Design Phases

For organisational purposes, we have divided the Tenno’s time in the Origin System into major thematic periods or phases. These periods cover both the real-world timeline of game development, as well as the in-universe timeline of events, as depicted in quests, events, Tactical Alerts, and Special Alerts. Due to retcons and other inconsistencies between real-world and in-universe timelines, some events may not completely line up within their assigned phases, and we have included notes indicating such inconsistencies.

These phases are of our own delineation, and are not official in any way. DE do not, to our knowledge, use a similar system to demarcate design periods, and so the borders between these phases, as represented here, are somewhat fuzzy – there is no clear distinction between one phase and the next. These phases are simply chronological groupings of events that share a similar design philosophy as seen from an outside perspective – a shared design philosophy that was, in all likelihood, not present on a conscious level at the time of development. As this classification seeks to unify both narrative arc (operating on in-universe time) and design decisions (operating on outside, absolute, chronological time), we will use the terms “phase” for narrative discussions and “stage” for design discussions, for the sake of clarity. Please note that sometimes the two are enmeshed to a degree of inextricability; we attempt to remain consistent with our word choice throughout.


Phase 1: Awakening

Start: Closed beta, 25 Oct 2012, Vanilla
End: before Sling-Stone, 23 Jul 2013, U9.2
Length: 9 months
Events: Fusion Moa, Artefact Defence, Informant
Quests: none
Tactical Alerts: none
Frames: Ash, Ember, Excalibur, Loki, Mag, Rhino, Trinity, Volt, Nyx, Frost, Banshee, Saryn, Vauban, Nova, Excalibur Prime, Frost Prime
Other developments: Clan Dojos, Orokin Void, Captain Vor rework

This phase sees the first of the Tenno awaken from cryosleep and encounter the major factions of the Origin System. Robbed of their memories by their hasty revival, the Tenno come to terms with their new world, confronting the Grineer, the Corpus, and the Infested. Throughout this period, they are guided by the Lotus, the mysterious figure who protects them, while directing them to keep the balance. As the Tenno are revived from stasis and grow in number, they band together to form clans, fostering unity and friendly competition. Throughout the shattered System, remnants of Orokin technology still linger, their power evident but their potential unknown. Eventually, the Tenno are able to recover ancient Void keys and unlock their secrets, opening portals to the arcane and enigmatic Void, where Orokin structures still remain intact.

Story retcons: Vor’s Prize, Once Awake, Howl of the Kubrow, and the town of Cetus, although all were developed later, take place in this phase of the story, at the beginning of the Tenno’s journey.  The town of Fortuna, developed later, is also placed near the start of the Tenno’s journey, though its ultimate classification is likely later in the storyline.

This is the first stage of Warframe’s design. The basic run-and-gun gameplay is introduced. A coterie of thematic warframes – many with “elemental” designs – are introduced, with simple, straightforward mechanics (many of these would be later re-worked as the game advanced in complexity). The Foundry and the mod system were introduced, laying the foundation for Warframe’s classification as a “farming” or “collecting” game. The clan and Dojo systems were also added at this time. Most of the gameplay concepts we experience today have their roots in this stage, but they have all received mechanical reworks – almost no part of the game now plays the same as it did back then. Worldbuilding was scarce, with almost none of it in the game proper. Lore was instead conveyed through item descriptions or UI text. As this stage transitioned into the next, DE began exploring the universe through small weekend events, showing new developments in the Corpus and Grineer through the Fusion Moa and Informant events, respectively.


