This guide is intended to cover all the background and gameplay basics that the game itself does not.
What Is Planetside: Arena? What Is Planetside 2? What is H1Z1?
Planetside: Arena(PS:A), released to early access in September 2019, is a session-based battle royale shooter with large playercounts and large squads. It is an original production of Daybreak Games(DBG).
Planetside 2(PS2), released in 2012, is PS:A's immediate predecessor, a massively multiplayer open world first person shooter with large maps and large battles containing hundreds of simultaneous players. It was developed by Sony Online Entertainment and later sold to Daybreak Games, who continue to maintain it today.
H1Z1 is a series of various multiplayer survival games set in a zombie apocalyse, first released in 2015. It is an original production of Daybreak Games.
PS:A shares with PS2 and H1Z1 the game engine "Forgelight", many of the development staff, and many of the PS2 assets and core game mechanics. For this reason many of the tips that apply to PS2 also apply to PS:A.
I have experienced the game defaulting to Intel integrated graphics on my laptop. If your FPS seems unusually low, make sure the program is using your gaming GPU.
I have also experienced stutter that is solved by alt-tabbing out of the game and alt-tabbing back in.
Teams and Squads, and Important Team HUD
There are two modes in PS:A, Teams and Squads. The game can scale to 300 players in a lobby and probably beyond, but matchmaking currently tends to give around 60-120.
Teams are groups of three people and are most similar to teams in "Apex Legends". When playing in teams you have control over when and where you drop on the map.
Squads are groups of twelve people, with a predetermined drop site.
In both modes, the ultimate goal is to win the "battle royale" by eliminating all the enemy players. You can see the remaining players and squads, as well as your own team's status by looking to the left:
Nanites can be spent on revives or at vending machines to get upgrades. Every revive bunker has a vending machine below it, so you can use it after getting a revive to have starter equipment again. It's a good idea to keep around a reserve of 1000 so that you can help your team.
You can also bring up a more complex report by pressing the Tab key.
The Map and Getting Around With Your Personal Vehicle
This image contains the three most important things about the map for basic play:
You can zoom the minimap with the + and - keys, but I prefer rebinding them to the mousewheel to quickly adjust zoom.
To see a larger map and set waypoints, press M.
To take out your personal vehicle for fast travel, press X. There is no cost to the vehicle, but after usage it has a brief cooldown. This means that you can use it to run into trouble, but you might not be able to get out of trouble.
There are two types of vehicles.
The Flash is a familiar quadbike from PS2. It is best at getting big air jumps which you can use to get above enemies. This is a vehicle for players who want to use their vehicles for offensive pushes.
The Tempest is a hoverbike, new to the Planetside series. It is best at horizontal movement and escapes and has slightly unusual steering: point your view in the direction you want to turn. Strafe with your A/D keys. This vehicle is the best option for most players.
Both vehicles have a turbo which is activated while holding Shift key. Be careful when using turbo and jumping: crashing into rocks at high speed will kill you.
Looting in PS:A is as easy as it can get, no nasty inventory management here! Run around finding the floating icons and mash your E key. Most items are upgrades and go in this color order: Green, Blue, Purple, Orange (gold). If you can upgrade it, you'll pick it up. Purple crates contain the rare stuff and take a little longer to open. Airdrops appear later in the game and you can spot them on the minimap or by looking for orange columns on the horizon.
Some loot is swappable: power weapons, grenades, and heals. Hold the E key if you want to swap these.
Don't forget to pick up nanites (coins) and ammo boxes too, they will help out your whole team.
Weapons, As Briefly As Possible
Selecting weapons in PS:A is like most shooters: press 1, 2, 3, or 4 and you select that gun. Press G to throw grenades. Press H to use your heals if you have them.
There are two important things to remember about your weapons. First of all, once you've upgraded to Epic (purple) level, your 1 and 2 weapons will have underbarrel alt fire. This is a toggle and you activate the toggle by pressing the weapon key again: For example if you currently have your pistol out you would press 1 to arm your primary, and then 1 again to switch to your primary weapon underbarrel.
Every class of gun has a different type of underbarrel: some are good at clearing infantry, others at vehicles. You may find that you want a gun that isn't as good as shooting because the alt fire will help you with a certain scenario.
Second, the power weapon in slot 4 is the only gun not in your loadout when you drop. You can only find them from airdrops. Power weapons are key to having anti-vehicle capabilities and you will need some for the late game!
Before we finish with weapons, let's also mention grenades. There are four grenade types:
- Frag grenades are common and easy to understand: throw them and they do damage.
- Void grenades are slightly more rare and work like smoke in other games: You can't see through them or inside them, but you can fire through them. Throw them at yourself to escape, or at enemies to flush them out of cover.
