With the Warframe Empyrean expansion, Digital Extremes is making a bold move – one more, we could say, after the massive leap forward with the release of the Plains of Eidolon update. From open world to the depths of space, this is where Empyrean is going to take us, spicing up the ninja battles with the intense and frantic space combat that is coming with the expansion’s highlight: Railjack.
At its core, Warframe has always been about an engaging and rewarding co-op experience, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Quite the contrary, in fact, as Railjack pushes the cooperative aspect even further, with a vessel requiring a four-strong team for effective maneuverability and combat. Cooperation is crucial to succeed, with the developer’s vision being fully realized when you have a fully coordinated team at the helm of the ship.
Ninjas in Spaceships | Warframe Empyrean Preview
Solo players aren’t locked out of the experience, but the focus is on performing roles within the Railjack and the capability to quickly switch from one area to the other, putting out fires and casting powers, in order to keep the ship intact and the goals clearly in sight. Co-op is pretty much a requirement for everything above the first tier of difficulty, so this isn’t exactly suited for players looking for a solo experience. At least, until a specific feature is released, but more on that later. One thing you should know for sure: there is no PvP coming with Empyrean, despite some sizable player demand.
If you’re a regular Warframe player, by now you may already have your ship built and waiting at the Drydock, your personal space hangar. Railjack customization isn’t a light affair, with colors to choose for the different ship exterior parts, and you can add decals and skins as well. You can baptize your ship as you see fit and the name will be proudly displayed on the side, showing your selected moniker to the other crew members. Worth mentioning is the ability to select the level of wear and tear of your ship, going between a scale of shiny and pristine to “I’ve seen things.”
There are a few aspects of Railjack that deserve highlighting, such as Avionics. These are your basic mods and appear divided into three categories. Battle Avionics are active abilities that can be activated by anyone on a turret, and you can have three of them simultaneously. The Void Hole is described as one of the most impressive Battle mods, enabling you to create a black hole that sucks the enemy ships without hesitation. Integrated Avionics are mods that increase the passive stats of your vessel, such as weapons and other base stats, and you have nine slots for them. Finally, Tactical Avionics are ship interior-focused mods about higher-level battle situation management.
Active power management was an option that was originally planned, but it was cut from the system as it was deemed too complicated for the frantic gameplay. The new system is described as more focused, and you are able to manage it in a more intuitive way via the Avionics menu.
With the Avionic Endo that you earn, you can upgrade your grid ranks to improve a mod that fits into that grid. Similarly, you can choose to upgrade the mod itself, paving the way for a “two-way street of upgrading,” as Community Director Rebecca Ford aptly describes it.
It’s advised that you don’t go to outer space without preloading your ship with the resources that you believe you are going to need. Space combat can be costly, so make sure that you head over to the Payload menu to check which resources you’ll be hauling, as you’ll need them to craft munitions and more.
The Intrinsics are a very important aspect of Railjack. This is a new type of player progression system that isn’t overly dependent on grind or RNG, unlocking interesting special maneuvers for the ship. However, these aren’t bound to the ship, being tied to the Warframe itself, which means that if you join other player’s spacecraft, you’re taking these skills with you.
Intrinsics are divided into Tactical, Piloting, Gunnery, and Engineering categories, with a fifth category, Command, to be released at a later date. This one will allow you to recruit your own NPC crew, lending a hand to players who are more inclined to forfeit collaborative efforts and dive in solo. You have multiple slots to which you can attribute crew members and grant them duties that other players would have to do, such as repairing the ship or putting out fires. An item will allow you to respec these abilities when the Command category releases, so don’t hold back with the earned points.
If you don’t have a Railjack because you failed to complete the quest or you’re not quite there yet, don’t worry, you won’t be locked out of ship-on-ship action. While you can’t form a crew because you lack the all-important vessel, you can use the “join a crew” option to play a role in someone else’s ship – all you need to do this is have an Archwing. You won’t be the host, but as I have previously mentioned, you’re taking your Intrinsics to other player’s ship, so if you have a nice Gunnery level, for example, it will surely come in handy during those firefights. I can already predict a lot of chat recruiting going on in the backstage.
A free flight mode will let you comfortably explore the fundamentals of your Railjack without the looming pressure of risking your ship during a mission. When you are ready to launch, a cool cinematic triggers, but those brief seconds will feel interminable after a few gaming sessions. Thankfully, Digital Extremes has confirmed that this cinematic is skippable.
In deep space, Warframe Empyrean brings a new kind of gameplay into the limelight. The mission objectives are determined according to the build of the level and which points of interest were randomized into it, so you may be tasked to destroy 30 fighters and five crewships, for example. While you’ll frenetically run inside the Railjack switching places with other crew members, piloting the ship or blasting away, you can go outside with your Archwing for a host of new activities. You can help by taking down opponent ships, or board them and do massive damage from the inside, collecting resources and escaping in the nick of time. Hijacking ships is another option, if you prefer to do so.
Railjack is a frenetic undertaking and the most intense collaborative version of Warframe yet. It is taking the acclaimed game to the next level, adding to its vast scope while remaining loyal to its foundations, rooted on cooperative play since it first launched in 2013. After Warframe Empyrean, the question that remains is where Digital Extremes is going to take the game next.