Phase 2: Playing Politics

Start: Sling-Stone, 24 Jul 2013, U9.3
End: Eyes of Blight, 31 Jan 2015, U15.12.3
Length: 1 year 6 mo
Events: Sling-Stone, Arid Fear, Survival Weekend, Gradivus Dilemma, Hunt for Alad V, Cicero Crisis, Oxium Espionage, Tethra’s Doom, Spectres of Liberty, Breeding Grounds, Avalanche Offensive, Cryotic Front, Gate Crash, Mutalist Incursions, Eyes of Blight
Quests: Vor’s Prize, Hidden Messages, Howl of the Kubrow, Archwing, Limbo Theorem, Once Awake, Patient Zero
Tactical Alerts: Hyena Facility, Shifting Sands, Cold Revenge, Pack Mentality, Toxic Terrors, Fleet Footed, Fight or Flight, Overtake
Frames: Nekros, Valkyr, Oberon, Zephyr, Hydroid, Mirage, Limbo, Mesa, Mag Prime, Ember Prime, Rhino Prime, Loki Prime, Nyx Prime, Nova Prime
Other developments: A Favour for Darvo, Orokin Derelicts, invasions, Dark Sectors, Vay Hek rework, kubrows, Suspicious Shipments, Ties That Bind, Relays, Syndicates, Baro Ki’Teer

This phase began with the event Operation: Sling-Stone. Tensions between the Grineer and the Corpus finally come to a head and explode into a System-wide conflict that continues to rage to this day. The Grineer, angered by Corpus economic hegemony, unveil a superweapon developed in secret: Fomorian capital ships. The Lotus reminds the Tenno that the balance of power must be maintained, and directs them to destroy the Fomorians so that the Grineer do not grow too strong. With this event, the Tenno transition from their isolated, individual assignments – to raid, sabotage, and assassinate – to large-scale engagements focused on disrupting major Grineer and Corpus initiatives, sometimes aligning temporarily with one side to strike down the other.

For anti-Grineer operations, the Tenno gradually uncovered evidence of Vay Hek rebuilding the shattered Fomorian fleet, sabotaged Fomorian core production on Ceres, unearthed the Orokin-era Archwing combat system to fight them, and finally faced the Fomorians head-on as they threatened to destroy the Tenno Relays. This year-long campaign, along with the Tenno’s interference in the attempted poisoning of Earth’s forests, earned the Tenno the undying wrath of Councillor Vay Hek.

The Tenno also took action against the Corpus and Infested. Following the contentious Gradivus Dilemma, the Corpus Board of Directors turns its back on Alad V, giving up his location to the Tenno, who deliver efficient justice… or so they thought. Alad V survives, and turns to the Infestation as a way to increase his reach, forcing the evolution of a new strain capable of infecting robotics. Alad’s Mutalist Infested eventually take over Eris, decimating outer-sector trade. During this time, Frohd Bek, Chairman of the Corpus Board, is careful not to over-antagonise the Tenno, knowing their power, but finds himself in opposition to them when they side with his estranged son, Darvo.

Story retcons: The Law of Retribution trial was developed a little bit later, in Update 16.0, but it serves to cap off the story arc of Vay Hek and his Balor Fomorians. Vor’s Prize, Once Awake, and Howl of the Kubrow were developed in this time period, but in-universe take place at the beginning of the Tenno’s journey.

In this stage of design, DE sought to expand the enemy factions and characters within their universe. Egomaniacal villains with plans for System-wide domination like Vay Hek and Alad V were shown. The game continued to evolve, with modes like Survival, Invasions, Forest Sabotage, Hive Sabotage, Void Sabotage, Rescue 2.0, Excavation, Hijack, and Archwing all introduced, along with several tilesets that massively expanded on environmental diversity: Grineer Settlement, Orokin Derelict, Corpus Gas City, Grineer Forest, Grineer Shipyards, Infested Ship, Corpus Ice Planet, and Tenno Relays. Although the Quest system was introduced in this stage, the story was mostly told through Events: massive operations where the playerbase could come together to achieve a common goal – or, in the case of the Gradivus Dilemma, achieve competing goals, testing the limits of the Tenno’s loyalty to each other. This fostered a sense of global community, and agency within the game universe as the players saw the result of their collective effort.


