Helldivers 2’s Automatons returned to the war scarier than ever

Helldivers 2’s Automatons returned to the war scarier than ever

Helldivers 2 is a funny game, with great physical comedy that naturally occurs from its robust friendly fire mechanics. It’s also a challenging game that pits extremely squishy Helldivers with limited resources against endless waves of enormous bugs. But few people talk about how it’s sometimes a terrifying game thanks to the Automatons.

However, on Monday, Helldivers rejoiced over a decisive and collective victory over the Automatons and their claimed territory. These Terminator-style robots are clearly designed to be malevolent. They patrol around, buzzing in binary code, surveying the lands with glowing red eyes. If that’s not enough to convey “bad” in visual language, Arrowhead Game Studios has thoughtfully added skulls impaled on spikes attached to their exo-skeletons. The first reaction my primal brain has upon seeing an Automaton is “NOPE.”

I didn’t think much further into it because my friends and I were too busy following Major Orders from Super Earth Command on the galactic map. We failed to liberate Tibit, fought for Malevelon Creek, and faced down gunships on multiple planets. I used to think the robots were much rougher than bugs, but I learned new strategies, and it was deeply satisfying to drive the Automatons off the galactic map for good. We all knew that they would return since that’s how Arrowhead runs the game. We just thought it would take longer than two days.

Players just got back in the groove of fighting bugs again when the Automatons suddenly emerged with a new fleet, forcing us to defend two new sectors. They are making a huge push towards Cyberstan, and the Helldivers are the only thing in their way. And the more time I fight these guys, the more I realize that they’re actually deeply, existentially scary.

If the player pays attention to dissident propaganda and reads between the lines of Major Orders, they’ll learn that the Automatons were created by the Cyborgs, an enemy faction from the first game who are enslaved in the mines of the former Cyborg capital, Cyberstan. The Automatons are just trying to reclaim the city..

This moral complexity isn’t particularly surprising on a meta level; Helldivers 2 is not subtle about Super Earth secretly being the baddies. But it definitely shifted my perspective… until I ran into all the corpse desecration.

The Automatons are not just doing the necessary amount of murder; they’re going above and beyond. Their camps are littered with dismembered Helldivers and SEAF troops displayed as trophies. They’ve also built brain harvesting shrines – perhaps to fuel their endless assembly line of murder? Suddenly, the Super Earth propaganda that they’re stealing children feels much more plausible.

Even if the worst case situation is true, and the Automatons are truly harnessing human brains and nervous systems to create endless soldiers for their war, aren’t they at least a little bit justified? In some ways, as a player, I empathize with the Automatons, but I can’t muster that same sympathy when I’m in the thick of a battle with them, facing down tanks, rocket devastators, and gunships.

The Automatons are back, and I’m going to fight them (because I want my Major Order medals, thank you very much). But I don’t feel very good about it. In fact, deep in my bones, I’m terrified.

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