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Is Helldivers 2 pay-to-win? The creative director has some strong thoughts about that

Helldivers 2 is a solid co-op shooter that sadly flirts with paying for power, but that's not how the studio CEO and creative director sees it.

Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios, PlayStation

Though the reception to Helldivers 2 has been generally very favourable, people started paying attention to all the different ways the game is monetised after most of the server issues were resolved and you could spend a few hours of uninterrupted fun.

The main point of contention appears to be the fact that the game’s Warbonds - effectively a battle pass of sorts, offers functional weapons and armour. These contain perks and passives that are not available elsewhere, meaning they are not cosmetic variants.

This has lead many to call it the system pay-to-win, a sentiment the game’s developer does not agree with.

In Helldivers 2, there currently exists two Warbonds. The first is free, given to everyone, while the latter is paid. In order to unlock items on either track, you need Medals, which are acquired by completing missions, and can sometimes be found by exploring the mission area. Like Fortnite, you need to spend a minimum number of Medals to advance to the next page in any Warbond.

The premium Warbond costs the equivalent of $10, and can be bought using Super Credits - the game’s premium currency. The way Helldivers 2 differs from most games that rely on this model is that Super Credits can technically be farmed, as they’re found within missions. If you only focus on farming the paid currency, however, it’s going to be a slow and gruelling process. Super Credits can also be spent in the Superstore, which offers armour only (so far).

Developer Arrowhead Games previously said that, like Halo Infinite, Warbonds will not go away when new ones are introduced, to prevent FOMO; they’ll just become available for players to pick up later even if they missed them while they were active.

The problem, however, is that what you’re buying isn’t just limited to cosmetic rewards as we’re used to, it also includes functional weapons with unique perks, as well as armour pieces with unique passives.

The JAR-5 Dominator is a variant of an existing weapon. | Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios, PlayStation

Helldivers 2 creative director and studio CEO, Johan Pilestedt, shared a number of his thoughts about this situation on Twitter, saying that he does not believe the system is pay-to-win, even if you can acquire functional items through Warbonds.

“I'm partial but we really applied ourselves to not make it p2w even though items are functionally different,” he wrote on Twitter. “The only item that's p2w is the revolver - which will win you any "cool gun" competition. Only (minor) problem is that it's not that good.”

Pilestedt later added that they believe “you have to earn the right to monetize.” “If people want to support this title they have an option, but we are never forcing anyone to do so.”

Pilestedt’s Twitter has a number of conversations with players who agree that the options the Warbonds offer are more like side-grades, with unique perks that amount to a different flavour, not outright higher damage.

The Superstore, where Super Credits can be spent. | Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios, PlayStation

Using the Breaker auto shotgun as an example. The weapon has incendiary rounds, but at the cost of a nearly 50% cut to its raw damage, which makes it more useful in some situations over others, meaning there’s no clear advantage.

“And you do set things on fire..... But then again, the bug will burn to death after it shanked you. We were going for difference in feel and function - but the same in average power,” Pilestedt explained.

The same also goes for the Liberator vs the Liberator Ex; the former has a faster rate of fire, whereas the latter fires slower but gets a small bump to damage. Nevertheless, Pilestedt stressed that “nothing is safe from a balance pass,” adding that all primary weapons should have the same level of power.

We’ll have to wait and see how this conversation evolves as more Warbonds are introduced into the game. For now, we can look forward to new content in the future, as Arrowhead continues to release patches that address connectivity, matchmaking and server issues.

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