Phase 3: Discovery

Start: Stolen Dreams, 05 Feb 2015, U15.13
End: The War Within, 20 Dec 2016, U19.4.2.1
Length: 1 year 10 mo
Events: False Profit, Tubemen of Regor, Shadow Debt, Rathuum, Index Preview
Quests: Stolen Dreams, New Strange, Natah, Man of Few Words, Jordas Precept, Second Dream, Sands of Inaros, Silver Grove, War Within
Tactical Alerts: Phoenix Intercept, Ogma Elite, Blackout, Den of Kubrow, Black Seed Scourge, Emergency Exit, Project: Undermine, Hallowed Nightmares, Divine Will, One Thousand Cuts, Long Shadow, Snowday Showdown
Frames: Chroma, Equinox, Atlas, Wukong, Ivara, Nezha, Inaros, Titania, Volt Prime, Ash Prime, Trinity Prime, Saryn Prime, Vauban Prime, Nekros Prime, Valkyr Prime
Other developments: Maroo, Spy 2.0, Law of Retribution, Crossfire, The Jordas Verdict, Kuria, Operators, Corpus Bust, Prime Warframe trailers begin, Spectres of the Rail, Riven mods

This phase is marked by revelation – answers to years-old mysteries, secrets excavated from ancient ruins, and discoveries so shocking they raise more questions than they answer. The Stolen Dreams and New Strange quests introduce us to Cephalon Simaris, Maroo, and the Arcane Codices, which hold ancient knowledge from the Orokin era. Simaris invites the Tenno to his Sanctuary project, which reveals memories of events long ago. Through this new lens of history, we discover that the golden and perfect Orokin were responsible for a variety of atrocities and horrific developments during their reign, including the creation of mentally-handicapped clone labourers and soldiers that would eventually become the Grineer, and the creation of intelligent and adaptable robots that would eventually become the Sentients. Spectres of the Rail revealed Ordis’ splintered consciousness, telling the tale of how he was forcibly converted into a cephalon for immortal servitude. The Sands of Inaros quest shows how the Orokin used warframes to abduct children. The wealth of lore we receive paints the picture of an empire unconcerned with the value of human life, using whatever means necessary to retain power, with a predilection for the cruel and inhumane.

The Natah quest saw the resurrection of an ancient foe, and exposed the Lotus’ hidden past as a Sentient spy who grew compassion for her enemies. The Second Dream quest went a step further, revealing the true nature of the Tenno themselves – Void-scarred children, piloting battle drones through their dreams. The War Within quest continued the saga, detailing the Tenno’s experiences aboard the ill-fated Zariman 10-0 colony ship, and giving us the first hint of the malevolent Void entity known as the Man in the Wall. This trio of quests vastly expanded our knowledge of history, and of ourselves, revealing truths long buried behind amnesia and deception.

While the quests introduced in this phase focused on the Tenno themselves, we were also able to broaden our knowledge of the System, its major factions, and their top personalities, largely through events. Operation: False Profit introduced us to the Corpus businessman/preacher Nef Anyo and his televangelist-style screeds, masking an elaborate money-making operation. In Operation: Tubemen of Regor, we saw the return of an old foe, Alad V, having evaded execution twice and now seeking redemption from the self-inflicted scourge of the Infestation. Alad V’s cure lay within the undersea Uranian laboratories of Tyl Regor. Although Nef Anyo attempted to stop the Tenno from aiding his competitor, they raided Regor’s genetics research, curing Alad and setting Grineer cloning improvements back significantly in the process. Alad V, human once again, went on to aid the Tenno in the Second Dream quest, for which he earned the ire of the Stalker’s acolytes, necessitating yet another rescue. Nef Anyo, doubtless rattled after losing countless billions of credits to Tenno interference, went on to develop a new combat-gambling arena on Neptune known as The Index in an effort to recoup his costs.

