TennoCon 2018: Deep-diving Warframe’s Fortuna and Railjack

Many fans, including me, are talking about still riding high after Warframe’s amazing TennoCon 2018 announcements this past weekend. That was some pretty epic stuff (I have to admit I  wonder how on earth they will manage to top themselves next year!). I was excited to share the news about Fortuna and Railjack with you as fast as I could; the only downside of that was it was too brief to add in many of the deeper details. I couldn’t include the insights and commentary that Game Director Steve Sinclair and Live Operations and Community Producer Rebecca Ford offered when I chatted with them. If only there were a way to impart that extra goodness to you and add in my own impressions. Oh wait!

While there’s certainly more to learn about the upcoming expansion/updates, here’s a bit more information about the underground all that cool stuff we can’t wait to experience for ourselves.

Venus: Bigger, better, colder

Back when I spoke with Sinclair at TennoCon 2017, he’d told me that while Eidolon wasn’t quite an open world, it is a first step in that direction. And Digital Extremes definitely took another step or two here. And huge steps at that. I still can’t get over Sinclair’s comment that the whole of Eidolon would fit in just that first base that players capture in Fortuna. The first one, Of many! And there is lots of room in between the bases to traverse. This expands the open space quite significantly. Here is where the phrasing “open world” comes to play for Warframe: It may not be the common industry idea of open world, but it opens this world. Even if it is an instance, it isn’t a small, confined space with only the specific objectives of a mission like the initial parts of the game. Instead, you can go in and participate in a variety of activities, such as more spear fishing of the crazy terraformed creatures or exploring the caverns hidden underneath. That there is the meaning of open: an open, explorable frozen frontier. In order to achieve this, Sinclair said the code had to be massively rewritten in order to support such an enormous landscape.

Some folks were surprised by the snowy landscape of The Orb Vallis. True, the Venus we know is a hot, people-melting mess. However, in this far distance future, life is — as you might expect — different. Ancient (yeah, it’s that far ahead in the future) terraformers were on Venus to make it inhabitable. For Warframe’s present day, at least one of those has been brought back to life, spewing its coolant into the air and making the surface survivable. Of course, the goal will be to make it so that the Corpus there don’t survive.

Back in the subject of bases, Sinclair said that they will scale as you go along, clearing them of the Corpus. That first base you capture is the easiest. But as you push against the Corpus and go further on, the surface it gets decidedly harder. And be forewarned that the massive Orb Layers, those mountain-sized spider-crab creatures we got a peek at in the distance dwarf the Eidolons in size and difficulty. Those mammoth all-terrain beasties, although programmed to protect the bases, are a serious end-game battle. (Fun fact: Sinclair noted that this creature’s ability to traverse all the angles of the terrain was a serious challenge to code.)

During the press reveal, Sinclair noted that he thought the feature the crowd would most appreciate is the fact that in Fortuna, players will no longer need to travel back to the hub in order to get bounties and continue their adventures on the surface. (He was off a bit, as hoverboards got the louder howls of approval.) This is pretty significant, meaning players can have a more seamless experience. Also, it is necessary to avoid having to redo the same content over and over because the surface instance will reset each time you come back to it; all captured bases will need to be recaptured. That makes sense, since Nef will constantly be fighting back to reclaim his losses due to the Solaris United resistance force.

We work in a land down under

Before you even get to the surface, you wander the Colony of Fortuna, a really cool (pun almost intended), industrial looking area filled with workers — that just so happens to be an internment colony. Ford shared with me that her favorite aspect of Fortuna is that the world is so different than Plains of Eidolon. She said,

“The world we built is so opposite of Plains of Eidolon. It’s sci-fi. It’s weird, dystopian, cyberpunk in some ways. And the flavor that gives me for Warframe is just so fresh because we’ve kind of gone more military gritty with Plains of Eidolon, and now I get to immerse myself in something completely unique. And I’ve never had the chance to do that at this level in Warframe. “

The new environment gives rise to the next culture, the Solaris (who happen to be hiding a secret that players might be able to earn enough trust to find out what it is). The inhabitants of Colony of Fortuna are not completely human anymore but unique cyborg hybrids who live in constant fear of their overlord, Nef Anyo. They are basically enslaved to utilize the planet’s resources and create the livable space. The Solaris are not technically slaves but are indebted to Nef — for their lives. These cyborg beings are so far in debt to the Corpus that they work there to pay off their debts; foreclosure means death as they have to give up their bodies.

