Of the three continents currently available in PS2, Indar (the first one made available) continues to hold its sway over me. Its radical environmental and geographical variety offers a persistently growing and ever-changing list of tactical opportunities for the observant crowd. Exploiting terrain and cover while assaulting and defending structures is the kind of thing that makes PlanetSide 2 shine. And nowhere is this more self-evident than when you find yourself holding out in or charging at the monument of carnage that is The Crown.
Tower assaults hold a special place in my heart. At the outset of my PlanetSide 2 career, back during the closed beta period, I spent most of my time flying Galaxies. As a Galaxy pilot, your role was crucial: deliver teams of reinforcements at the landing pads and push the enemy off balance by forcing them to move lower into the structure where friendly ground vehicles could more easily dine on enemy infantry. Back then, Galaxies could be used as spawn points for infantry once they entered a "deployed" mode. This mode also activated side-mounted shields, which essentially turned the lumbering Galaxy into a brutally efficient, multi-turreted forward base. Needless to say, towers changed hands very often back then. But no more. Things have changed, and while some towers continue to be soft targets to coordinated teams, one has now earned a brutal reputation as PS2's equivalent to the Alamo.
That's No Moon
The Crown was already a tough target before the Galaxies lost their spawner and shields. Its positioning atop a steep hill, surrounded by broken terrain on three sides and a cliff to its north, makes it all but impregnable to quick vehicular assaults. Likewise, its commanding 360-degree view of the surrounding battlefield and complement of flak and anti-tank turrets turned into an outright no-fly zone when accompanied by AA launcher-heavy infantry manning its balconies. Combine this with an internal vehicle bay, aircraft pads, and densely packed structures, and you essentially have yourself a fortress unmatched by any other structure on any other continent.
We Don't Go To Ravenholm The Crown
It's difficult to explain, but when under attack and fully manned, The Crown is almost eclipsed by a constant shower of incoming and outgoing fire. It's like a dragon indiscriminately spitting fire while sitting on a turbocharged lazy Susan. It looks like death because it is death—for anything that gets too close. For some strange reason, this unending stream of destruction attracts a lot of inexperienced aircraft pilots, and so it earns its second metaphor: the irresistible, incandescent bug zapper (it's oddly appropriate for TR fighter pilots!).
Some outfits make a point of it to either defend The Crown to the last man or to ignore it entirely. It's not unusual to see the structure overwhelmingly surrounded and cut off from the rest of its friendly hexes. Sometimes the defenders become so fixated on it that everything else they own falls into enemy hands, often leading to a complete faction rout as income streams are choked. Other times, it's the attackers that become fixated, and a few dedicated defenders hold out against insurmountable odds as the rest of their team sweep the continent for an easy victory. The Crown is more than just the structure and its income; it presents a tactical and strategic choice.
So Hard, No Caveman Can Do It!
Let's take a closer look at the surrounding killing fields, so that you can see your choice of (unsavory) approaches to the meat grinder. To the east is an unscalable incline all the way to the hilltop, but slightly southeast is your first approach, a curvy road flanked on both sides by rocky hillsides and steep cliffs. "Defensible" doesn't begin to describe the kind of punishment that will be visited upon a column of unprepared vehicles trudging towards this dangerous approach. Rocky overhangs and overlapping cover provide a haven for infantry who will likely welcome you with a shower of explosive shells and grenades. Snipers will pick off attackers running up the narrow traversable embankments, and light infantry will skip between the rocky outcroppings, making the whole place look like an agitated hornets nest. It's going to hurt, and it will be slow going, but at least here their vehicles can't fire down on you and you are well out of sight for the phalanx turrets.
North is what, at first look, appears to be an impossible incline, from the southern Indar Highlands to the sunken and desolate northern desert. It has bare and treacherous rock from the hilltop to one of the lowest points in the continent. Hidden in plain sight, there is a narrow, swerving footpath that doubles in on itself as it ascends to the top. This is no Achilles' Heel. You can't get vehicles up this road, and without a Sunderer at the bottom, it's quite a long trip for attackers. Expect rolling grenades and indiscriminate bullet spray from on high as you get to relive the Rangers' assault on Point du Hoc, except one misstep sends you to a sandy rather than a watery grave. It is possible to direct friendly tank rounds to the cliff top from the desert below with some careful aiming and generous compensation for distance. It will, however, be of little service as you crest the hill and find yourself facing the enemy's crowded vehicle bays. At that point, your fight is only just beginning.
