Warframe has been around on PCs since it entered closed beta in October 2012, and on the PlayStation 4 since the console launched in November 2013. The game is free-to-play, and is consistently one of the most-played games on Steam. How has developer Digital Extremes enabled such a great player retention percentage over the past five years? By releasing a steady stream of new content. Case in point: the exciting announcement of the Plains of Eidolon, a massive expansion the likes of which the game has never seen before. We were on-location at Warframe’s second annual TennoCon, a convention devoted solely to the game in the developer’s Canadian hometown of London, Ontario, and have some key information you’ll want to know.
While recent expansions have given players new hub areas that they are free to roam around in with other players, actual missions in Warframe involve procedurally generated levels, which use pseudo-random room pieces to ensure each mission plays out slightly differently. This is an effective setup, and makes the grind of earning enough resources to craft an item a bit more fun.
Enter the Plains of Eidolon expansion. The start of the demo we were shown this morning did not have the game’s usual loading screen of the player’s ship moving through space or atmosphere – likely just because the expansion is in an early state of code completeness. Once the area loaded in, an in-game cinematic played out. We were introduced to the Ostron people. They are ordinary tribal people, who are scavengers of Orokin Towers, which are biomechanical, seemingly living machinery. They rip the flesh off these towers, in order to sell the tissue. It’s not too different from the whaling-based economy of a port town. Children could also be seen, pretending to be Tenno, the player character’s race, who seem to be revered as god-like beings. Digital Extremes has finally expanded on the game’s lore in a much different way than before.
The biggest new feature in the Plains of Eidolon expansion, by far, is the new landscape players will be able to set foot on. It’s a lush, forested area of our home planet, Earth. The playable area is approximately 3 square kilometers (just over one square mile), and includes tall trees of various types, high grass to crouch in, other vegetation, boulders, and even a river. To be honest, it kind of gave off a little bit of a Horizon Zero Dawn vibe – this is a great thing. The area also seamlessly loads in as you accept a mission from an NPC in Cetus, the name of the settlement that the new content takes place in. So you and up to three others can start a mission, and rather than heading back to your ships to then jump to the designated location, you now simply walk through a pair of doors, and into the wild.
This new area has many different types of inhabitants – there’s the Ostrons, constantly invading Grineer (failed human clones who are a traditional enemy in the current game), but also wildlife. This includes birds, which can be shot, and fish in the water, which can be speared. If you spear a fish, an animation plays whereby your Warframe raises the fish in a celebratory pose, and details of the fish including its species and weight are briefly shown onscreen. These fish will also serve as a new type of resource, so expect to collect plenty of these while fishing the ninja way.
Cetus and the surrounding area is safe enough during the day. But at night, low-level players will want to clear out. The expansion area has a day/night and weather cycle, and once night falls, enemies high-tail it out of there, mid-battle. This is because a hulking, 10-story tall kaiju-class monster emerges from the depths of a nearby lake. Called the Spectral Sentients, they represent Digital Extreme’s response to claims by some of the more veteran players that Warframe didn’t provide enough challenge. The Sentients are designed to be multi-stage, epic battles that see you engaging in battle across the entire area, as the monster will move as it assaults you and your squad. Rest assured, this is not an enemy you can easily take on your own, nor is it recommended for new players to the game. We haven’t seen how combat works against the Spectral Sentient yet, but what was teased looks enticing.
Another significant new feature that was teased during the demo is weapon crafting. Up until now, players could customize the color scheme of and attach mods to their weapons. While this would result in a gun that looked flashy, the base behavior and firing modes of each weapon remained the same for all players. When the Plains of Eidolon launches, weapons can now be crafted by mixing and matching three separate parts – the blade, the mid-section, and the handle or grip. Each option can dramatically change how much damage the weapon deals, as well as the type of damage and most importantly, the way the player will wield it. This is an addition many players will no doubt appreciate (judging by the reaction of those at TennoCon when this feature was revealed, Digital Extremes made a good call here).
Digital Extremes stated during today’s demo that they are constantly striving to change up Warframe in meaningful ways – that stagnation terrifies them. The Plains of Eidolon expansion is a great showcase of this mantra. The expansive new open area, mixed with interesting lore, combined with a slew of new customization and crafting options, will no doubt keep current players hooked, re-engage players who may have left recently, and is likely to bring in brand-new players as well. Look forward to playing Warframe’s newest expansion later this year.