Sinclair expounded a bit on the theme of the colony, calling it a social commentary on finances and debt. The reason the update as first envisioned wasn’t out by spring is because the team wanted to go deeper into cultural ideas. He described Warframe as Left for Dead in space mixed with a little Metal Gear, then explained how he was surprised by how much people wanted more lore. Now Digital Extremes is always trying to bring something real, grounded, maybe a little uncomfortable in the setting. The studio looks to put human a element in every race.

Shoot the poop

“You get to shoot poop in Warframe, isn’t that a dream every player has had?” — Steve Sinclair
Warframe, Sinclair said, is all about taking risks. The team wants the game to be about more than just guns. “It’s not enough just to have a giant landscape: You need interesting things to do and interesting new ways to traverse it,” Sinclair stated. That’s were shooting poop comes in. No, really. Another new feature coming that I greatly appreciate is one that does not rely on eradicating enemies. In fact, this diversion game mechanic is a new system designed to save creatures from getting killed. Sinclair called it Deer Hunter meets conservation. Players have the opportunity to help the Solaris in their conservation efforts of the local wildlife. And it is more than just going out and shooting the critter. You have to track it, hide downwind so as to not be discovered, mimic its call by moving the pitch on an echo-lure (a kazoo-like instrument you can use anywhere) to bring it our of hiding, and then tranquilize it before it runs away. Then pop a beacon on and it is home free. The creatures can be of varying rarity, which offer different rewards. If you spook it and fail, however, you have lost your chance there and need to hunt a new creature.

Hang ten with hoverboards

Hover boards! Need I say more? In a game that focuses on the fun of movement, how could you not appreciate the inclusion of a hoverboard? DE really hit it out of the park with this one, making it not just easier to traverse the vast new landscape but incredibly fun. And that is just from watching; I haven’t even ridden one yet and I already know it will be a blast! We watched flips and tricks in the demo, and I am certainly looking forward to doing just that. I also plan on running at least a few races with folks. And I might  have unofficially heard that there is a possibility of flags on a course to run.

Speaking of movement, the planet surface also has giant flowers you can jump on to propel yourself high into the air to reach higher elevations.

Build a better companion

Ford calls it fashion frame, and there is no denying that many players really get into customizing everything they can. Orbitors and dojos can be decorated — even the frames themselves can be decorated with regalia and syandanas. Toss in the weapons and all the skins and you can choose your own color combinations for it all. But more customization is always a good thing, right?

We already know that the kubro is getting its first cosmetic skin. But did you know that you can build your own robotic companion in Fortuna? A new modular companion system that lets you mix and match all sorts of pieces to create a unique looking Moa. And, of course, you can add things like bow ties for an added flair.

And since we are on the subject of kits, yes there are new kitguns in Fortuna that you can assemble from various parts.

Railjack and more to come

Of course, there will be even more to Fortuna in the future. Douglass Perry, PR Director, pointed out that even after this update launches, the team will continue to go back in and add more. “Every time we put out something new, you know that we are going to go back and add more to it. So whatever you see in it now, try to imagine what else [will be added],” he said.

And don’t forget Railjack! I don’t even know where to begin on that one, except holy space cows! WE will get to fly into space, repel boarders, board the enemy, and blow this ship. More than that, it will be a communal space journey with friends, something I have been looking forward to for a long, long time. I really need to finally get my archwing. And the past zones won’t be forgotten either, as Sinclair said more Eidolons are to come. Warframe just keeps getting better and better. If you haven’t tried it yet, now may be a really great time to get in. Click the link and get going — adventure awaits!

Check out the rest of our TennoCon 2018 coverage!

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. MJ’s bus even had internet, y’all!
Massively Overpowered is on the ground in London, Canada, for TennoCon 2018, bringing you expert coverage on Warframe and Digital Extremes’ other games!
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