In terms of sheer size and scale, few shooters can match the PlanetSide series. Since 2012 (2015 on PlayStation 4), PlanetSide 2 has been a popular destination for first-person shooter fans looking to take part in battles which can consist of over a thousand players skirmishing endlessly for territory in sci-fi shooter experience unlike anything else on the market.
PlanetSide has always been unique in the online FPS space, but the landscape of multiplayer is changing, with battle royale titles proving to be more than just a hot new trend, as proven by the continued success of Fortnite and PUBG, and the arguably unexpected popularity of Call of Duty: Blackout. Many fans believed it was only a matter of time before PlanetSide threw its hat in the battle royale ring, and their suspicions were spot-on.
PlanetSide Arena is a new chapter in the franchise, bringing the scale of its franchise to the white-knuckle, one-life action of battle royale games, but with added twists that ensure this isn't just a cheap cash-in on popular trends; as players will discover on January 29, 2019, PlanetSide Arena is a whole new beast.
PlanetSide Arena Is More Than Just Battle Royale
In talking with Executive Producer Andy Sites, who shared gameplay footage with us, it was made clear that PlanetSide Arena is not PlanetSide 3, a next-generation PlanetSide experience, but it's not a half-hearted spinoff, either, and there will be no shortage of content for players to enjoy, including an ambitious Massive Clash mode, which currently stands as a 250 vs 250 battle royale mode, but which has the potential to double its player count to 500 vs 500. "We want to start with 250 vs 250. We can scale it up to a thousand plus. In the end, it's about what feels best and what's the most fun. If we want it to be 500 vs 500, then we'll do that."
Although the game will initially launch with battle royale modes, the plan is to expand with additional modes as the seasons go on, including Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Global Conquest, and King of the Hill, all with PlanetSide's signature player counts and specialized classes. There will be three classes at launch, though more will be added in the future, along with new maps and other updates.
Class distinctions are a big part of PlanetSide, and that plays a role in Arena, whether one plays solo, in teams of three, or in Massive Clash. Assault players have access to a jetpack which allows for guerrilla hit-and-run tactics; Medics can revive much more quickly than other classes while also restoring allies' health, and Engineers can plant Spitfire Turrets and get a buff to their shield regen rate. Each class's unique abilities, skills, and utilities, as well as jetpack fuel capacity, can be upgraded by collecting randomly placed pickups throughout the maps.
The PlanetSide Arena Approach To Battle Royale
While there are more modes to come, the fact remains: at launch, PlanetSide Arena will be a battle royale game. Even with the grand player count, many of the familiar tropes of the genre are present and accounted for, including a Battle Pass progression system, air-dropping into the map at the start of each match, and having to procure weapons and equipment from the environments, including legendary goodie crates. Like many BR games, there are vehicles littered about which can be driven and carry passengers and mounted weaponry, but there are also plenty of key differences which will surely help Arena to stand out from the pack.
PlanetSide Arena is bringing plenty of other big changes to the traditional BR formula. One particularly intriguing new trait is the game's approach to acquiring weapons, which mixes the "procure-on-site" improvisation of traditional battle royale games with something that resembles Counter-Strike's innovative use of in-match currency: weapon blueprints can be unlocked with the in-game stat-tracking Battle Pass, and these weapons will not be available as random drops throughout the battlefield; they can only be procured from terminals... Or the corpses of those who procured them from terminals. Says Sites: "The thing that’s great about Weapons Blueprints is that it takes the randomness out of the weapons selection, and you can know that as long as you get enough in-match currency, you can get the exact weapon that you want."
PlanetSide Arena Brings New Tweaks To FPS Gameplay
As mentioned before, PlanetSide Arena is a new chapter in the PlanetSide universe, but it's not a mere mod to PlanetSide 2; it brings many gameplay changes which have a significant effect on the moment-to-moment action. The most immediate change is the increased mobility of characters in the world. In addition to vehicles which players can summon at any time (and the aforementioned jetpacks, which bring to mind fond memories of fragging friends over dial-up internet in Tribes, all those years ago), movement has been tweaked slightly from PlanetSide 2 to make characters more mobile than ever before, and a lot faster than most battle royales on the market. Related to the movement change, the time-to-kill has also been extended to facilitate more strategic action, movement, and skill-based shooting, rather than the tired twitch shooting of some other games. Sites muses, "We wanted to have longer-engagement firefights. I love BR games, but the thing that drives me crazy is getting two-tapped and being done. Most games allow for overkill, to down enemies and then kill them right away. You can't overkill in our game. You have to wait until their countdown timer ends before they can no longer be revived."
Another big change is the "bleed-out" system, which is different from most BR games: bodies don't "pop" and give up their upgrades and weapons until the whole team is downed; even if an individual player gets taken down early, they don't give up their loot until their buddies are also taken out.
PlanetSide Arena Is Not Replacing PlanetSide 2
PlanetSide Arena is a whole new game. It has XP, a Battle Pass, and seasonal progression. However, it's not PlanetSide 3. As Sites explains: "What we want to make clear is that this isn't PlanetSide 3. This isn't just a fun new PlanetSide mode. It's our reinvestment in the PlanetSide franchise. PlanetSide is here to stay, and we're investing in it. We've made significant engine improvements to the game, which we're back-porting back into PlanetSide 2, as well. This is just the beginning. Long term, Arena is meant to essentially bridge the gap between PlanetSide 2 and the next full PlanetSide game that we release down the road."
To these ends, the announcement of PlanetSide Arena arrives with word of further updates to the mothership of PlanetSide 2. It's been five years since a new game space has been added to PlanetSide 2, but 2019 will see the release of Oshur, a brand new continent on which players can wage war on one another with the signature style and feel only PlanetSide can deliver.
"PlanetSide 2 has been around for six years now. It's got a hardcore, established player base. They're playing the game that they love. We want to be able to try a lot of new stuff that we wouldn't necessarily be able to try (in PlanetSide 2) without rocking the boat, and Arena is allowing us to do that.
PlanetSide Arena Is Not Free-To-Play
In this day and age, it's almost surprising to see a game like this carry a traditional price tag, since so many multiplayer-only titles have gone free-to-play, but indeed, PlanetSide Arena will cost $19.99 at launch (and a $39.99 Legendary Edition with some additional goodies), and will not support microtransactions, at least not initially. We've been reassured that there's no way to spend real-life money to boost your in-match currency and get a leg up on the competition. Unspent currency is discarded at the end of a match, so there's no way to throw games in order to cheese an unbalanced victory later. "We want to make sure everyone has an equal chance, an equal opportunity to win. Being able to boost or pre-purchase in-match currency would break that completely."
There's no pay-to-win tactics at play in PlanetSide Arena. This one-time payment almost seems like a throwback to a bygone era in which customers would pay to buy a game and then not be bombarded with further monetization opportunities, at least in the launch window. Thus, for now, Arena is a nice change of pace from the predatory practices of too many triple-A titles which have a bad habit of costing $60 and encourage even further spending through predatory 'recurrent user spending,' as they call it.
PlanetSide Arena is due out January 29, 2019 with Beta access coming earlier to those who pre-order the game.