the battle. Basically, Planetside 2 doesn’t tie you in – you can chop and change as much as you like.
Medics can provide medical assistance to fallen soldiers, while also being armed suitably with SMGs to do their own fair share of damage to the enemy.
Engineers can repair vehicles and the mech-suits known as MAX’s (more on those in a moment). They can also deploy turrets and hold their own in a gunfight thanks to their SMGs.
For the battle-hardened who don’t like playing a supporting role, there are a few more options. Heavy Assault soldiers have protective shields to maximise their killing time and are armed with the more powerful weapons in the game.
The Light Assault class utilise jetpacks to leap over tall structures and attack the enemy from obscure angles with SMGs.
Stealthy players can choose the Infiltrator, who benefit from a cloaking device which makes them practically invisible for a short period of time. Infiltrators can either equipped a sniper rifle to pick off targets from a distance, or an SMG to play a stealthy assassin role, waging a silent war behind enemy lines.
Finally, there’s the MAX; a mech-suit wearing super-soldier, which can only be used by spending gradually accruing points. This is solely to stop Planetside 2 turning into a huge mech-warrior battle simulator (play Warframe for a free to play version of this). MAX units are immensely overpowered, dispensing massive amounts of destruction and absorbing obscene amounts of damage before being destroyed.
So, we’ve established that there are enough maps to provide a fun playground for anarchists, and enough classes to provide different play styles. But, what about the weapons? Oh, they have those too. A lot of them.
Each faction has access to their own unique weapons. For example, the Terran Republic have access to standard bullet weapons, where-as the technologically advanced Vanu Sovereignty have more futuristic weapons.
One interesting aspect is that no one weapon is an upgrade on another; for every stat being increased, another is decreased, creating vastly different weapons with different advantages and disadvantages. Some powerful weapons are only useful at close range or have small clips and substantial reload times, while less-powerful weapons may benefit from a higher rate of rife and larger clips.
Choosing a weapon is basically the ultimate form of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But on top of this, there are vehicles.
Each Faction has access to a range of vehicles and aircraft. Again, some of these are Faction specific but equally well-balanced.
These include the Flash quad bike, a range of tanks, infantry transport units, fighter planes, and more.
The vehicles handle differently and each has their own purpose on the battlefield. Add to this the fact that each vehicle is upgradable and the depth offered by Planetside 2 increases substantially.
You haven’t witnessed a war game until you see a battle taking place between 50 tanks and 20 aircraft, with a few hundred infantry exchanging gunfire in the middle of the chaos. It is a breath-taking sight.
So, you’ve pledged your virtual life to a faction, you’ve chosen a server, you have a rough idea of which kind of soldier you’re going to play as first. Now you just have to choose a map.
Planetside 2 offers four huge maps for you to wage war on; Amerish, Esamir, Hossin and Indar, offering swamps, icy mountains, sandy deserts and snowy plains. And when I say huge, I mean it; thousands of human players can battle on each server, and yet large sections of the maps would still be completely empty.
Yes, thousands of human players. While a maximum capacity is far from common, the hardware and servers are equipped to cope with an obscene number of players at any one time.
That Sounds Awesome…I Want Everything!
Well, you can have everything. Y’know, if you play a tonne, earn a lot of XP and certs, and buy it all. Or, you can use real money.
But, wait! Before you close this article in a rage and go back to another FPS franchise, hear me out!
So…Is Planetside 2 FREE TO PLAY, and PAY TO WIN??
Some games do not get the right balance between being free to play and offering paid incentives to players.
In my opinion, Planetside 2 gets the balance perfect.
Yes, you can spend money to become a Daybreak member, increasing your cert and XP gain over normal players, but even free players will be rewarded fairly quickly just for playing. A membership is certainly not required, and I find that 99% of members pay just to support the developers, not to have an advantage.
You can also spend money on weapons and vanity items, including camo and helmets. The vanity items don’t mean anything, but they do make you look badass – however you can get some of these for free (see our previous article for free stuff).
Spending money on weapons can be dangerous in other games, but Planetside 2’s weapons, as mentioned, are side-grades rather than upgrades. They are evenly balanced overall, with different advantages and disadvantages to take into account. The standard weapons are no weaker than the most expensive weapons in the game, they simply offer different benefits.
In fact, the only weapon I have ever spent real money on was an SMG for my Infiltrator because I started a new character and didn’t want to have to earn one. I exchanged my money for ease, not for an advantage.
Despite this, a lot of the upgrades cannot be purchased with real money and must be earned through playing, such as improved armour, invisibility cloaks and grenades.
Should You Spend Money In Planetside 2?
All of this might pose the question: what is the point in paying? You get the maps, the factions, the character classes, some decent weapons – all for free. Why spend real money?
As mentioned, there are a few advantages to paying for Daybreak membership. You’ll be able to have more character slots, so you can play with friends in different continents.
Additionally, your XP and cert gain is accelerated, meaning you are able to obtain more weapons to experiment with and upgrade your weapons and vehicles quicker. This does make a difference, as you’ll be able to unlock cooler stuff 50% faster, but it isn’t game-breaking.
The only other reason to spend money is if you really want a certain side-grade weapon and just do not want to wait.
So, What’s The Verdict?
Planetside 2 is Free to Play done right.
You can play and love it without spending a cent, or you can spend some real world gold coins and get a kickass helmet to differentiate yourself.
The scale of the war being waged on each server on each map is jaw-dropping and needs to be experienced by all FPS fans. The variety of classes, weapons and vehicles will provide hours upon hours of fun, and no two battles will ever be the same.
Play Planetside 2. You owe it to yourself.