The futility of Helldivers 2's 'Menkent Line' has parts of the community feeling bot fatigue: 'We fought hard to establish a defensive line, and for what?'

helldivers 2 malevelon creek
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

The ever-marching galactic war campaign of Helldivers 2 is impressive, so much so that it's a little difficult to follow, though the sense of FOMO is there for the right reasons, that being "I'm missing out on a cool, emergent, player-driven story". Well, that's the idea at least—right now, the community's a little bummed out.

While I say "the community", I think it's important to highlight that I'm talking about its most vocal, galactic-war focused elements here. I'd bet a safe wager that the majority of Helldivers 2 players are content to just gun down bugs. So content, in fact, that a major order to stamp out 2 billion of them passed in the blink of an eye

Before I get into the how and why, though, there are two bits of important context to consider. Firstly, most major orders over the past month or so have been automaton-focused. Here's where the last nine have sent us:

  1. Operation Swift Disassembly Phase 1 and 2 (Automatons).
  2. Liberate Malevelon Creek (Automatons, obviously).
  3. Operation Swift Disassembly Phase 3 and 4 (Automatons).
  4. Operation Rearing (Terminids).
  5. Operation Courageous Defense (Automatons).
  6. Operation Menkent Line (Automatons).
  7. Operation Cassiopeia (Automatons).
  8. Operation Harvest (Terminids).
  9. Operation Enduring Bulwark (Automatons and Terminids*).

That asterisk is there since it's best to focus on Automatons for this latest major order. At the time of writing, there's only one defence campaign in Terminid space, and, uh, a lot more in the Automaton's invasion—which has been spreading like wildfire across the galactic map.

So overall, that's 7 out of 9 major orders (or 9 out of 11 if you count phases as their own major orders) that've required us to turn clankers into scrap metal. I'm personally fine with that, since I happen to like doming Hulks with my Anti-Materiel rifle, but I also haven't done any Terminid missions in close to a month. Whenever I've played, it's been Automatons on the menu. So why the larger ennui?

Tow the Menkent Line

helldivers 2

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Helldivers 2 uses a forgivable amount of sleight-of-hand: Arrowhead Games is still engaging in the lengthy process of hiring new staff to match its success, which is a lot harder than you might think. After all, who trains the new hires if everyone's already busy matching pace? Money can lead a dev to water, but it can't teach them how to drink from your custom-made infrastructure of lakes.

In essence, major orders have a degree of showmanship to them. We needed to liberate Tien Kwan for mechs, but we were probably getting them anyway. We had a massive push to obliterate the Automatons, but somehow, they returned. The Menkent Line, however, feels like the first time this magic trick has spilled over into actual discontent with the man behind the curtain. As Reddit user Renorec lays out in the comments to this excellent image: "Real talk, we fought hard to establish a defensive line and for what?" 

Why was the Menkent Line so horribly ineffective? from r/Helldivers

The aptly-named Dushnila_complainer also notes this in the following thread on the game's subreddit. As they point out, the story conceit behind Operation Menkent was to "allow SEAF Engineers to begin construction of orbital defences on those planets, deterring the advance of the Automaton Fleet and allowing counteroffensive preparations to begin", as per the in-game dispatch.

Dushnila_complainer rightly says, however, that "both planets were attacked once again without taking into account that there is the orbital defence system. There are no buffs for the defence campaign, nothing. The planets are just attacked like there is no orbital defence or anything else."

Was the Menkent Line Major Order pointless, or did I miss something? from r/Helldivers

The issue isn't that the planets were attacked, or even lost. It's that there weren't any real rewards for doing so beyond a batch of medals. Which seems strange, since Arrowhead has been able to deploy unique benefits to certain planets before. 

Even a token of free orbital laser stratagems or something would've gone a long way. As one commenter notes: "I was hoping these Orbital Defences would have given us some kind of edge on the ground …  nope, they're forgotten and we're getting our shit pushed in mercilessly."

Fabrication fatigue

A horde of automaton bots from Helldivers 2 marchers mercilessly on.

(Image credit: Arrowhead Games)

Automatons are just kinda painful to fight, especially when they're the main big bad. I like downing devastators as much as the next patriot, but it's mostly because I'm acclimated at this point, like a hot bath. I'm still far less stressed when I'm chewing through waves of bugs, all cosy in my big mech.

On the other hand, it's not as if the Terminids have gone anywhere. You can go and fight them. They're even technically a part of this latest major order—but I'm certainly not alone in feeling like, well, if I'm playing Helldivers 2, I want to be contributing to the war effort. It's one of the game's main features, after all. You're doing your part!

As Reddit user MyOwnTutor observes in a separate thread discussing the issue, "the bot front is scattered to the winds." Another player writes in a reply: "The majority of the community really came together for the final push to wipe them out, then two days later they came back even stronger, making it feel like our efforts didn't matter at all." 

I'm also far from the only one who has picked up on the recent weighting towards Automaton-focused major orders, and missed the recent bug vacation entirely. As one poor sod notes: "I was either asleep or at work for the entire kill bugs order." You hate to see it. 

(Image credit: The Helldivers 2 subreddit.)

Late last month, I wrote about how games like Helldivers 2 and Baldur's Gate 3 suffer from this kind of gradual decline in goodwill because we love them to death, playing them obsessively until they're ruined for us. I still think that's very much a factor here. You're only in this situation if you've been contributing to every major order going on a full month, now. All signs point to burnout, and there's only one antidote for that: taking a break.

But I do think there's an interesting, two-pronged design issue happening here: In order to tell these large, sweeping narratives, you have to focus on one enemy at a time—which can produce fatigue. To keep players invested in those stories, you also need to make them feel like their choices mattered—and the Menkent Line fell just short of doing that. It's a lot of pressure for Arrowhead Games.

Ultimately, I'm just curious to see how the studio is going to keep the ball rolling. While none of this is a sign that the game is secretly dying or whatever, it is a sign that a playerbase can't run marathons all the time. Something's gotta give.

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.