Arrowhead's latest major order is exploiting the Helldivers 2 community's greatest weakness: communication

helldivers 2
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Less than three days remain on Helldivers 2's latest major order, and the projections are grim.

Super Earth has tasked the community with successfully defending 10 planets from enemy takeover, but over the weekend, we barely managed three. With a handful of new defense missions opening just hours ago, it's looking like this major order might be a wash.

To be fair, the deck was stacked against us from the start. The community has racked up a handful of impressive collective milestones these last few months—the unexpectedly quick liberation of Tien Kwan, The Battle of Malevelon Creek, pulverizing two billion bugs in just over 12 hours—but we have a blind spot. We're very good at tackling simple, focused goals in record time, but historically bad at coordinating when there are multiple targets on the board. Arrowhead knows this, and is exploiting it.

It's a roadblock that's come up before: When there are too many planets to defend (or attack), no one planet gets enough active players to liberate in time. A planet with just hours left on its defense timer will sometimes go ignored by 200,000+ players fighting on less urgent, or strategically irrelevant planets. 

While most Helldivers 2 players don't think about a major order beyond a brief popup window when they succeed, failed milestones are deeply felt by the small community of strategists on Reddit and Discord. It's in these public chat rooms and threads where fans study a fan-made galaxy map (the full map that shows important supply lines hidden in-game) and formulate plans to complete major orders.

Recently, that collective effort spawned the Martale Gambit, a clever plan to cut off supply lines from Charon Prime by first capturing its neighbor, Martale. Nothing like it had been attempted—it was so unorthodox that game master Joel himself had to promise to honor the gambit by manually liberating Charon early if the time came. The community did its best to spread the word and get as many divers as possible onto Martale over the next 12 hours, but unfortunately, the planet fell at just over 90% liberation.

helldivers 2

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Organized chaos

Martle was a disappointing result for those who treat Helldivers 2 like a grand tactics game, but many of those fans will also tell you just how unlikely a successful gambit was from the beginning. As pointed out by Arrowhead community manager Spitz in the wake of the failed plan, all the Discord planning, Reddit lobbying, and press coverage didn't move the needle much on Martale's active player count. The 25,000 active Martale freedom fighters were dwarfed by divers galavanting halfway across the galaxy.

For as many memes have been made and articles written about the community's strategic victories in the galactic war, the hardcore strategists just don't hold much sway. That's by design: Arrowhead doesn't enforce its major orders by funneling players toward only the most important planets, because Helldivers 2 is a casual co-op shooter first.

The vast majority of players aren't picking which planets to play by checking the latest war reports on Reddit, they're choosing because of which enemies are on it, what environmental hazards it has, and how cool it looks. I've kept up with every step of this galactic war and think it's all fascinating, but I will play on whatever planet my friends feel like going to.

helldivers 2 mech patriot

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

All the Discord planning, Reddit lobbying, and press coverage didn't move the needle much on Martale's active player count.

Arrowhead is walking a tightrope by making its meta narrative engaging without alienating those who just want to play without thinking about it, and it's doing a pretty great job of it, if you ask me. This week's order might be too much to ask of millions of disparate players, but Arrowhead knows to set up a rebound. The easiest way to get players involved is to give them something tangible to fight for. Not long after Super Earth failed the Xzar defense campaign in March, the fight to liberate Tien Kwan (and unlock mechs) began in what was, personally, the most exciting 24 hours of Helldivers 2 yet.

We have the power to change the narrative, but ultimately, we're characters in Arrowhead's story. The current chapter of that story seems to be "fighting a two-front war isn't going well." Strikes me as a good time for a redemption arc. With the quiet period we're in now, a month removed from our last stratagem care package, I think Arrowhead is building toward another big fight that will unlock something new (maybe it's finally time for vehicles). 

That said, Arrowhead is planning one change that should make it a lot easier for players to understand the tactical layer of the war map. One day, those supply lines only visible with an exterior tool will come to the client itself, and with it, Helldivers 2's strategists will finally be able to speak the same language as the casual players they hope to lead.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.