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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Helldivers II: I’m Doing my Part: Or How I Learned to Embrace Democracy

Screenshot: Helldivers II

I’m wary, probably because of my advanced age, of the “hot” new thing. I mean, I played some Lethal Company and beyond a few proximity chat laughs, I didn’t see the long term appeal of that game. I thought Helldivers II was more streamer bait: semi-emergent with “funny” physics when your character inevitably meets their demise.

I am okay to admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong about Helldivers II

And I just have to say: how undemocratic of me. If Lady Liberty heard what I had to say, I couldn’t even complain about being sent off to one of the rumored detention camps. Democracy is being threatened, and Super Earth is calling for Helldivers to help wage their galactic war. I’ve taken up the call to Liberty, and man it’s fun to spread democracy.

Screenshot: Helldivers II

If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock and missed the Helldivers II phenomenon, here's a primer: A sequel to Arrowhead studios Helldivers, Helldivers II is a third person action game where you can play with a squad of up to 4 people as you unleash extreme firepower unto your enemies. Each drop is procedurally generated, so you’ll never get exactly the same experience twice. It’s also pure chaos on higher difficulties, with increasingly difficult armored enemies threatening to deplete your reinforcements. There are a lot of opportunities for emergent gameplay, as well, making Helldivers II a perfect game to mess around in with friends.

The gameplay is simple to grasp: jump into a hellpod, choose your strategems, and then spread managed democracy to whatever backwater planet is being overrun with tyranny. Objectives, despite their varied names, are very same-y, however: go to a place, do a thing that usually involves a D-Pad style quicktime event, and kill enemies until that task is complete. Sometimes you’ll have to turn a wheel or push an extra button or two, but it’s all pretty much the same.

So what’s the draw? Combat bliss. With friends!

Screenshot: Helldivers II

Combat in Helldivers II is fun as hell. Waves of bugs or automatons are nothing compared to the steel resolve of the Helldivers–and that’s because they have some of the best weaponry Super Earth can muster. If you’ve unlocked it using requisition points, that is. Guns feel great to shoot, and Helldivers are able to call in airstrikes and orbital bombardments to blanket an area with Democracy. 

Each Helldiver can employ what are called stratagems to even out the odds on the battlefield. To employ a stratagem you have to employ its specific code–thankfully written on the screen–and throw it in a (hopefully) advantageous spot. This harkens back to Magicka and Arrowhead’s earliest forays into games where friends can kill each other easily. Stratagems aren’t just airstrikes and orbitals, however–you can call down defensive turrets, gun emplacements, shields, advanced weaponry and more.

Helldivers II is a more physics-based, sandboxy type game. Each mission you drop into a semi-open world style environment where you can choose objectives at whim. If you want to spend your time destroying every outpost and finding every item you can–if time allows. Or if you want to just do the main objectives and extract, that’s up to you. Time is your only real constraint. When you run out of time you lose access to reinforcements and all other stratagems. 

Enemies in Helldivers II are relentless, and even a bit terrifying. There are two main threats: the robotic Automatons and the Starship Trooper adjacent Terminids. Whether you’re shooting robots or bugs, they explode in the appropriate amount of parts and (where applicable) gore. Each faction of enemies have an array of melee versus ranged enemies with the Automatons employing guns while the Terminids overwhelm and get into your lines with jumping bugs. Each has their larger armored variants. 

Helldivers II has a promising future, too. It makes sense: sales of Helldivers II have been steadily increasing since its release about three weeks ago. That’s incredible for any game, let alone one that wasn’t technically AAA. Developer Arrowhead studio has great plans for Helldivers II, as well. Some of these promises will be delivered soon, with mechs and vehicles to add even more chaos to the battlefield. 

There have even been a few tweaks that the community is having a hard time with, like the recent nerfs to the Railgun, Breaker Shotgun, and Shield Backpack. But that just shows that the development team is ready to tweak things behind the scenes as they’re needed.

That also turns out to be true when it comes to Helldivers II’s campaign map. This map represents the ongoing war efforts. But there is a game master tweaking numbers and making it a hard fought battle for Super Earth. I really like the concept of developer game masters actively participating with their players. It’s something I wish more games would do.

Helldivers II also excels at its presentation. It has a depiction of fascism that Paul Verhoeven would appreciate, and is no doubt inspired by Starship Troopers. Helldivers II also has a fantastic soundtrack that really makes you feel like you’re ridding the galaxy of tyranny–when it could be that you’re just as tyrannical. Even the player lobbies are over-the-top as each player gets their own destroyer. I mean, those orbital bombardments come from somewhere. And deploying onto planets as a literal shooting bullet can’t be too feasible in reality, but it’s rad as hell.

Like I said. I was wrong about Helldivers II. After some democratic re-education I’m now doing my part for Democracy–and so should you. Bring friends, because freedom carries a lofty price, and remember, if you shall fall there’s another Helldiver ready to thaw out to take your place.

Helldivers II is out now for PC and PlayStation 5



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