When we first heard of Warframe’s Empyrean – then titled Railjack – it blew us away with its addition of co-op spaceship combat to the already stuffed game. But Empyrean isn’t just some expansion that gives us a new locale or updates the game’s action to now include ship-to-ship space battles. No, as Game Director Steve Sinclair revealed this weekend past to a packed audience at Tennocon – the annual Canadian-based convention dedicated to all things Warframe – expansions are all about creating a new but separate gaming experience. Empyrean is all about connections.
There’s the obvious connection between you and your Railjack. Each of these spaceships is personal for each player and extremely customizable with cosmetics. You can even hire and fire your own selection of NPC crew that will change how the ship performs. Then, of course, there’s the connection between you and the two teammates you will require to take your Railjack out on missions, all contributing to its workings FTL-style. As Sinclair and his Digital Extremes team showed off in an amazing 45-min long live demo though, that’s just scratching the surface.
As we’ve previously seen the three-Frame squad will need to work together – one person piloting, while the other two can man the ship’s guns, do in-combat repairs/resource gathering, repel boarders, or even launch out into space using an archwing to engage in combat directly or board and take control of enemy ships themselves. As shown in the demo above though, players may run into obstacles that prove extremely difficult to overcome: in this case, a massive shield wall protecting the enemy capital ship being powered by a generator on the surface of a nearby planet.
Here’s where DE got clever: In real time, your team up in space can now send out a request for assistance which is broadcast to players in other gaming instances currently in the same in-game solar system as your team. If these planet-side players have opted into the experience by deploying a specialized Squad Link beacon that listens for calls for help, they can now choose to engage in a mission of their own to destroy the planetary shield generator and assist their fellow Tenno up in space (all for a reward, of course).
As Sinclair points out, these types of random missions were always a part of the game’s open world experience (“A lone Tenno operative has boarded an enemy vessel and requires assistance,” for example), but now it’s actually a live player on the other end of that call. This level of connectivity gives your actions in-game far more heft than ever before.
As for the enemy boss that was hiding behind that massive shield? Well, that’s another new wrinkle. Borrowing from Shadow of Mordor’s game-changing Nemesis system, Warframe will now also get a persistent enemy type that remembers your actions. In this case, he’s a Kuva Lich who will engage you randomly in the game, not just in Empyrean (he won’t show up in narrative missions though, so no worries there). Though the latter will see him employ a capital ship complete with his own fleet and class-based mechanics that will require your entire team and any other willing Tenno to defeat.
What’s more, this Kuva Lich is completely personalized to you, remembering all your encounters and the tactics you used and commenting on them. He’ll even embellish his appearance with mementoes of your battles. And there will be a lot of those because every time you kill this Kuva Lich, it will not only be reborn, but come back stronger – in some cases, even copying some of your abilities. This is going to be a lot more stressful than when the Stalker used to show up in-game to harass you, and finding a permanent solution to the Kuva Lich looks like it’s going to be quite a task.
And if that wasn’t enough, all of this will be running on Warframe’s brand new graphics engine that has been tweaked from the ground up with far better real-time lighting and shadows, particle effects, textures, and more. The engine is still in development and meant to take advantage of the next gen of console hardware, but damn it’s already very pretty right now!
Last Updated: July 8, 2019