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Want to know where Helldivers 2 is going? Just look back at the original game

As exciting and packed with content as Helldivers 2 is, it's actually missing quite a bit from the original game.

Helldivers 1 anniversary key art, where four trooper celebrate around a cake with a big holographic floating '1' above it.
Image credit: Arrowhead Studios

Helldivers 2 may not be the game that comes to mind when you think a ‘live service game’. A lot of factors contribute to this perception, and it’s one the game benefited from in distinguishing itself from the sea of unwanted live service projects, especially the two big ones that came out alongside it.

Whether it’s the modest retail price (by comparison), lack of exploitative or egregious microtransactions, or the fact the game is content complete and - barring server problems - quite polished and functional at launch; the co-op shooter managed to pull off having one foot in live service and the other in classic multiplayer.

This all makes veterans of the original game very excited, because they know - given time - how much bigger and better Helldivers 2 can be.

Helldivers 2 operates with the same confidence its predecessor flaunted. It’s among the rare sequels that manage to change genre and camera perspective while not only keep the original formula intact, but using the new perspective to tap into even more ways of augmenting the original experience that made it what it is.

But that transformation also means there’s quite a bit of history to draw from. There may be a number 2 in the title, but this really is more of a reboot. Which is why, for everything that we can play with today, there’s a lot more from the first game that’s yet to find it way to Helldivers 2. And, considering how much more popular the sequel is, those millions of newcomers certainly have a lot to look forward to.

I played the original Helldivers a fair bit, but it wasn’t until I read this Reddit post that I was reminded of a lot of what the sequel skipped on.

The most obvious one? The third faction! The original game launched with three factions, two of which are already in Helldivers 2; so where is the Illuminate?

Once more unto the breach. | Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios, PlayStation

If you’re unfamiliar, the Illuminate is the third faction brave Helldivers originally rallied against, right alongside Terminids and Automatons. The Illuminate is your Eldar/Protoss space race with ultra-cognitive abilities and non-conventional weaponry. It’s the weird, trippy sci-fi faction, basically - a staple in this style of science fiction.

Helldivers 2 doesn’t directly reference the Illuminate; there’s no talk of a third faction anywhere in the game, and the map only shows the two we’re currently fighting. But look to the margins, and you can begin to see the seeds being planted. If you stick around your ship long enough, you might catch a news segment covering the ongoing conflict.Look closely and you’ll find that mentions of the Illuminate do exist in Helldivers 2.

So far, they’re limited to the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. And, in typical propaganda fashion, reports of their sightings are being underplayed as the ramblings of dissidents. Developer Arrowhead Games has always said it has ambitious plans for future content, and has already teased the return of vehicles - another feature that didn’t make the jump from the original.

Some players in a firefight in Helldivers 2.
'Snow joke. | Image credit: VG247/Arrowhead Game Studios

A third faction would be a major deal for Helldivers 2, so it may be a little further down the road. What we might actually get a little earlier could be some of the objectives from the original game that didn’t make the jump. One, in particular, tasked played with locating and disarming unexploded bombs buried into the ground.

We affectionately called it the minesweeper objective, and it may have been the most difficult and prone to creating disasters in the original game. In that one, you’re given a metal detector, with the goal of catching every one of the dud shells in an area. The process relies on the same Stratagem mechanic of hastily inputting commands as you go. If you input the wrong code, you go boom. If you miss a mine and mistakenly trigger it, you and everyone around you goes boom. Of course, all of that has to happen as enemies attack, making it almost impossible to do solo.

The original Helldivers had a larger reliance on player codependency. Some vehicles required one player to steer and the other to handle the turret, but the spirit of co-op was also called upon in boss fights. Yes, these were named bosses that took a while to defeat, and challenged the entire squad of Helldivers. I really want to see how the sequel handles boss fights, and especially how some of the fight mechanics - which worked great in a top-down perspective - can be translated to third-person.

All of that to say nothing of the missing Stratagems, weapons - especially the laser-powered variety, and even higher difficulty levels. The game is primed to have a very long tail just by bringing back elements form the original that didn’t make the transition, to say nothing of whatever other original content that may be in the works.

Helldivers 2 just had its most stable weekend yet, even as the game set yet another concurrent player record on Steam. Arrowhead had anticipated the rush, upping server capacity in preparation - and it worked! Now that the developer appears to have figured out a way to keep up with player demand, it can comfortably shift its focus to updating and expanding the game - starting with everything that didn’t initially make the cut.

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