There are three factions or empires in PlanetSide 2: Terran Republic, New Conglomerate and Vanu Sovereignty.
How to choose a faction?
If you are a new player, choosing a main faction for yourself – create a character for each faction and try things out for yourself. Listen. Absorb. Try to get a feel for the faction as a whole: visuals, sound effects, general ideology and style.
“Do I like what this faction is about?” – is the question you should be asking yourself. The description of factions below should help you answer that.
Do not choose a faction based on perceived power of a certain vehicle or a weapon – things get nerfed, buffed and reworked all the time.
Weapon traits: Generally, TR weapons have high rate of fire, with a high damage output and large magazines, but long reloads and mediocre accuracy. Use conventional gun powder weapons. Empire-specific weapons – chainguns.
Engagement style is militaristic: get there fast, dig in, and obliterate any opposition with a rain of fire.
Weapon traits: Generally, NC weapons are accurate and have a high damage per bullet, but low rate of fire, and recoil can be sometimes hard to control. Use coilgun and railgun tech.
Empire-specific weapons – shotguns. All factions have access to shotguns, but NC have Jackhammer – NC HA-only burst fire shotgun, and they also mount shotguns on their vehicles and MAXes.
Vehicle traits: increased armor, high damage per shot. Reaver ESF has the strongest afterburners and really hard hitting weapons, especially up close. Vanguard MBT and MAX unit can shield themselves to absorb incoming damage.
Engagement style is guerrilla warfare: hit first and hit hard.
Weapon traits: Generally, VS guns are easier to hit things with. Average damage output and good accuracy. Most of VS weapons don’t have bullet drop, which helps at long distance shooting. Use plasma or energy weapons.
Empire specific weapon mechanic – adaptability. VS empire-specific weapons have different traits, but as a whole, their key feature is that they can be used in a variety of different ways, and remain effective in different circumstances.
Vehicle traits: maneuverability (don’t confuse with speed) and utility. Magrider MBT is a hover tank that can strafe to dodge rockets and cannon shells, its faction-specific ability is a turbo boost.
VS MAX ability is Zealot Overdrive Engine, which allows the MAX to move quicker and deal more damage at the cost of receiving more damage. Scythe ESF’s unique slim frontal profile make it a hard target in head-on fight. VS faction traits are hard to calculate in numbers, how exactly useful they are depends on individual player.