The Helghast are a race of mutated pale-skinned hairless humans with increased strength, stamina, intelligence and height. They are the descendants of Helghan Corporation colonists who resettled on the barren planet Helghan following in the aftermath of the First Extrasolar War. They largely made up the Helghan Empire and New Helghan.
Scolar Visari first coined the term "Helghast" during a public speech in 2347. Visari purported the term's origin from the Old English word, "gast", meaning "spirit", or "ghost", connoting great fear.
The Helghast are distinguished by their pale skins and often lack of hair. Their bodies are evolved to resist and adapt to planet Helghan's hostile conditions, which include: being more suited to the low gravity, lungs being more efficient and resistant to the planet's pollutants, and their cells are more resistant to higher radiation levels.
The Helghast are biologically capable of reproducing with normal humans, producing half-human and half-Helghast offspring known as half breeds.
The Helghan Corporation colonists were originally the inhabitants of Vekta until the aftermath of the First Extrasolar War forced millions of disaffected colonists to relocate to planet Helghan after refusing to live under ISA rule. The ISA and UCN left the colonists to fend for themselves, preferring to leave the colonists to either survive or die on their own merits.
On Helghan, the colonists suffered decades of deaths and hardships from the planet's hostile environment, illnesses, and starvation. Most of the first generation colonists died only shortly after their arrival. It was not until in 2305 that the third generation of indigenous Helghan were genetically adapted to the environment, becoming biologically stronger than regular humans. Scolar Visari deemed the mutated Helghan population a new race different from and superior over humanity, coining the new race as the "Helghast".
By 2347, the Helghast were galvanized to support Scolar Visari as the new leader of the Helghast and Helghan Empire. Under Visari, the Helghast adopted a culture of xenophobia, nationalism, and militancy. The Empire became the instigator of the Second Extrasolar War, seeking to reconquer Vekta and replacing the UCN as the sole dominant power in the galaxy. However, the Helghast were repelled from Vekta and the ISA launched a retaliatory invasion of Helghan in an attempt to capture Visari and ending the war. This led to the deaths of Visari and ultimately the devastation of Helghan in the Terracide.
The ISA granted refuge to the Helghast survivors on Vekta, where they colonized half of the planet and established their new nation New Helghan. Because of the Terracide, the Helghast became more resentful toward the Vektans, blaming them for the death of their world and Empire, and thus making a permanent peace impossible between the two different civilizations on Vekta during an ongoing cold war.
- The word "Helghast" is a combination of "Hell" (suffering, terror, fear), "Heil" (German for “hail”), and "gast" (Anglo-Saxon for "Ghost").
- The ISA sometimes refer to the Helghast colloquially as "Red Eyes" or "Higs".