Is Helldivers 2 Pay-To-Win? Helldivers 2 Warbonds Explained

Helldivers 2 is a ton of fun, moreso now that the launch woes it has had has mostly been rectified. But there is one other criticism the game has right now and that is in how it is monetised.

Like a lot of modern multiplayer games these days, whether that be free-to-play titles or premium games with an upfront price, there are microtransactions. Helldivers 2 has that as well as their take on a Battle Pass: Warbonds. Barely any information about the Warbonds were shared in the lead-up to release, and by the way it is presented in-game, it definitely raised a lot of red flags of a terrible monetisation scheme that players outright call a game where there’s only PVE pay-to-win.

But now that I am 30 hours in Helldivers 2, and have gained significant progress, I believe the scepticism is unwarranted. The Warbonds and the monetisation isn’t as scummy as it seemed to be. The game just did a bad job of showing how the progression rewards are gated by how much you play the game regardless of how much premium currency you purchase.

Why Helldivers 2 Seems Like Pay-To-Win?

But first, let’s understand why people, including myself, were apprehensive towards Helldivers 2’s monetisation. These days, games are expected to only sell cosmetics in their premium shop, or items that are perceived to not affect gameplay in major ways. So, most of premium items you can spend on are usually cosmetics.

Helldivers 2 has a premium Warbond, which is included in the Super Citizen edition of the game or requires the purchase priced at 1000 Super Credits, and that battle pass has premium weapons and grenades. So that’s the first red flag.

The other thing Helldivers 2 is doing something different is that body armour isn’t strictly cosmetic. Some of these have passive abilities with stat changes. Helmets for now are cosmetic as I haven’t seen any that has passives but the game displays stats for helmets just like armour, suggesting that later down the line we might see stat changes. And armours unlocked in the premium Warbond have unique passives that isn’t in the normal Warbond. That’s another red flag.

In a game where you really need all the advantage you can get to survive the hordes of enemies you’ll be facing, the idea of items with gameplay perceived gameplay advantage is locked behind a paywall gives the impression to jaded players that Helldivers 2 has elements of pay-to-win.

However, as we’ve established earlier, that’s not true. And here’s why.

Why Helldivers 2 Is Not Pay-To-Win

To unlock any item in the Warbond, you require medals. These are awarded only through gameplay. You get some medals for completing a mission- at higher difficulties completing a set of missions earn you an ever increasing amount of medals. Medals can also found in-game within capsules where you must “Salute For Freedom”.

Medals cannot be purchased with premium currency or real money.

And with that information, Helldivers 2 is not pay-to-win. Even if you purchase the premium Warbond, you still have to complete a hell lot of missions to unlock the items.

Interestingly, the one premium Warbond available right now at launch has only three pages of items, but with a ridiculous amount of medals required to unlock compared to the normal Warbond accessible for every player.

What this suggests is that premium Warbonds exists for the dedicated players who have sunk so much time in Helldivers 2 and have surplus medals. Chucking in extra money to a game you already spent so much time in is fine. And the way premium Warbonds are balanced, it’s to promote that.

In addition, the unique weapons and armour lie in the premium Warbond are not overpowered. For instance, the revolver. Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt tweeted that the revolver is pay-to-win in that it “will win you any ‘cool gun’ competition” but pointed out “that it’s not that good”.

And it’s not good. The revolver uses rounds reload so you have to put every single bullet in- which is slow as hell- and it does high damage on a single target- which isn’t as useful when most missions you’ll be swarmed by numerous killer bugs or bots.

The explosive variant of the Liberator assault rifle has a huge tradeoff. It fires slower than the normal one every Helldiver starts with, and the bonus explosion damage is negligible at best. At least in my hands. The only good tradeoff is it can carry more ammo clips.

As for armour, the Servo Assisted passive found in the premium Warbond isn’t exclusive to the Warbond, thankfully. Some armour with the same passive can appear in the Super Store, which is purchased using Super Credits, the premium currency. And the game awards a good chunk of Super Credits from the normal Warbond and, like medals, can be randomly found in capsules.

Helldivers 2’s Monetisation, Right Now, Is Fair

Helldivers 2’s monetisation is fair, but the game just failed to communicate this fact clearly, which resulted in such a perception. The fact that the “Acquisitions” page, which leads you to the Warbond, Super Store and microtransaction page is labelled so big when you’re back in the hub, and how confusing the layout of the Warbonds really left a bad taste. If it made efforts to tell players about this in-game rather than in an FAQ page, it would’ve made a better impression.

And also, Warbonds aren’t exactly Battle Passes that behaves like Season Passes. Warbonds are permanent. They will be there forever, no time limit, so no pressure or fear-of-missing-out inducement is being done here. Which is cool! And there will be more Warbonds in the future!

But the fact that I have to double-check and question if I’m missing something as I didn’t see when the season timer ends is A: Helldivers 2 did a poor job in convincing players it’s now out here trying to money-grab you like most live service games out there and B: How awful the state of live service games are if the first thing people feel when seeing an item shop is apprehension.

At the time of writing, just about a week after launch, I’m concluding that Helldivers 2 monetisation is fair. Who knows what will happen- worse case is the publisher seeing these impressions and felt they need to squeeze harder. But at the moment, you can safely engage with the progression system. Helldivers 2 wants you to go helldiving a lot and maybe consider purchasing more Super Credits later, rather than pay up right now and get ahead of everyone else.

Helldivers 2 is out now on PS5 and PC.

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