- Radiation grenades have a firebomb/molotov/gas type effect: the AOE is a pain field for a limited time, which will make enemies try to get away.
- The Orbital Strike is a legendary quality grenade and will trigger a huge blast from a space cannon wherever it lands. The blast is telegraphed to all players with a voice message and minimap indicators. If you are inside the main blast you will be vaporized and must be revived from a terminal. If you are nearby you will take much less or no damage and be thrown clear.
The shooting model in PS:A follows the general model of PS2, but with longer times to kill. This is in-depth gunplay. Bullets are projectiles(they take time to land when you're at a distance), and some weapons have noticeable bullet drop. There is an aim-down-sights key, and there is both bloom and recoil when you shoot your gun. Remember to stay still and crouch when you need to aim.
Headshots matter greatly: there is a very large multiplier, much larger than most games. However you cannot count on a consistent TTK because damage / shield varies depending on you and your target's equipment.
For best results with most automatic weapons, PS2 veterans recommend using bursts of 5-6 rounds, letting off the trigger for only 20-30ms or so. Effective bursting should look nearly continuous. Some guns have first-shot penalties to recoil, others have first-shot advantages, and bullet velocities also vary - the stats in the UI do not tell the whole story.
When sniping with a scout rifle or Daimyo, hold the Shift key to hold your breath and stop scope sway.
When you are floating in the air, take out your pistol(3 key). The game prevents ADS in the air with most of the guns, but the pistol is the exception. This can be combined with techniques to launch you in the air with vehicles, grenades or underbarrel for a "death from above" tactic.
Pain Fields, Circles, Airdrops
Like every BR game since the genre became popular, all the teams are forced to get closer and closer together through a series of circles that close in on the map. Going outside of the circle after it's closed puts you in a pain field, doing damage over time.
The circle closing is done in a series of "waves" in PS:A. After each wave is complete, the next one is shown on your map, so you have some time to think about where you want to go. In later waves the pain field does damage faster than earlier ones. Don't worry if you are slow in the first few waves and take some damage, because your health regenerates!
When you move to a new circle look for airdrop loot(indicated both on the minimap and by the pillars of orange light, the best equipment can only be found from these), revive terminals (important battle sites), and high ground (good defense).
Your Class Ability and Tool
Every character in PS:A has two class-based active powers available, which I will call by their bindings: the F key (ability) and 5 key (tool). These powers are complex enough that they deserve their own guides, but here's the quick summary:
- The Assault has a F that launches them forward with the jetpack, and a 5 deployable trap that acts like a flashbang.
- The Engineer has a F that deploys a Spitfire automatic turret, and a 5 that deploys a powerful shield wall in front of them.
- The Medic's F is an AOE passive heal and their 5 deploys an AOE shield regen buff.
When you get loot, you upgrade not just your guns but these powers as well, with faster cooldowns and bigger effects.
Besides your personal vehicle, you can also find larger vehicles with weapons around the map. These vehicles support a driver and two gunners. Enter the vehicles with the E key as with looting. You can change seats by pressing F1, F2, F3, so if you are driving solo you can still switch seats to man a gun.
If your vehicle dies, you die. Vehicles also cannot be repaired, unlike PS2. You can take perks that change both of these statements, but this is the default. Do your best to treat your vehicles well and conserve them for the fight. Even if you don't plan to fight from inside a vehicle, its additional HP can be useful to have.
At first you can only find the Harasser, a light vehicle that launches shells. The Harasser is vulnerable to small arms, so use its speed where you can.
After several waves the game will announce that the Vanguard tank is unlocked. Like the Harasser, it spawns on the map. The Vanguard is invulnerable to small arms - don't waste your bullets on it, switch to your underbarrel or power weapon. It has a cannon in the F2 seat and a machine gun in the F3 seat.
Stealth, Spotting, Callouts, Comms
As infantry, if you are shooting, you will appear on the minimap as a small red blot.
If you get in a vehicle, including your X personal vehicle, you will always appear on the minimap.
This means that if you want to stay under the radar, do not drive, walk.
PS:A carries over the spotting key Q from PS2, but its apparent utility is not clear at this time. No icons appear in the first-person view from spotting, but sometimes the voice-acted callouts from PS2 occur when you mash Q over vehicles.
To communicate with teammates, focus on voice callouts. The game currently does not have any other option for general communication. But remember, there are 12 people in squads. Just saying "on me" is really not good enough! Each person has a number assigned to them in the HUD and on maps. You can give a clear position or orders by stating your number, type of callout and compass direction:
Number 2, enemies northwest or "Number 2, Harasser on my 330". Or if desperate, "On me, number 2!"
The number 1 player is assumed to be squad leader and can also place a squad waypoint by pressing M to open the big map and right clicking on it. This player has no other powers, so it's not crucial for number 1 to be a good communicator, but it can help!