Spreading democracy: How Helldivers 2 is changing the online gaming scene

Cover art for Helldivers 2. CREDIT: SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Helldivers 2 is a new PVE game that has brought a positively refreshing new feel to the multiplayer gaming scene that friends can enjoy playing together.

Online gaming communities have been known to be very toxic spaces for people trying to escape from the reality of life and spend time with friends. Competition is a fun aspect of the multiplayer experience, but when it’s taken to a negative level, it creates unnecessary hostility that just ruins the fun for everyone.

But there are new titles that have been released that have shone a positive light on multiplayer gaming, one example being Pal World. The game that has made the most notable impact recently is Helldivers 2. This game has cultivated an experience that brings players together to tackle complex missions that require teamwork to complete.

“In a way where all of us were divided at first, we were all playing our games where it was just competition after competition and Helldivers came out and made a community where we all had to work together for once and I feel like that is what sparked the revitalization in the community,” said Donnie Russell, a Fanshawe student who enjoys playing the game with his friends.

The Fanshawe College Student Success and Here For You logos are shown. A young woman is smiling, sitting at a desk. Text states: A new semester is here. Access student services! We are here for you.

 

The plot of the game tells the story of humans in a space age where players resume the role of a “helldiver,” a specially trained soldier, to fight insectoid and robot factions. The games are filled with humour that draws inspiration from the famed 1990s movie, Space Troopers, where the player’s main motive behind every mission is to “spread democracy” throughout the galaxy.

Squads of four are dropped from their spaceship, in “hell pods,” landing on a planet’s surface where they fight off swarms of enemies while completing tasks of the mission within a time limit. When squads complete a mission successfully, their effort contributes to the global liberation mission of freeing a planet.

To help combat the massive swarms, players are equipped with specialized bonus tools called stratagems. Stratagems are sorted into three classes: offensive, supply, and defense. The offensive class is filled with a variety of air strikes for players to use, the supplies spawn in special weapons or armour power-ups, and finally, the defense lets players use droned weaponry to aid them in fighting.

As a live service, Helldivers 2 sets a new landscape for this type of game. The platform does have microtransactions for players to purchase, but unlike other games that force players to spend real cash to progress, the grind in this game is balanced and fair by not force-feeding the use of microtransactions.

“They have a shop and stuff where you can buy new items, but it’s not necessary,” said Russell. “The grind to get better guns, new missiles, and other weapons in general is where the real fun comes in, so I feel if you are spending money, it takes out the search and the hard aspect in the game.”

Since its release back in February, the game’s popularity skyrocketed after gamers began sharing clips of gameplay and funny moments on social media showing the enjoyability of the game.

“What sparked the difference of this game was TikTok, with the whole idea [that] we are all soldiers just trying to fight this cause and win back these planets,” said Russell. “We are all working together, for the ‘sake of democracy.’ It went from everybody being against each other to everyone now working together for one common goal.”

The community has flooded TikTok with news report-esque videos updating people on the progression of the liberation efforts across the galaxy as well as new updates being released by the developers.

The game’s model of player versus environment (PVE) over player versus player (PVP) is often made out to be inferior based on the lack of competition. The developers of the game vowed, upon its release, that it would never add a PVP mode as their main vision for the game was to bring popularity around the PVE genre.

“With their constant updates and new major orders, it gives people the motivation to go and achieve the goals of the mission. It’s an amazing concept because that lets you keep the game continuously going on and on and the only limit that they have is the creativity of the makers,” said Russell. “So long as they have a good team who can come up with new ideas constantly, I feel like the PVE versus PVP battle doesn’t even matter.”