The Man of Few Words quest revealed that Orokin cognition impairments to the Grineer gene stock were still in place, rendering most Grineer unable to resist a direct order from a superior. The War Within quest showed us for the first time the highest levels of Grineer command, the Twin Queens, and their Orokin birth, first alluded to in the poem etched on the Kuria statues. These revelations emphasise the deep influence the Orokin continue to have on the slave labourers they created and who ultimately survived them. Operation: Rathuum showed us an aspect of Grineer culture outside of military service –  arena trial-by-combat – and the efforts by Steel Meridian to recruit defectors from within the Grineer ranks.

Although the Infestation lost a guiding, sapient intelligence with the curing of Alad V, we find out that it had another in the form of Jordas, the cephalon of a Corpus Obelisk capital ship that was completely overtaken by the Technocyte plague. Jordas, corrupted by the Infestation and forced to do its bidding, sent out distress signals in an attempt to lure other ships to his location, providing the Infestation with additional biomass and increasing its computational power by assimilating additional cephalon. The Tenno were able to kill Jordas in the Jordas Precept quest and subsequent Jordas Verdict trial, permanently releasing him from his servitude. Still, the notion that the Technocyte can infest cephalon and bend them to its will hangs like a dread spectre over the Origin System, and raises further questions about the Infestation’s true degree of sentience.

Story retcons: The Law of Retribution trial was developed during this period, but fits with the last phase’s narrative arc.

This stage of design saw the introduction of cinematic quests as the main vehicle for storytelling, which is likely to persist into the next few stages as well. Previously, quests had been rather short, with somewhat low production value – sometimes not even containing unique assets. The Stolen Dreams quest was the first quest that did not introduce a gameplay mechanic nor serve to deliver a new warframe, but was focused entirely on new lore (it can be argued that Once Awake actually merits this distinction, but we have rejected this notion based on the quest’s extreme simplicity and brevity, the paucity of new information presented, and the fact that its placement within the development timeline represents a retcon of the narrative). Stolen Dreams was followed up by the New Strange, which not only introduced a new warframe but continued the story from Stolen Dreams – another first, in that the quest served multiple roles. The Natah quest dived deep into the lore of one of Warframe’s most enigmatic factions, the Sentients, heretofore only mentioned in peripheral game systems such as Codex entries and Synthesis fragments. With Natah, we experienced our first shocking revelation: the true nature of the Lotus. However, it was the Second Dream that came to define this design stage. Beginning with a cinematic cutscene – the first in Warframe – and filled with fresh lore, narrative twists, and new tiles, enemies, and systems, the Second Dream represents the clearest threshold between the Warframe-that-was and the Warframe-that-is. The War Within built on that framework and introduced the Operator as a combatant in their own right, appearing occasionally to defeat threats the warframe could not overcome on its own.

The transition away from events towards cinematic quests meant that progression through the story was on a more individual basis rather than as a community, which allowed each player to advance at their own pace, and preserved the story developments for Tenno that would join later – as opposed to the events, which were mostly gone forever upon their conclusion. Ultimately, this has had the benefit of unifying the playerbase, as there are fewer qualitative differences between a veteran and a comparative newcomer.


Phase 4: Beyond the War

Start: The Glast Gambit, 22 Dec 2016, U19.5
End: The Profit-Taker, 15 February 2019, U24.2.15
Length: 2 year 2 mo
Events: Pacifism Defect, Ambulas Reborn, Plague Star, Ghoul Purge, The Pyrus Project
Quests: The Glast Gambit, Octavia’s Anthem, Chains of Harrow, Saya’s Vigil, Apostasy Prologue, The Sacrifice, Mask of the Revenant, Chimera Prologue, Vox Solaris
Tactical Alerts: none
Frames: Nidus, Octavia, Harrow, Gara, Khora, Revenant, Garuda, Baruuk, Banshee Prime, Oberon Prime, Hydroid Prime, Mirage Prime, Zephyr Prime, Limbo Prime, Chroma Prime, Mesa Prime, Excalibur Umbra
Other developments: Helminth Infirmary, Captura, dual-wield, Plains of Eidolon, Focus 2.0, personal quarters, weapon rebalancing, Sanctuary Onslaught, Arbitrations, Orb Vallis

