TennoCon 2017: Warframe’s Plains of Eidolon is the first step toward a true MMORPG

Pictured: Probably not Toronto.
Do you think you know what Warframe is? Can you define the game? Well toss that out the window because the new expansion is going to change things quite a bit. Plains of Eidolon, announced tonight at the end of TennoCon 2017, is taking the shooter in a new direction by opening the world up and fleshing the universe out, creating new ways to experience the game. If you haven’t tried Warframe yet thinking the game isn’t for you, this summer will definitely be the time to jump in and give it a spin.

Can the new expansion really be that game-changing? Yes. I sat with devs as they played through a live demo earlier this afternoon, and what I saw really takes Warframe in a new direction. (I also really liked it!) Plains of Eidolon adds a whole new dimension of player freedom. It brings a more MMORPG feel into the game — makes it more of a real world. Instead of just taking missions and teleporting to small instances, players will have the chance to explore the Warframe universe in open landscapes and meet the races they’ve been protecting for the last four years. Game Director Steve Sinclair told me that while it isn’t an open world, this is a first step in that direction, incorporating elements such as NPCs, open adventure areas, and day/night cycles that influence the gameplay. Of course, the expansion will also include a new Warframe, new weapons, and plenty of new story. Read on for a preview and the brand-new trailer!

Why change?

Some Warframe fans might be a bit shocked at such a departure from the current feel of the game. That’s a bit of the point. Sinclair expressed that one of his biggest fears is that the game will stagnate. No dev wants their game to go stale and get boring. The idea is to give players something new without taking away from the old. And you can’t argue that this isn’t new! A living, evolving game will stay infinitely more interesting than one that just delivers the same old, same old.

For those who really like the old style of just jumping to missions from their ship, Rebecca Ford, live operations and community producer for Digital Extremes, told me that new content going forward will likely be a mixture of landscapes and the instanced missions. However, that all depends on what players want.

What changed

So what are the details of these changes and how will it impact the game? First, players have the chance to finally meet and interact with one of the races they fight to protect, the Ostrons. Sinclair noted this is the first time a new culture is introduced and explore — but it won’t be the last. Players will land in Cetus, the new relay (it’s like a town in an MMO). Here the scavenging Ostrons have build their settlement, and players can wander through, watching snippets of life (I particularly like the kids cosplaying Warframes!), as well as collect missions. These missions send the Tenno out into the new landscape, which is three square kilometers of playable, explorable land complete with a variety of environs.

The new area, called a landscape, is a huge departure from the previous mission mazes. One, you walk to it seamlessly instead of teleporting. Two, you have the freedom to choose what you will do. Before, players had objectives that took specific paths to complete; you even have an arrow directing you. This landscape is more like an open world: You can go where you please and decide what to do and when you do it. If you see a mountain on the horizon, you can go to it (the rendering distance is vastly improved here). You can do the missions, but you can also engage in spear fishing (with leaderboards and possible uses for fish parts), shoot birds from the sky, hunt new species, go spelunking in caves, stalk Grineer settlements, or just fly about the air with your Archwings. The natural landscape also has some fun gameplay built into it: The tall grasses will allow for hiding and stealth if you crouch, and battles can take place high in the air.

Although the city of Cetus allows for up to 50 players to congregate together, the landscape itself will only allow up to the four in a group, with the possibility of that increasing to the raid size of eight, according to Ford. Players will need to squad up before heading into the landscape or invite others afterward because there is no matchmaking. Cetus (and its repeatable quests) remain the same, but each trip into the landscape will be different for players. Sinclair noted that things will change in the procedurally generated map; mission objective locations will move and conditions will change, such as the number of Grineer and where their camps are.

It is important to note that unlike many other expansions which require many hours of play to be able to reach and experience, Plains of Eidolon will have content for all levels of Tenno, from the new player to veterans. This is where the day/night cycle comes in. During the day the new landscape is filled with Grineer that even new players can fight. The quests from the city Cetus are doable. But that all changes when night comes: As the sun sets, even the Grineer hop in their ships and flee the surface. This is when the Spectral Sentients, the ghosts from long ago battles there on Earth, rise from the water in search of their remains. These four- or five-story high beasts are quite the challenge, with multiple variations and stages to fight through that will require experienced Tenno to come together and use strategy to defeat. The entire landscape will be more difficult, but the rewards will be different as well: Sinclair told me plans are for a completely different weapon and armor system to be attainable from the night to turn Tenno (the Operators) into warriors. Even the fish to catch will be different! Sinclair described it as one Tenno versus many mobs in the day and many Tenno versus one mob at night.

Other changes to the game include adding a new Warframe and weapons, all with a glass theme. That’s right, real glass weapons! And I’d just like to mention that the Warframe has bunny ears. As for acquiring the new stuff, remember those missions we talked about in Cetus? These lead players to find and build new Warframes and weapons. More info on all that will be forthcoming, but the art panel did reveal multiple new goodies, including gold prime pieces, wraith tint, a kusarigama, and mystery melee weapons. There is also a new modding system for customizing said Warframes and weapons like never before. Think of build-a-bear but with weapon pieces instead of stuffed arms and legs. And the different components will change more than just stats but stance as well. Ford noted that right now there are six blades, six handles, and six balances that can be intermixed but plans are to grow that pool fairly rapidly. Players will also be able to name their custom-built weapons.

How much will be available to free-to-play players? Ford emphasized that free players will have access to all this, from the city to the landscapes to the weapon customization. The biggest difference between free player and not, she noted, will likely be how many weapon components were available to start and how much time it would take to acquire them.

To Eidolon and beyond!

Plains of Eidolon is not where this new type of environment ends. Sinclair told me that the goal is to continue opening up more landscapes, including moving to other planets besides Earth. It is, after all, a space game! The Ostrons are also just the start of introducing more cultures onto the game.

During the art panel, some of the most interesting images were of the sentient outposts which grow by consuming materials from space. Also shown was the concept art for a multi-player ship. That is something I am really looking forward to! Ford said that these items are in the future sometime after this next expansion.

Worth a look

As much as I am not a fan of shooters, I have found that I really love the combat in Warframe. And not just combat, but the bow! I’ve had a blast pinning Grineer to the wall, or watching their bodies ragdoll flop down a hall or over a ledge. There is such satisfaction in that! On those merits alone I would recommend anyone to try the free-to-play game. I mean, if I can like a shooter, it’s possible anyone can, right?

But now you add in the open landscapes and detailed environments that give me the freedom to explore at my own pace, NPCs who bring life to the world (whose stories I can learn and I can people watch), and the non-combat activities like fishing, and I triple that recommendation. Even better, this content is something we can get into now, not after months of playtime. Well, not now now, but as soon as the expansion launches. And that release is anticipated to be at the end of the summer, so the wait won’t be too long.

I am eagerly awaiting Plains of Eidolon, and judging by the reaction from the cheering TennoCon crowd, so are many other Warframe fans.

Disclosure: In accordance with Massively OP’s ethics policy, we must disclose that Digital Extremes paid for our writer’s travel to and accommodation at this event. The studio has neither requested nor been granted any control or influence over our coverage of the event.
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