Death by a thousand cuts
The Zerg, the Swarm, the Steamroller. It’s the most notorious phenomenon in Planetside 2. It’s the ultimate consequence of the game’s promise that size matters. This huge spaghetti of vehicles and infantry makes people rage quit and endlessly cry in forums. This 'zerg' has inspired loud demands to the developers to do something about it. It’s a seemingly uncontrollable, untamable beast, driven by the unstoppable hunger for base capture experience points.
The topic of this discussion is NOT about what SOE should change to make this phenomenon more controllable. Instead, this article focuses on what can be done now to use this horde to your advantage.
Understanding the horde: There's a lemming in all of us
In order to control this phenomenon, we must understand it. There are many mechanics in this game that reward sticking together - so many that it can become ridiculously problematic. An in-depth discussion of Zerg would require a separate article, but if you want to know more about it, there are plenty of good posts to be found. In the end, it comes down to the idea that being part of a Zerg seems like the easy way to win. One has to understand that many players are not organized in outfits that can bring multiple platoons to the table at any given time. For those players, casually joining an anonymous horde seems the most convenient way to win and gain XP. You just ride along; feeling invincible, killing off a few enemies here and there while the base capture experience points keep piling up your cert stock. Easy does it.
Time to fight back
So, if easy winning and XP gaining being one of the main drivers of the Zerg, what can we do to deal with it? More than you might think actually.
1. Avoid it
This is by far the most popular solution. Just moving away and picking a fight you can actually win instead of getting "kill farmed" is the logical thing to do for most players. On a strategic level, Planetside 2 is a numbers game where continent populations are important. In this numbers game, the Zerg is a bad economy of force in most situations and as an outfit, you're mostly better off maximizing your forces against other targets.
2. Split it
By careful and strategic capturing of points, you can force the enemy to split up and fight at another location. This is a good solution for smaller, organized outfits. In the example below, the Vanu Zerg is occupying the center of Esamir continent. Instead of facing the Zerg head-on, the outfit decides to make a move to cut it off. This forces the Zerg to split up and fight at another location to counter the threat.
3. Redirect it
This is rather hard to pull off and very situational, but it can be done. The idea is to strategically give up territory in order for the Zerg to fight your other enemy. An example is for the TR to not defend Crossroads Watchtower on Indar from a Vanu Zerg but instead retreat to The Crown. This redirects the Zerg towards the easy XP Zurvan Amp station if that is held by the NC.
4. Bleed it
As a Zerg drives further into enemy territory towards the enemy Warpgate, it has a natural tendency to divert itself and run out of steam. This can be helped by fighting a war of attrition all along the way, making it slowly losing its ability to spawn vehicles.
5. Ambush it
This is somewhat situational, but so far as the movement of the Zerg can be predicted, there are a few spots in this game that are ideal for ambushes. Just to give an example: A TR Zerg moving towards the easy XP Hvar Techplant on Indar is vulnerable to Vanu ambushes at the ravines near Quartz Ridge. Anti-tank mines, rocket launchers and Burster Maxes are your best friends is this scenario.
6. Start your own Zerg
This can become a handy instrument and is surprisingly easy to pull off. It only takes a squad or two to form up a neat column of vehicles at the Warpgate that will become a magnet to other players. Just wait a few minutes to grow it into a Zerg and then head out and lead the way. Use the easy XP driven Zerg to attack the big bases while your outfit splits up to capture the outposts surrounding it to speed up the influence. Of course you can always hook in again when the big base is about to flip.
7. Annihilate it
Yes, it is possible to fight the Zerg head-on. The magic word here is the Annihilator. Although borderline useless as a single player weapon, using this versatile launcher in teams is a whole different story. Outfits are just beginning to realize the hidden power of this ultimate lock-on beast. A single squad equipped with these rockets can tear down a platoon of air and ground vehicles in just minutes. Players are reluctant to cert into this launcher because of its lower damage output, not realizing that a couple of them teaming up can rip apart any vehicle in seconds from great distances. The trick is here to call out your targets. Of course when it comes to actually hitting your target, lock-on launchers have their problems. These problems are less apperent when using them in teams though and multiple lock-on warnings is enough to scare off any vehicle pilot, making these launchers excellent area denial weapons.
Looking forward: The Alamo for the masses
The mechanics of Planetside 2 will constantly change as with any developing MMO. These basics of dealing with a Zerg to your advantage will still be viable in the future, though, and can be applied to other games as well. There are some changes already announced that will impact the game in a way that make it more viable for smaller teams to defend against a Zerg. So, expect to pull off your own epic the Alamo or Thermopylae more easily in the future with the upcoming changes.
Disclaimer: This guide was based on extensive outfit play on mostly Miller server and to a lesser degree Mattherson and Connery servers. These are fairly competitive, high traffic servers, which reflect the way the Zerg behaves and is being countered. Results may vary on your server.