Helldivers 2 devs explain why solo missions have more patrols, now: 'the intention is that one player has 1/4th of the patrols … they had 1/6th'

An image of a citizen of Super Earth giving a PSA, holding his hands out in a calming manner while the word: INVASION is stamped in block-type over a screaming man crying for sweet liberty.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Games)

Helldivers 2 just had a major balance patch—and, naturally, there's already an entire orbital payload of doom and gloom smattered in with the constructive criticism and feedback. One particular upset has reared its head today: solo missions are considerably harder now.

As the patch notes themselves read: "Patrol spawning has been increased when there are fewer than four players. The fewer the players the bigger the change. For four player missions there will be no change compared to before. The biggest noticeable change will be for solo players at higher difficulties."

Cue a flurry of activity, both on the game's subreddit and Discord. "Increasing patrol spawns for smaller squads is a d*ck move", declares a post that's gathered a respectable 1,000+ upvotes in the span of four hours. Meanwhile, a flurry of activity in the Discord had community managers moving to dig up an official response. 

"Hi! I'll try to get a proper dev reply/comment on this," writes community manager Twinbeard, "but I think the reasoning was that playing solo on higher difficulties under some circumstances was actually easier than playing in squads sometimes, which could explain a small increase in patrols on solo. I'll check and try to get back on that!"

(Image credit: Arrowhead Games / The Helldivers Discord)

A short while later, community manager Spitz was able to share comments from Arrowhead's design director, initially quoted as the "worlds team", though this was later corrected by Spitz: "We unintendedly had non-linear scaling of the patrol spawns so they didn't spawn as often as they should have when less than four players—the intention is that one player has 1/4th of the patrols compared to four players, but it used to be that they had 1/6th."

(Image credit: Arrowhead Games / The Helldivers Discord)

Essentially, the idea is to not make solo play harder, but to bring it up to parity. Contrary to what one might think, while solo play is definitely different, it's still very viable. It just turns the game from a 'get some!' shooter into more of a stealth game. One glimpse at the most popular guides on Steam shows several how-tos to farm higher-difficulty missions as a lone commando.

It may, as Twinbeard suggested, even be 'easier'—though that's a tough call to make considering how radically different a solo playstyle is to a group one. If you're mowing through heaps of Super Earth's enemies as a squad, you're going to be getting into scrapes far more often than your stealth commando cousins—conversely, solo players have a much harder time dealing with the swarms of bots and bugs featured in higher difficulties. Though as Spitz wrote in the Discord earlier today: "Hard difficulties should be hard."

(Image credit: Arrowhead Games / The Helldivers Discord)

While I can personally see how this change makes sense if you're looking at the raw numbers—one player should receive 1/4th of the patrols—it might not feel that way. Players mostly using hit-and-run tactics won't be cutting down many of their pursuers in between patrol spawns.

I'm reminded a lot of the concept of "Coyote Time" in platformers. Essentially, most platforming games will feature a short grace period after stepping off a platform where a player is still considered 'on' the platform, like Wile E. Coyote pedalling his feet in the air after being led to his untimely demise. 

This is because 'off the platform' and 'on the platform' are often at-odds, from a player perspective. Similarly, solo Helldivers 2 players might well be experiencing 1/4th of the patrols from a numbers point of view, but those numbers will never matter more than vibes.

Solo players who've tried the changes out for themselves report feeling overwhelmed: "I tried to play tonight and got swarmed …" writes one player, "... you don't have players in different locations diverting enemies etc, they are all on you." Another adds that, with Terminid missions, "compared to before I'd say it almost felt like I was facing twice as many patrols … I had zero deaths, though, so I'd say it's still very possible to do."

It's not enough data to go on yet, and there's always time for these lone wolves to figure out new strategies or best practices—but the dynamic's certainly changed. 

While I'm not entirely sure if a whole culture of solo-farming mavericks gathering fat stacks of Super Credits and samples is exactly healthy for a co-op game, I do think that there are plenty of reasons why someone might want to play solo, or in a smaller group—including (but not limited to) just liking it more. 

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.