This phase sees a subtle redirection of focus away from the major warring factions and looks at the non-aligned inhabitants of the Origin System: the colonists, traders, and civilians. Previously mentioned in passing as victims of Grineer oppression or Corpus monopoly, we first saw a civilian colony first-hand as the Glast Gambit quest took us to the precarious Mycona settlement, in the bowels of Infested territory. The Pacifism Defect event focused on a group of Grineer soldiers seeking to leave the Queens’ command and enter a peaceful life. But the keystone of this phase was set much closer to home, on Earth: the Plains of Eidolon and the town of Cetus.

In Cetus, we were introduced to the Ostron civilisation and culture. We meet their leaders, their merchants, and their weaponsmiths. We purchase their wares and ingratiate ourselves in their society. We even come into contact with the enigmatic Quills and their prophecies of the future. We arguably know more about the Ostrons than we do about the Infestation. And we serve as their allies and protectors against the threats they face daily – Grineer, Technocyte, and even the remnants of the ancient Sentients.

The Tenno continue to engage with the major factions of the System, of course. Operation: Ambulas Reborn features the return of Frohd Bek, Chairman of the Corpus Board, who has lain low since he sent us after the Black Seed splinter group. Bek is developing a hyper-intelligent combat proxy, which Ergo Glast of the Perrin Sequence recognises as a System-wide threat. Operation: Plague Star sees a massive Infested boil (perhaps from Eris) impact on Earth, releasing the Technocyte and threatening the planet once again. Operation: Ghoul Purge reveals Vay Hek’s latest creation: malformed “Ghouls” who incubate underground and explosively emerge with little warning. While all three of these threats were contained by the Tenno, the Infested boil and the Ghouls have become recurring events that sporadically arise and must be tackled once again. The Pyrus Project sees Steel Meridian rebuilding one of the Tenno Relays destroyed by Vay Hek years ago, despite the best efforts of a vengeful Sargas Ruk.

Later, the debt-internment colony of Fortuna, underneath the Orb Vallis on Venus, is explored. Much like in Cetus, the Tenno come to know another race of civilians, the Solaris, and the daily struggles they encounter under the thumb of the Corpus. In the Vox Solaris quest, the Tenno help the Solaris stand up to Nef Anyo, and although he agrees to back off his aggressive stance, in the end, he still controls Fortuna and everyone living there. His advanced weapons projects, the Orb Mothers, roam the Vallis, making any real resistance close to impossible. However, a secret group of Solaris conspirators work with the Tenno, in conjunction with the Quills, to take down one of the massive combat platforms.

The more mystical aspects of our existence continue to be explored as well. Hunhow, the massive Sentient bent on Tenno extermination, attempts to take control of the Weave that connects all cephalon, in the quest Octavia’s Anthem. The Chains of Harrow quest brings us face to face with an exiled Zariman survivor, Rell, and his solemn duty of protecting reality from the Man in the Wall – a duty that now falls to us after Rell’s passing. The Quills of Cetus and the mysterious Unum they serve seem to know more about the true nature of the Tenno than we do ourselves, and are content to divulge this information at a painstaking rate, although the Unum does reveal in the Mask of the Revenant quest an ancient warframe tasked with guarding the Eidolon’s corpse.

A bizarre, dream-like encounter reveals that, millennia after the fall of the Empire, the Orokin Executor Ballas is still alive – who shortly absconds with the Lotus, leaving the Tenno directionless and lost. In the Sacrifice quest, the Tenno pursue Ballas, learning of his betrayal of the Orokin, his torture of his servants, and ultimately the true nature of the warframes themselves. The Tenno, along with the redeemed Umbra, exact vengeance on Ballas for his crimes, but are stayed at the last by the arrival of the Lotus, now in her Sentient form, having been reunited with her family and her people. The Tenno can only watch in horror as she retreats with the dying Ballas. Another dream sequence, this time clearly the work of the Man in the Wall, reveals that Ballas has been transformed into an Orokin-Sentient chimera, his life unwillingly extended. The disgraced Orokin, aware of the Tenno’s supernatural presence, warns them not to trust the Lotus – that the Lotus never really existed – and grants them the blueprint for a weapon powerful enough to kill her.