To the west, nature gifts the defenders and the attackers with a rocky and almost flat platform overlooking (you guessed it!) yet another cliff. It's both a blessing and a curse. For defenders, this is Lightning tank heaven. As many as ten Lightning tanks can park up here, facing west and southwest at the nearby bridge—and don't even get me started on the amount of MAX suits often found here. Depending on their preference of armaments, this location further augments defenses with autocannons and additional flak emplacements, not to mention deadly sniper fire; that's the curse. The blessing is that if you are lucky enough to clear it, you can sneak Galaxies into quick combat landings here, ferrying troops from the valley below, well out of flak firing arcs. Get ready though, this makeshift elevator ride has claimed many Galaxies when the enemy calls in fighters to shake up your party.
And then we have the hill to the south and the aforementioned bridge. The bridge is easily the second most contested location in this map after The Crown itself. Its adjoining hex (Ti Alloys, Inc.) serves as a staging point for attackers, but it's likely also going to be under constant fire from the Lightnings and infantry I mentioned earlier. Crossing the bridge itself will be a costly affair, not to mention as soon as you do, you are faced with a sharp turn left covered by jagged rocks. Friendly vehicles and infantry will face withering fire as they negotiate the turn and find a phalanx turret, a ground vehicle resupply tower and a river of enemy armor coming from the enemy bay. The narrow, inclined road means this choke point will be costly to navigate, and the throngs of defenders will focus fire on lead vehicles, halting any advance as wrecks constantly block your path.
That leaves the gentle hill and its lone tree to the south, terrain dominated by the Crossroads Watchtower hexes. Of all available alternatives, this is the most palatable in my experience, and it presents the greatest opportunity to visit some serious punishment onto the defenders. First of all, it's the nearest high ground to The Crown, which means it's a good staging ground when supported by friendly Sunderers. The nearby tower and its vehicle bay can supply plenty of tanks and anti-aircraft Lightnings to defend and cover assaulting infantry. Make no mistake, vehicles continue to be relegated to a support role, because if they charge past the hill's crest, their lack of gun elevation and weak top armor will make them pay for their overconfidence. From the top of the hill, battle tanks and Lightnings can spray The Crown with unrelenting force, causing the defenders to abandon the hillside outcroppings and be pressed back into the tower itself and the surrounding structures. Furthermore, it's very easy to land shots at the entire side of the structure, including the interior vehicle bay. If covering fire is maintained, this presents the one and only favorable approach that I've found to push into The Crown. If the cover fire stops, the defenders will retake their hillside positions and forcibly push you back into the valley, where you will be easy pickings once more.
I guess at this point I'm supposed to tell you there's an easily exploitable weakness that people are ignoring, some secret avenue of approach or tactic that will earn you an easy victory. Sorry to disappoint you, but after countless hours of defending and attacking The Crown, its only weakness appears to be the combination of determination and organization of the attacking team. If they lack one of these factors, they will fail, and many will perish and be swept away. No amount of zerging will overtake this structure, and no amount of small squad tactics will either. The only way to take The Crown is with a concerted effort; even then, it's going to be a bloody and slow endeavor.
Something To Write Home About
I've been a witness to countless hundreds, if not thousands, dying while defending this structure, and many more while trying to attack it. After a particularly exhilarating and successful assault on The Crown, and among countless cries of unfairness and abuse at the defenders, I found myself lost in thought. It was incredibly rewarding to stand on its ramparts, at last, looking all around at the clearing smoke and piles of corpses just long enough to be pressed into duty again, this time taking my turn at defending the structure. This is what brings me back again and again; this is "it"—PS2's secret sauce—and the kind of experience they are trying to sell. It's that moment when you gain the upper hand and friendlies charge past you, the elation when you melee that last defender, or see the a lone enemy vehicle, trying to make a break for it, explode and roll dramatically down the hill so many died climbing.
For this week's spotlight image, I chose a picture of the aftermath of the fight for Monte Cassino during WW2.