What is TennoCon but the opportunity to debut something big for Warframe? Every year Digital Extremes introduces players to new and exciting content that’s quickly — and not so quickly (I’m looking at you, teaser trailer!) — coming up. Not surprisingly, TennoCon 2023 did just that, revealing plenty of info for the fans to squeal in delight about. And squeal and shout they did! You’ve had an at-a-glance taste of the reveals; now take some big meaty bites and learn more about this year’s big mega winter release, Whispers in the Walls. I sat down with Creative Director Rebb Ford to get more details on what to expect in this update and going forward.
Welcoming Whispers in the Walls
Warning, this section has some story spoilers (that were revealed at TennoLive), so read ahead at your own risk (or skip right down to the next section).
The next big thing to come to Warframe is significant beyond being just being cool new content to digest. Ford said Whispers in the Walls “kicks off the future of Warframe.” Part of that is its role as the literal start of the new long-term narrative. The other part is that it ties together older content in a few ways, from story elements to world-building. This marriage of aspects within Warframe is a theme Ford aims to make happen more as development continues.
“I really want to make sure that everything that we already have in game, if we can give it another look and connect it, we should,” she said. “But do it in a way people won’t expect.”
So what is the subject of this new narrative? Folks familiar with the story so far will know that there is a mysterious Man in the Wall. (Those who don’t, you can look forward to him!) He is the star of this multi-act show. However, Ford cautions that Whispers in the Walls will not answer your questions as to who he really is and what he wants; this winter’s update will touch only on understanding him, his motives, and his plans. “This is the beginning of asking that question, ‘What does he want’,” she said. “I think one of the best decisions we can make is to keep it a mystery as long as we can.” This update is about just barely starting to dig under the surface.
Speaking of under the surface, that is the second aspect that ties the game together, the world-building. Ford called Whispers in the Walls the first hub expansion. Considering the additions of Cetus, Fortuna, and Necralisk, I asked if she could elaborate. She explained that it’s the first hub to which DE has added a second floor. Previously, the old additions were one-and-done deals — or as players like to call them, content islands. Once the content was released, DE moved on to other things. Now, however, Ford wants this old content to connect. For Whispers in the Walls, she said, “I wanted to make a place that players already know feel like it held secrets.”
The new hub (the labs) makes use of existing space with a basement in Necralisk. Devs are creating a multi-level hub where Ford envisions players moving seamlessly from the open world area to town, then down to the labs and the procedural areas, then back up and to the Necralisk and then out to the open world, thereby fostering the feeling of a real place. Also lending to a more live feel, Whispers in the Walls will have a full syndicate of NPCs and supporting cast populating the hub expansion for the players to meet. Ford elaborated:
“This arc is being done out of respect for everything that has come before it. We didn’t build a new hub, we went deeper into what was already there. Thematically, that’s really important for me to show that we’re going deeper into what’s already there. The tapestry of Warframe, what we want to do can only exist because of things the players already love. I want to really respect that.”
Savor the cinematic
If you saw the live demo on stage at TennoCon, you got to see the beginning of the new story quest that gets the whole ball rolling. So let’s delve into the content! You see CRT monitors and floppy drives in the lab, giving you the first taste of the familiar. Wait, these bits are looking like our world!? Hold that thought; it might be important later. You watch as the master of the lab says farewell with affection to his aide/disciple/assistant/no idea the relation really and enter what looks like a coffin or cryopod thing with his giant kitty. Then you watch as this assistant smashes the pod. Nope, didn’t see that coming. Did it break?
From there, you begin play, learning about the “Kalymos Sequence”; you’re tasked by Loid to head to the Entrati labs and wake the sleeper. This sleeper is critical to complete the mission of the vessels. What are the vessels? Oh, just humongous golem-like beings that never got fully assembled. Why are they in incomplete states? There’s a question to be answered as you play.
The cinematic then ends with a big reveal (way bigger than learning that Loid the Cephelon was named after Loid the sleeper!). Since Tenno can already transfer to Warframes, what’s to say they can’t do so to other things? Things like the gigantic vessels that Dr. Entrati was building? This will be crazy!
Chew on all the content
On the topic of playing, Ford shared a very important fact: Players do not need rank 5 in Entrati faction to begin and enjoy this content. Hallelujah! This opens it up for far more players.
Next, let’s talk about the fact that ‘knowledge is power’ takes on a new meaning in this update: You will be able to deal death with a book. With the new Grimoire weapon, Tenno literally get to kill using literature. I love it! I must have one. I’ve never really found any secondary weapon that I am fond of, so this Void energy-filled tome could be perfect. It even has both a primary fire and an alt fire.
I also really like the tilesets of the labs — and not just because the new GI lighting is awesome. (Note, GI lighting is available only in the new tilesets for now; it will slowly be extended into the rest of the game when it can). The atmosphere is really cool and includes proper lab accoutrements. As Ford put it, “Because we are in a lab, we want to make sure we have mystery goo, like any good lab.”
I was especially impressed with that liquid in the various test tubes as it was more than just for looks. You can, in fact, break them and release the glowing goo. Ford explained that these lab tilesets give players a more reactive environment, essentially giving them more things to shoot at. What Tenno will refuse more kinds of targets? So blast away those various contraptions and goo-filled vials — just be careful to not touch any of it!
A new place is perfect for new mobs, right? Besides goo, there are oodles of necramechs to wipe out of the labs, including new kinds. These enemy necramechs also got a rework and were streamlined. Ford emphasized that this is for enemies only, however; there are no changes for player necramechs.
Beyond the lab are the monstrosities. We’re talking about disembodied limbs that swarm you. Ford introduced these as the new faction, the Murmur. Who, or what, are they? And what do they want? (Other than tearing Tenno apart, of course.)
Ford went a bit deeper into discussing the Murmur monstrosities. With the Murmur comes a new game mode available only on this tileset, Swarm. Here, various separate limbs attack, then can attach to form the large monstrosity. While it is still in development, Ford said DE aims to reward players in this game mode who can clear the pieces out quickly with fewer limbs able to connect together. If you kill quickly enough, there won’t be as many/any pieces left to form the bigger bosses. Once they’re formed, though, players will have to blow off the many parts to defeat the monstrosity. A word of caution: Under questioning, Ford said that there is a possibility that the limbs will find ways to reattach during battle: “Whether or not he can heal and reattach limbs, we are still debating and playtesting. We need to playtest more before we can make the final call.”
She did share that players will get to know what they are up against at a glance thanks to this update’s emphasis on shape language. Peek again at the demo and you’ll see the triangles and rectangles. Ford shared that each shape has a different function, so which combination of shapes attach together into a Murmur will dictate what skills it has. There’s even a slinky style monstrosity. Ford described the triangles as defensive and a circle of arms as a ranged bomb lobber. Arms try to grab Tenno and throw things, and of course legs do what legs do: They will literally kick the Tenno’s arse.
Waiting for winter
Winter is coming, but not quite soon enough. After watching the reveal, are you looking forward to Whispers in the Walls? I am!