Story retcons: The town of Cetus and the Plains of Eidolon were developed in this stage, but placed on Earth, near the beginning of the Tenno’s narrative arc. Sections of the Plains are directed towards new players, yet others are only available after the enlightenment of the War Within, and as one progresses through the Plains, the Grineer begin to approach Sortie-level difficulty. The Plains of Eidolon are meant to be visited and revisited multiple times during the player’s journey, and thus defy placement into a single phase. Fortuna and the Orb Vallis, though positioned slightly later, suffer the same narrative issues. Operation: Buried Debts, although released shortly into the next phase, narratively belongs at the end of this one, as an addendum to the story of Fortuna and its inhabitants.

In this stage of design, DE began to merge aspects of the narrative that were previously disjointed, moving towards a more cohesive and complete style of storytelling. Events like the Pacifism Defect and Operation: Ambulas Reborn were immediately implemented in the main game with their story dialogue intact, albeit missing some of the larger conversations outside the immediate encounters (this also happened to a degree with Operation: Rathuum, from the last design stage). Other events like Operations: Plague Star and Ghoul Purge became recurring, arriving every so often for players to experience again (similar to the Balor Fomorian and Razorback Armada recurring events, which were reintroduced into the game near the end of the previous stage of design). These implementations ensured that newer players missed little of the narrative that was told in this stage (with the Pyrus Project being the major exception).

In addition, the quests, which previously could be neatly divided into “story quests” and “warframe quests”, began to be more integrated. Octavia’s Anthem and Chains of Harrow contained major developments relating to the main story of the Tenno. The Glast Gambit predicated the unsealing of the Helminth Infirmary, that Infestation-ridden room in the Orbiter, as we dive into the intersection of the warframes and the Technocyte – further explored with the Sacrifice quest. DE has shifted towards a broader focus on the narrative, not being afraid to explore several themes – the material, the mystical, and the social (corresponding to the warframes, the Void, and the colonists) – all in parallel, while still looking back on the major factions and fleshing them out further as well (the relationship between Ergo Glast and Frohd Bek, the Red Veil strikes against Grineer interests, the Infested predations on Ostron ships and markets). We also see a new narrative development: the “Prologues”, short quests that are mostly cutscene, setting up major developments that are handled in larger quests. The two Prologues in this stage bookended the Sacrifice quest, but they continue to be utilised in the next stage(s) of design as well.

Of course, the major design development of this stage was the addition of “open world”-type Landscapes to the game, starting with the Plains of Eidolon on Earth, followed by the Orb Vallis on Venus. This new game mode necessitated a complete reimagining of the game engine, as well as the basic game experience that had been in place since the beginning of the game: run-and-gun, speeding through a tileset, killing everything, and returning to the ship. For the first time, players were spending an hour or more in the same, non-endless mission, roaming around, completing bounty tasks, fishing and mining, or simply exploring and killing. The initial instance-based nature of bounties and Eidolons meant that players seeking to farm those game types did follow the typical run-and-repeat gameplay as a normal mission type, but later updates sought to alleviate that phenomenon by allowing players to select new bounties from the field and otherwise create additional objectives to stay busy.


