'Is this supposed to be rigged?' Helldivers 2 players fatigued as bugs leapfrog across supply lines like a bunch of dirty cheaters

Man screaming in Helldivers 2 intro cinematic
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Helldivers 2 has some major problems with its major orders. We saw a little of this discontent earlier in the year with the Menkent Line, where the futility of setting up a faux defence, only to see it crumple out of nowhere, sent players into a malaise.

Things were looking up later on when a separate order saw a planet permanently turned into a "black hole" which, I'm told once more by my democracy officer, is absolutely not a wormhole with the Illuminate on the other side. It seemed to be a great way to make the playerbase's hustle feel like it had an impact, aside from some glitches that plagued the order's early hours.

Unfortunately, things appear to have taken a downturn with the most recent major order, "Operation Jin Xi-Falstaff Lockdown", which sees players attempting to defend a set list of planets before the major order expires.

Yesterday, players stepped out of their cryo pods to find a key sector in the war effort—Jin Xi—had sprung an infestation out of nowhere. The sector has three planets key to the order so, as you might have guessed, players were none too pleased.

In terms of what's happening with the in-game lore, the game justifies this zag by pointing towards "abnormally large spore dispersals following recent Hive Annihilation Actions," which "may have led to seeding of Jin Xi planets before the Terminids could be fully eradicated from adjacent worlds."

Part of players' frustration stems from the feeling, in part, that the bugs just aren't playing fair. A recent update finally added "supply lines", a pre-existing mechanic players had mostly figured out, to the in-game map. The idea being that they could strategise, taking key locations to cut off invading forces. However, some of the worlds infested simply didn't care about these lines at all, which trashed a good amount of blood, sweat and tears with a wave of gamemaster Joel's magic wand.

"Is this supposed to be rigged and can we still win?" writes one player, sharing the trio of overtaken planets on the game's subreddit. A commenter adds: "Dude just unliberated Gatria, set it to 50% then set the decay to 3% whilst also having it attack Phact Bay … I understood Bugs ignoring supply lines during the Meridia MO but now the bugs are doing the same but even worse."

To put it in perspective, this map (courtesy of Helldivers.io) shows Gartia and its connected supply lines and, surely enough, it's out there on its lonesome. If said lines weren't lies, the Terminids shouldn't have been able to access it.

(Image credit: Helldivers.io)

In a separate thread with over 3,800 upvotes at the time of writing, irate diver xnrnx lays out their frustrations, writing: "If Joel wants more bugs he will just convert a planet … Having our work undermined by an imaginary game master is borked."

From a story perspective, Super Earth going a little too gung-ho and literally sowing their own doom with an anti-bug weapon, while reaping the unexpected consequences later down the line, does absolutely track in terms of lore justification. However, there's a difference between what makes sense and what feels good to play. As it stands, divers have two days to claw their way to Erson Sands via Esker—but they might've claimed it sooner had the Jin Xi sector not exploded out of nowhere.

While I don't have experience maintaining a live service game, I've dungeon mastered a lot of TTRPGs—fudging numbers behind the screen is, absolutely, a tool in your box. But you need to make sure your players feel like you're working within the rules of the game to a certain extent—you can't just nudge a monster's defences up out of the blue without it feeling frustrating. Or, if you do so, you best keep quiet about it.

I think there's an issue with the duration of the galactic war, too. Back in Helldivers 1, the Galactic War was an event that more-or-less passed in about a month, with players knocking their enemies triplicate out of the galaxy or losing Super Earth before wiping the slate clean and starting again.

Helldivers 2, however, works on a much longer timescale. For instance, players briefly pushed Automatons out of the galaxy, but they came back packing heat in short order. The same ennui is setting in now, as one war-weary commenter notes, "This will be the third time we have defended Acamar 4 over the course of this major order." If Arrowhead Games can't keep Sisyphus happy then it's in trouble, because unlike the boulder-rolling god of legend, Helldivers 2 players can just go do something else.

Things haven't quite gone that badly yet, though. Yes, looking at the numbers, Helldivers 2 has technically lost "most" of its player base since launch, but that still puts it at a very healthy 45,000 24-hour peak at the time of writing. That's a strong enough beating heart for any live service game. But if Arrowhead wants to keep a hold onto its core audience, it's not enough to have one good balance patch—it'll also need to figure out how to make its Galactic War feel like more than an eternal back and forth, too.

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.