Groups in PlanetSide 2 are called squads, and theyre made up of 12 players. If there are enough players to form multiple squads, up to four at a time can join together to form a platoon. When teamed up in this way, players can see other members color coded by squad on the map. Playing in a squad or platoon in PS2 is really the best idea. Besides the obvious benefit of having teammates to count on in a fight, joining a squad also allows the player to join the action quickly by using a drop-pod to get into the fight from anywhere on the continent.
Both the platoon and each squad have their own dedicated VoIP channels for facilitating conversation. Occasionally, that can prove irritating when players talk over each other but, as with the local VoIP channel, specific volume controls allow you to turn down offenders. With good communication a solid squad or platoon can create a gaming experience unlike anything in any other FPS.
Beyond the immediate fight, players can join an outfit in PlanetSide 2 (think guild or corp from other games). Outfits have their own VoIP channel for communicating with multiple platoons at once, and in PS2 the bigger the battle, the more fun it is. Outfits provide a faster way to find good fights, and SOE did a good job with the auto-squadding feature, which puts outfit squads at the top of the list when used.
Its really hard to argue with free, and PlanetSide 2 being free-to-play earns it a solid score in this category. Players are getting a triple-A title that they dont have to pay for. A lot of games have come out recently as pay-to-play and then switched to a free-to-play model as subscribers started losing interest. You dont even have to buy the game to play PS2, its a free download.
Just like other free-to-play titles, PlanetSide 2 does offer an online store where players can purchase upgrades with Station Cash. Upgrades are broken into three categories: Cosmetics, Certifications, and Boosts/Implants. Cosmetic upgrades are the only ones that cant be earned just by playing the game.
The decision to make every game-impacting item in PlanetSide 2 available through in-game mechanics was a wise one. Too often, companies try to squeeze a few extra dollars out of players by making something that changes the power dynamics of the game exclusive to the online store. That sort of pay-to-win system has consistently killed game communities and created pervasive skepticism when it comes to most free-to-play titles.
Conversely, offering a way to purchase those items for cash, as opposed to spending extra time in the game, makes PlanetSide 2 far more accessible to older gamers with busy lives. SOE accomplishes this without breaking the balance of the game because everything that can be bought can also just be earned, meaning that players are really just purchasing time and convenience more than anything else. Thats a winning recipe.
Based on some of the comments from the SOE devs about whats in the works, and what should be coming down the pike in the near future, this score could potentially be higher. For fans of the series, there have been some phenomenal ideas kicked around by both Smed and Higby, and Id be lying if I said I wasnt excited. The problem is that we have to grade games on their launched state, not their potential. With that in mind, there are a few things about PS2 that keep it from scoring as well in this category as it did in some of the others.
To begin with, there are really only three continents to fight over at launch, as opposed to ten in the original (not counting the caverns from Core Combat), and while the three we have are much better looking and the level of effort in the design of the continents is obvious, the game does feel significantly smaller.
The feel of the game being smaller is also exacerbated by the choice to lose the lattice system that tied facilities together in the first game. Because theres no real focus to move from one specific facility to the next, the battles become more spread out and involve several smaller engagements, rather than one or two larger ones. I know it was a design decision, and there were good reasons for it, but epically large battles have always been one of the defining characteristics of PlanetSide. I miss them.
That said, PlanetSide 2 is enormously addicting and fun as it stands now, even though, as a fan, I might wish SOE had handled some things differently. For example, though its not my favorite mechanic, I have to admit that the certification system with lateral upgrades provides enough complexity to give the game significant flexibility, and thus sustainability.
The fact that you dont have to worry about a subscription makes it easy to leave and come back to the game with ease. And, if you find that your friends have out-progressed you a little, you can just dump a small amount of cash into the online store and youre caught back up. With all it has going for it, even though it probably wont be the only pony in the stable, PlanetSide 2 is likely to be one of those games you turn back to periodically.
At the end of the day, you want to know whether PlanetSide 2 is a game worth playing, and my answer would be a definite yes. There may be things I wish SOE had done differently, but what game dont we have those thoughts about?
What matters is that, when it all shakes out, this game is fun and its free--a winning combination in anyones book. The size of the game makes it unique in the genre and provides something no pitiful Call of Duty game will ever be able to touch. Levels dont matter, so no matter how much time youve invested in the game, youll still be competitive. Thats good news for busy folks who cant afford a significant time investment.
SOE has created a pretty game with solid mechanics in PlanetSide 2, and theyre allowing you to play it for free. In my opinion, youd be smart to give it a shot. Its likely youll find a game that changes the standard by which FPSs are measured. So, get out there and defend your planet, Soldier!