Phase 5: Escalation

Start: Nightwave, 27 February 2019, U24.3
End: ongoing, 25 February 2020, U27.1.2
Length: 1 year
Events: Operation: Buried Debts, Operation: Hostile Mergers
Quests: Rising Tide, Erra
Tactical Alerts: Wolf Hunt, Dog Days, Hallowed Flame
Frames: Hildryn, Wisp, Gauss, Grendel, Equinox Prime, Wukong Prime, Atlas Prime, Ivara Prime
Other developments: Nightwave, Plains of Eidolon remaster, Disruption, Leverian, Kuva Liches, Empyrean

This phase is marked by a sense of escalation, as the story of the Tenno begins to crescendo towards a fateful confrontation. It begins with Nightwave, a pirate radio station run by the dramatic Nora Night, who tells stories of intriguing developments in the Origin System that might have gone otherwise unnoticed. Her first story is about the Wolf of Saturn Six, a Grineer prisoner who escaped his cell only to find himself in a metaphorical prison of Alad V’s making. Alad has been experimenting with Sentient technology, and finds a way to enslave the murderous Wolf. Although the Wolf eventually breaks free of the Corpus’ control (and is subsequently dealt with by the Tenno), Alad V’s return to prominence heralds nothing good. This is borne out in Operation: Hostile Mergers, where the Tenno explore his refurbished Gas City and discover that Alad V’s Sentient technology comes from an unholy bargain struck between him and Natah – a bargain with which Alad does not seem particularly happy. Natah has sent the Ropalolyst, a devastating Sentient monster, to enforce the bargain. As the Tenno face and defeat the Ropalolyst, Natah warns them that what they thought they knew about her and the past may have been yet another grand deception, and that she is now acquainted with the Man in the Wall.

Additional stories are explored in the interim. Nora Night next brings the Tenno’s attention to Arlo, the Emissary of Eris, a mute boy with incredible healing powers. This turns out to be an elaborate lure by the Infestation, to lure in gullible victims by the shipload. The Tenno manage to save the System from Arlo’s Zealots, but not before countless colonists end up being drawn in by Arlo’s allure and assimilated into the horde. Later, an exhibit called the Leverian collection, hosted by an as-yet unseen person named Drusus Leverian, is opened to the Tenno. Within, one can find ancient histories of Tenno feats, such as Gauss, the Saint of Altra.

Later, the Worm Queen’s efforts to gather and study kuva have finally borne fruit. Grineer spiked with the Old Blood, as they call it, have a tendency to resurrect into unimaginably powerful foes when killed by a warframe. These Kuva Liches harbour a burning hatred towards the Tenno that killed them, and in their quest for power and vengeance they often alter the political landscape of the System quite significantly. The Tenno have been able to stop them using requiems of cryptic words from a forgotten language, but their presence is a concerning recollection of the immense power the Orokin wielded in their time, and heralds perhaps the return of the Elder Queen.

The story began to accelerate when Ordis discovered a blueprint hidden within the cosmic background radiation. This turned out to be a schematic allowing clan warlords to begin building dry docks in their Dojos. Bundled with the dry dock was a dormant cephalon, Cephalon Cy, who upon being woken aided the Tenno in recovering and refurbishing an Old-War-era interceptor craft: the Railjack. These ships, once deployed against the Sentient armada to great effect, were crucial to fighting back against the encroaching Sentient threat of the present day, according to Cy. The Tenno began to operate these multicrew ships against Grineer interests in the System, but discovered in the farthest reaches of the heliosphere evidence of Sentient intrusions. Within these Sentient ships were red crystals that reacted only to the Paracesis, the weapon given to the Tenno by Ballas. When shattered, they gave the Tenno yet another vision, first of the distant past during the Old War, and then to the Sentients’ current plans. Here they were introduced to Erra, Natah’s brother, who seemed to be the current leader of the Sentients. He tells Natah that their plans are almost finalised and that the Tenno will not be able to stop them.

This storyline progresses when the Sentients, under Erra, finally launch their long-awaited invasion of the Origin System. Large Murex ships warp into the Veil Proxima, sending hordes of Condrix dropships to Earth. Little Duck, who has been observing Sentient activity for some time, organises the Tenno effort to hit the Condrix and Murex simultaneously, beaming corrupted data into the Murex cores and corrupting their cortices until they retreat. At the same time, another vision shows the Tenno that Erra is perhaps using the Lotus for his own ends, and may be acting under Ballas’ influence.

