One month into the Galactic War, the Helldivers 2 community learned that spreading democracy isn't as easy as it looks

Helldivers 2 helmet
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

It's been one month since Super Earth High-Command mobilized the Helldivers into the Second Galactic War. Operation Valiant Enclosure was supposed to be a simple counter-offensive, designed to halt an emerging Terminid advance on the Orion Sector. The battle to protect Heeth and Angel's Venture was easily won, but other threats soon emerged – while bugs swarmed eastern territories, a western front emerged as Automatons launched a debilitating assault against the worlds of Mantes and Draupnir. Our forces were spread too thinly. Countless colonies have been lost, and millions of Helldivers 2 soldiers are confirmed KIA; but still the battle rages on. As the war stretched into its fourth week, a Major Order sent us scrambling back to Heeth and Angel's Venture, the planets bordering Super Earth now engulfed in Terminid spores. The territories were held until SEAF reinforcements arrived, but there's no telling what hell awaits from here.

In an environment where live-service experiences feel increasingly caustic, Helldivers 2 is a real triumph. Titles that occupy this space have only become more demanding of our most valuable commodities – our attention, energy, and money – in the years since the battle royale supplanted the MMO as the ultimate time vampire, but there's something refreshingly refined about developer Arrowhead Game Studios' approach to player retention. There's no conventional battle pass to buy into, nor is the story sectioned out between seasonal rotations. Instead it's you, your friends, and an endless swarm of enemies to swat as you rotate between exceptionally simple objective-sets. 

Engage the ICBM, extract the hostages, eradicate your enemies, and try to minimize casualties. Or don't. Friendly-fire is switched on for a reason, and there's only so many times you can tell your buddy not to activate the Orbital 380mm HE Barrage Stratagem in an enclosed combat arena. That's all part of the fun, of course, so too is buying wholeheartedly into the fantasy of spreading democracy across exotic worlds. Something I really appreciate about Helldivers 2 is how lightly Arrowhead guides players between points of interest in its Galactic War. Hang around in the foyer of your Super Destroyer for long enough and you might see a propaganda video news bulletin dispatch from Super Earth trying to galvanize forces to specific planetary sectors, while the galaxy map will provide brief updates about the shifting frontline. 

A screenshot from Helldivers 2 showing a player shooting towards a huge explosion.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

"It's been fascinating to see the mentality of the community shift in real-time over the last four weeks. Scroll down to the 'Diaries from the Frontline' section of this article and you'll be able to see it too, where you can follow along with our reporting across the first month of Major Orders."

You can ignore all of this to a point, fighting across planets that aren't tied to any wider rewards or orders, but the fact that the community has rallied so completely behind the fantasy of the Galactic War speaks to how exceptional Helldivers 2 is at its core. The fall of Malevelon Creek, two weeks into the war effort, was a galvanizing moment for the playerbase. The first failed Major Order not only exemplified a need for greater strategies than point and shoot when battling in Automaton controlled space, but it also reinforced this idea that all can be lost if we don't come together. The rhythms or war aren't determined by a scripted story, but rather the mobilization of the entire community – fight together for democracy, or lose access to playing on 'Robot Vietnam'; the choice was ours, and we chose poorly. 

It's been fascinating to see the mentality of the community shift in real-time over the last four weeks. Scroll down to the 'Diaries from the Frontline' section of this article and you'll be able to see it too, where you can follow along with our reporting across the first month of Major Orders. You can see Helldivers 2 transform from an exceptionally co-op fun shooter into something greater, an experience being propelled by a developing camaraderie between the wider community – a commitment to the fantasy of doing your part for the war effort. 

We've also had to contend with the hidden hand of Arrowhead. We learned ahead of Helldivers 2's release that the shooter would sometimes be impacted by a game master, members of the development team who could introduce new twists into the outlay of the Galactic War. Joel, as he's now known to the community, is watching you mobilize in real-time, occasionally dropping in new Stratagems or ramping up the enemy density to help imbue the experience with sharp salvos of unpredictability. It's been transformative for Helldivers 2, making it feel as if the war could take a turn for the worse at any moment – the community has responded in kind, able to mobilize quickly to planets at risk of being lost after the call to battle is sounded on social media. 

Helldivers 2 has had a phenomenal first month of active service. If it continues on this trajectory – where hundreds of thousands of players are jumping online simultaneously to help win back specific territories – then there's every chance that the game will soon reach cultural phenomenon status. I can see that happening, truth be told, particularly given the direction the war is currently unfolding as it enters its next phase. Super Earth has been forced to halt production of the EXO-45 Patriot Exosuits, the facilities stockpiling the technology under attack by the Automatons; it has been requested that all soldiers report into Tien Kwan to repel the assault. If the Theseus Sector is lost, High-Command won't be able to roll out the Helldivers 2 mechs on a timeline that we were anticipating – and that is a silly, wonderful thing.

Diaries from the Frontlines: Tracking the Galactic War effort


How to liberate Tien Kwan in Helldivers 2 and Help the mech manufacturers before it's too late 

Need more games like Helldivers 2 in your life? Check out the best shooters storming digital battelgrounds right now 

Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.