With Tennocon 2019 behind us, players and longtime fans are no doubt still trying to wrap their heads around the sheer immensity of what was shown to be coming for Warframe. From a teaser trailer of the new open world coming with the Duviri Paradox, to story teasers about the upcoming New War, there was plenty for players to be excited about. However, the main attraction was Empyrean, a massive update that sees the Tenno become true Space Ninjas, taking on capital ships and missions from within their own Railjack.
Requiring a Dojo and a Drydock, the Railjack will allow squads of up to four Tenno explore the depths of space, visiting areas above familiar planets or exploring the Heliosphere.
Each Railjack is fully customisable, with players able to add Glyphs, change the vessel name, change the colours, and more. The real customisation comes in terms of the technology you can unlock while flying missions. While every player will own their own personal Railjack, if you’re a member of a Squad, starting on a single Railjack, every player will get the same mission rewards.
Players will be able to unlock new technologies to upgrade and lethalise their Railjack for greater murdering potential, support capabilities, and more. With pilot gunnery positions, side turrets, ordnance, and tactical equipment such as decoys, there’ll be plenty of new technology to discover, employ, and master.
Adding more depth to your ship are a host of characters, many of which you’re in direct control of. We have NPCs which you can hire, fire, and who will customise the functionality and benefits of your particular Railjack. Then, there’s Cephalon Cy, my new favourite, whose deep voice has an aura of command that implies you may not be in control on board the Railjack.
In fact, as Digital Extremes’ Rebecca played a live demo and the Railjack was boarded by hostiles, you hear Cephalon Cy say in his gravelly tones, “Get those amateurs off my ship”. Sir, yes sir.
You’ll spend much of your time after Empyrean launches, zooming around in your Railjack flying from planet to planet, completing space-bound missions, such as Exploration. These missions have Tenno discovering new areas and ancient buildings to delve into, which can be accessed by a quick Archwing jaunt through space. But even while on the Railjack, influence can be exuded over the battlefield, manipulating and impairing enemies to make it easy for Ground Team Alpha to execute their goal.
The Railjack can be customised, adjusted, and upgraded on the fly, with new systems being implemented to increase combat or support effectiveness. Players will be able to upgrade their Battle Modules, Tactical Modules, Shields, and Engines.
What was truly incredible, shown through the Tennocon 2019 demo, was the seamless transitions and cooperation with Rebecca, Danielle, and Megan all working together, undertaking different tasks, to result in victory. Manning side turrets, repelling invaders, and even the taking over other Railjack-sized ships was all happening simultaneously.
When an enemy ship was incapacitated by a form of EMP pulse from the Railjack, it was able to be boarded by a solo Tenno, resulting in the crew being mercilessly cut down, the pilot being killed, and the ship taken over. This may have given the already advantage-heavy Tenno a further advantage as two large ships began blasting hostile vessels into oblivion. And when you’re done with the ship, find the core, destroy it, and escape. Easy.
The main space-battle action, described by Steve Sinclair as ‘bonkers’ (TRUTH!), was when the Tenno went up against the Capitol Ship and small army of a Kuva Lich. These Grineer are infused with Kuva and sent out to kill Tenno or die by their void-abilities. This allows the Kuva Lich to develop the ability and come back stronger than they were before. The Kuva Liches are part of the Kingpin System and will have a recurring relationship with the player, which is a boon to lore-lovers everywhere.
As the battle against the fleet of the Kuva Lich waged on, a Disruptor Field was activated on the planet below, which happened to be Earth. This is where one of the most exciting parts about Empyrean came into play, something that near boggles the mind in terms of development and implementation; the Squad Link.
Squad Link enables other Tenno squads in the same session complete objectives to assist each other in real time. This is done through a Support Beacon of sorts, acting similar to a police scanner, broadcasting calls for aid.
The Space Tenno were unable to get close to the Capital Ship due to the Disruptor Field being beamed from the Plains of Eidolon. When an aid request was beamed and picked up by a happy squad of fishing Tenno, two of whom were the upcoming Frames, Gauss and Grendel, it was accepted and activated a mission requiring them to take out the source of the Field.
Now there are two Tenno squads operating independently of each other but trying to accomplish the same goal. While Space Squad was busy trying to buy time and survive in the pitched space battle, Fish Tenno were taking out the Disruptor Field. When accomplished, Space Tenno were able to get closer and board the Kuva Lich’s Capital Ship.
The cooperation was likened to the age-old Survival mission objective of ‘buying time for a lone Tenno operative to scour the ship for supplies’ as we battled our way through progressively more difficult enemy waves. You’ve gotta love callbacks!
Then came time for the final push against the Kuva Lich, which again, showcased the incredible teamwork and system immersion that Empyrean is bringing to the nebula. With different specialisations of enemy bosses, of which this particular one was a Tech Specialist, players will need to employ different tactics to emerge triumphant. In this case, Tech Specialists can redirect power from the Capitol Ship to make them near invulnerable, that is until the external generators are taken out by the weapons on board the Railjack.
Sitting here, many many hours after watching the Tennocon 2019 livestream and the sheer immersion, cooperative nature, and teamwork still astound me. Empyrean is free, like much of Warframe’s content, which is also insane due to the ‘next-level’ nature of the expansion. Not only are new systems and ways to play being added to the game, but a deeper system of absorption and a greater ‘living-universe’ feeling. I honestly am lost for words when I think about Empyrean and what it makes me feel.
While many games extend the story and add new factions or weapons within their larger expansions, Digital Extremes does that on a regular basis, leaving their larger content drops to reinvigorate and upgrade how players play Warframe. Quite simply, Warframe pushes the envelope, setting a positive example for developers everywhere.
There is no release date for Empyrean at this time but from this passionate fan (and I’m sure, many others, thank you Digital Extremes, for everything you do for us.