3: Allatum Bio Lab
Every hex of Indar's map has at least one capture point that the game's three sides can take. If these points are held for long enough – and your side holds an adjacent hex – then the area turns to your side, affording resource bonuses that can be used to buy vehicles and items. Larger bases have up to six of these points. Allatum Bio Lab's six points – A through to F – are more tightly clustered than most, owing to its strange construction. The Lab stands on stilt-like legs, its open top ensconced by a wibbly blue shield. The shield prevents direct entry, but is transparent, meaning sneaky players standing on top of the base can call out enemy movements to teammates. With my oversized MAX suit armour giving me the bearing and firepower of a walking tank, I was able to direct my squad to capture the points under my stompy feet. When some inquisitive New Conglomerate players dressed in the armour of the light assault class tried to boot me from my roost, I warmed up my cycler chaingun – one of two heavy weapons glued to my robo-arms – and swatted him out of the sky. The Bio Lab slowly came under our control.
4: TI Alloys
A successful base capture is reflected by the capture bar in the bottom left of your screen. As players stand uncontested near an area's named points, they turn it to their side. The more players, the faster the bar fills up for the entire hex, granting increased resources to the capturing side. But the capture bar is also affected by 'influence': if a surrounding area is held by one team, their capture bar will already have a block of their team's influence in it, meaning it takes less time to turn a nearby area to your side. By the same token, it's tougher to strike out into unknown territory on the map: a mild resistance can stymie all but the most dedicated of squads. TI Alloys was a tough capture: its position in the middle of the map meant that all three factions exerted a claim, and Vanu and NC troops could be spotted milling around the nearby buildings and scurrying through fields. Filling the capture bar was a case of scaring off any would-be heroes with bursts of gunfire from my squad's MAX suit-clad heavy hitters. Once the takeover was complete, the Terran Republic was free to push again across the continent.
5: The Crown
The Crown is home to a meagre three capture points. It's also the site of some of Indar's fiercest fighting. It sits right at the centre of the map, and offers strategically excellent views of the surrounding countryside: a great place to plan a platoon's next move, or blunt an incoming assault. One such strike under cover of darkness by a Vanu group almost shifted my Terran brethren from the region. The Vanu led with Liberators, the armoured gunships hurling fire from the sky in the manner of World War One artillery chewing up no-man's land. I'm not too proud to say my friends and I hid, keeping ourselves indoors. One brave soul mounted an anti-air gun to spew out some flak, giving us enough time to sprint to vehicle console and scramble our own fighters to clear the air. The enemy Liberators – powerful at range but lumbering in a dogfight – were outmanoeuvred by a half squadron of nimble Mosquito fighters. I watched as my friends cleared the skies and then turned their chainguns on the Vanu land push below. Unsupported by an airforce, their Magriders crumpled and the assault dissolved back into the night.
Each faction has its own aircraft. The Vanu Scythe is a flying saucer, with the ability to stop and turn in mid-air, before scooting out of trouble. The New Conglomerate Reaver is a big and bulky gunship, armed with rockets as standard in addition to an air-to-air chaingun. I've spent a lot of time fl ying the Terran Republic's Mosquito. It's not got the armour, weaponry or agility of the other factions' ships, but it does have something they lack: raw speed. Pressing Shift engages an afterburner. At fi rst, I used it to fl y particularly hard into cliffs; now, I deploy it when my evasive manoeuvres have taken me behind a rock face, or when I'm sure I've shaken the bandit on my six. Air combat provides one of PlanetSide 2's highest spikes of adrenaline, but it also allows for great versatility: sky-types can spend their time battling each other, paying little attention to the ant-men scooting around on the ground. Or, they can equip their vessel with air-to-ground missiles and a punchy, focused chaingun, and pick out tanky targets on flybys. I prefer using air-to-air rockets and teaching the bulkier NC Reavers a lesson about.
7.1 Point A
Galaxies, when landed, become mobile spawn points, making them essential in the spearhead of an attack. They can also take a staggering amount of punishment. After my Terran friends and I realised where our Vanu usurpers were springing from, we were able to focus all firepower on the offending Galaxy. Amazingly, instead of acquiescing to our gunfire and blowing up, the Galaxy's pilot hopped back into the cockpit, lifted his charge into the air, and fl ew his burning, half-wrecked ship out of trouble. Or, so he thought. The moment he pulled his craft clear of our ground weapon range, a Terran Mosquito dropped into the six o'clock position behind him, its chaingun opening up with a cheery chattering noise. Even then, the Galaxy stayed intact, lumbering like a listing whale. The Mosquito was in turn tackled by a Vanu Scythe running interference for its bigger pal. Successfully chasing the Mosquito off, the Scythe turned in the air and rocketed directly upward; the last I saw of the Galaxy, it was disappearing over a rocky ridge, burning wings just pinpricks of light in the distance.