Taking on Helldivers 2's missions solo is like playing the world's scariest tower defence game

Aiming down sights at a minefield in Helldivers 2.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Thanks to Helldivers 2's ongoing server issues and broken matchmaking, I'm yet to see even a single online stranger drop onto my planet. Most of the time I just play with friends anyway, but recently I've had the itch to play when none of them are around, and what I've discovered is that diving solo is… a real experience.

More Helldivers 2

Helldivers 2 key art, with Helldivers posing and firing weapons against a propagandistic backdrop.

(Image credit: Arrowhead)

Helldivers 2 weapons: Best guns of Super Earth
Helldivers 2 stratagems: Understand the ordinance
Helldivers 2 loadouts: Finest kits for bug-killing
Helldivers 2 armor: Which suits to wear
Helldivers 2 medals: Where to claim more currency

The default state of Helldivers 2 is getting overwhelmed. With a squad, it's key to figure out how to work together and combine your stratagems to keep the hordes at bay. Playing solo… well, all you've got is yourself, and though enemy numbers do scale down appropriately, the game definitely doesn't go easy on you. 

Staring down a Bile Titan or getting surrounded by Hunters is never a good time no matter what, but when you know there's no backup coming to save you, those hair-raising moments do take on a particularly terrifying edge. On a low-visibility planet, you practically get jump-scared by every bug patrol. But desperation breeds innovation, and scrambling around like a rat in a maze made of alien chitin has forced me to really learn the ins and outs of Helldivers 2's stratagem system. 

For me, the key in solo play has ended up being a goo  defence. I've turned Helldivers 2 into a sort of harrowing tower defence game, where I thin out the hordes by kiting them into killboxes. Turrets are a staple, of course—particularly gatling turrets, which are far less liable to cause a friendly fire incident when you're the only one on the team. But a surprise MVP for me has been minefields—when all the bugs are focused entirely on you, it's easy to lead them back and forth through your explosive traps over and over, squeezing every last bit of deadly juice out of every deployment.

Cooldowns have to be carefully managed, deploying only what you absolutely need in any situation—if a bug breach hits while I've got no stratagems available to back me up, crowd control is almost impossible. That means ditching anything with too long a cooldown, too, particularly some of the support weapons that are dropped when you die and may be difficult to retrieve. Believe me, when you're the only target, you die a lot

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

The flip side of that is, I get to be a very greedy boy. All the supplies are for me and me alone, and you still get just as many as a four man squad would. That means dumping clips and chucking grenades with wild abandon, if that's what it takes to get me out of my latest pickle. 

Of course, when you're playing alone, you also have no one to blame. Getting blown up by your own side occasionally is par for the course in a full team, but it's reassuring to always be able to accuse one of your friends rather than accept your own incompetence. In solo play, your mistakes are laid bare—every time you get blown up with a grenade, or caught in the path of an orbital strike, or crushed by a dropping supply pod, it is devastatingly evident how much it's entirely your own fault. You can't help but come out the other side of that a more humble (and careful) Helldiver. 

Beyond that important personal growth, experimenting on my own has also led to all sorts of weird discoveries. For example, you may already know that if you go off the edges of the mission area for too long, you're killed via orbital strike—not super likely on the big maps, but possible to do accidentally in the smaller maps used for missions like Eradicate. In one such outing, I was trying to make some space from an encroaching horde when I accidentally triggered that out-of-bounds punishment—in a panic, I thought I'd just sprint back into the middle of the map, and hope I was eventually forgiven. Turns out no, once they've started bombarding you they never stop. But you can avoid your fate for quite a while if you're quick, and the funny thing is, those orbital strikes hit enemies too, if you dodge and weave among them. 

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

The artillery got me eventually, but that one flailing sprint around the map ended up getting me a quarter of the kills I needed for the Eradicate mission. Not a particularly elegant strategy, I'll admit, but given I was still flush with respawns and low on stratagems, it was a surprisingly effective last resort for dealing with a tricky wave and earning myself some breathing room.

It's probably a reflection on the psychological toll solo missions have been taking on me that my triumphant new strategy is elaborate suicide runs, but it's a tough galaxy out there and you do what you have to. Would I prefer it if some friendly strangers answered my SOS beacon once in a while and lent me a hand? Absolutely. But until then, you'll find me out on the front lines, building little bases of death and weeping with fear when a Charger immediately trashes them. 

Robin Valentine
Senior Editor

Formerly the editor of PC Gamer magazine (and the dearly departed GamesMaster), Robin combines years of experience in games journalism with a lifelong love of PC gaming. First hypnotised by the light of the monitor as he muddled through Simon the Sorcerer on his uncle’s machine, he’s been a devotee ever since, devouring any RPG or strategy game to stumble into his path. Now he's channelling that devotion into filling this lovely website with features, news, reviews, and all of his hottest takes.