Story retcons: Operation: Buried Debts, although it was released at the start of this phase, belongs thematically to the previous one, attached as it is to the story of Fortuna and its residents. This is an example of the boundaries between phases being porous and indistinct.

In this, the current stage of design, DE continues to work on big, blockbuster updates that attempt to wholly change the way we play the game. Empyrean, and Railjack combat, is actually one of the oldest visions for the game, but it took a lot of development time and resources to realise, and it continues to be an evolving system. According to the developers, Empyrean is ultimately intended to connect to every other system in the game, and be the “glue” that links disparate parts. At the moment, it is far from that ideal, but its presence in the game after so much discussion is exciting. The lore components contribute to that excitement by expressing an urgency and growing need to fight a looming Sentient threat. Operation: Scarlet Spear brings a new feature, operation link, that seeks to tie different squads together, performing separate missions with a shared larger goal.

In a similar fashion, the Kuva Lich system brings about another game mechanic that has been long discussed, known at first as the Kingpin system. Much like Empyrean, it is a far cry from its ultimate ideal, but continues to evolve. It also connects with a storyline that has been long-neglected: the Worm Queen and her kuva siphons. Callbacks to earlier stories are important so that the game doesn’t feel disconnected from itself – the player should feel as if they are in a cohesive world with logical plot developments and progression – and unfortunately there has been little of that for some years, outside of the main Sentient-related storyline.

However, lore development has been widespread, as DE explores new avenues to tell short side stories. Nightwave replaced the Alert system that had been in the game since closed beta, eliminating the time-sensitive and unfriendly method of acquiring items such as Nitain extract and Vauban warframe components. In addition, Nora Night tells interesting stories about goings-on in the System, giving us another glimpse at what is happening beneath the surface. Likewise, the Leverian collection is another avenue of lore acquisition that functions very similar to Codex entries and Synthesis imprints, but with slightly more flavour – that of a museum curator looking to build exhibits of warframes and their feats. Drusus Leverian has so far told several tales of the Tenno that divulge many details about life during the Orokin era.

Even as large, new features make their way into the game, older elements are getting complete refreshes. As previously discussed, the Alert system was replaced with Nightwave. Many warframes have been given an update to their ability kits, to make them fit better with the current state of the game. And entire tilesets are getting remade. Unlike the Grineer Forest tileset remaster in the last stage, the Corpus Gas City tileset remaster in the Jovian Concord update completely changed the look and feel of the location. Entire tiles had their layout changed or modified, new interactable components were added, and the entire thing was given lore – not just overtly, with the event and the dialogue and the fragments, but in small, worldbuilding things, like Alad V’s occasional transmissions over the holo-screens or the Corpus banners fluttering in the wind or the Ropalolyst encounters you see in the distance. The Corpus Ship tileset, the oldest tileset in the game, is on the table to be revamped next, and it promises to be just as engaging.

As the year continues, more new developments will come to Warframe. The New War is still nebulous in its ultimate execution – will it be a quest? an event? Both? Empyrean and the Kuva Liches still need a lot of work before they can be considered, in the eyes of many, successful, and the game as a whole needs a good deal of cohesive “glue”. At this time, it appears that DE will spend a decent amount of time in the near future enhancing existing features rather than adding new ones. Many of the recent developments seem more geared towards older and experienced players rather than newer ones, potentially a conscious pivot after the previous focus on early-game Landscapes, and it can be argued that revamping of older game systems is a part of that focus as well. We have yet to have a clear vision of the future of Warframe. We also do not know when the next stage of design and storytelling will arrive – such a transition is difficult to identify, even in the moment, and certainly beforehand. The conclusion to the long-running Sentient story is sure to bring about something new. But for now, all we can do is study, analyse, and above all, wait.


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