Interview: Warframe Sets Its Future in Motion with The New War

The game's deep, yearslong narrative reaches a climax as Warframe opens itself to new possibilities.

Warframe “The New War” releases next week. With it comes the long-awaited climax of the game’s years-long story arc, alongside a mission that forces the Tenno to face their most dangerous enemies: the Sentients. The final showdown will presumably bring numerous conflicts across the Origin System, showing how the many characters that inhabit the surprisingly deep Warframe narrative will join forces to overcome the cosmic threat.

We attended a preview event that showcased several things this expansion will have, from the newest hybrid sentient-Warframe called Caliban, to the long-awaited Harrow Prime, and a very intense Railjack fight that demonstrated how “The New War” will unfold on multiple fronts. To expand on some of the most important points of the upcoming expansion, such as its intensity, the characters involved in it, and the future of the game, we spoke with Rebecca Ford, Live Ops and Community Director of Digital Extremes.

At the 2021 Tennocon, we saw a gameplay demo where we learned that “The New War” will put players for the first time in the roles Teshin Dax, the Corpus Veso, and the Grineer Kahl-175 as they fight through different Sentient invasions across the Origin System. What was the idea behind introducing those different points of view as part of the gameplay, instead of just cinematic scenes?

Rebecca: “Honestly, it really came together as a result of ‘Will players care that ‘The New War’ impacts every faction?” We felt that the way to make some of them care, or at least make us care, was to give each faction a hero so to speak. Because while you can’t deny that the other factions are quite villainous, there could be heroic moments, and there’s a lot of that in Warframe. There are defecting Corpus, you have Grineer soldiers that have turned good, and the best way to wage a war and make you care about all factions is to put yourself in the seat of someone that could be a hero in their own story, and tie it directly to your story.

“I still get chills thinking about Kahl-175 and when we showed Tesshin and Veso. I think we’ve done a very unique thing with the playable experience for kicking off ‘The New War’ and I think players will be asking for more of it until my dying day. [Laughs] Which is kind of funny to think about — the idea of them wanting more Warframe but done with new playable characters, but I’m excited for how that’s gonna play out.”

Do you have plans to reintroduce this approach in the future, or is it more of a one-time thing?

R: “The best thing I can say is ‘kind of.’ The immediate response to the prototype of playable Grineer was an internal explosion of ‘oh my god, it works, oh my god we need to do more with this.’ Everyone wants to. We have a lot of stuff we want to do, but I think the promise that this shows does warrant a proper plan for us, maybe one that could really see more playable faction stuff come out.”

the new war railjack

The Lotus has always been an important character in the game, but ever since “The Sacrifice,” she’s been in the spotlight as part of the enemy forces. How would you define her journey through this particular chapter in her story?

R: “I’ll try and define it by virtue of the content we’ve released, I think. Between ‘Scarlet Spear’ and ‘Orphix Venom’ there were some very clear occurrences there that may indicate a level of involvement in the rise of the Sentients that players might not be so comfortable with.

“We recently added a little easter egg in November that players thought was a bug, and then we kind of confirmed it wasn’t: a moment in-game where your normal transmissions might appear as someone else, which was very much intentional for players that are really plugged in and paying attention. It’s not critical to the story path, but it’s just a little nod to those that really do engage with Warframe regularly. Ultimately, Lotus as a character — her actions, choices, and the way that all this plays out — will make a ton of sense for people that have followed all the lines along the way.”

I see. And with you being the voice actor behind The Lotus, could you say it was an emotional journey for you?

R: “[Laughs] When I finished the first draft of the script, which was 100-plus pages, I was not only crying, but I was wondering “How am I going to do this?” I’m not an actor; I’m not trained. My only inspiration is watching and listening to the actors I love most and hoping that in any way I can make people feel something. So I spent a lot of time staring at the quest script and just preparing myself, I think.”

After the introduction of Ballas and Erra into the story of Warframe, they now appear to be the most prominent figures in the Sentient side of the war. That wasn’t always the case. While there has been a lot of speculation since his last appearance, can we expect the sentient Hunhow to come back in an active role?

R: “You can! You absolutely can. I think the role Hunhow played in kicking all this off from the ‘Natah’ quest to ‘The Second Dream’ means that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, Hunhow still has to play a role in the conclusion. Therefore, you can expect him to play a role.”

In the same vein, the Man in the Wall showed up at several key moments during the recent story chapters, even acting as a guide to finding the Lotus before she was taken, or Ballas when he was captive. Will we learn more about this shady character in “The New War”?

R: “I will tell you this… If you know the role the ‘Man in the Wall’ has played thus far, and what that might mean, you will begin to understand what he truly is as a result of ‘The New War.’”

warframe caliban new war

“The New War” marks the biggest point of the current story arc in Warframe, a very anticipated climax for the Tenno-Sentient conflict that began years ago in our time. With this expansion being both a conclusive point for all that was seen until now and as a turning point for what will come next, will the action go beyond the Origin System? Or will we explore new stories in it?

R: “Oh, that’s a good question! I’m going to try and avoid spoilers here, but I think there are places within the Origin system that we still need to go that will make sense when you play the quest. Aspirationally, I know that Tau [the home of the Sentients] is a place that’s very important to players that have really studied the lore — especially where the Sentients are concerned.

“We’re not going to Tau, but we are certainly going to places that demand our attention after ‘The New War.’ A very specific place that players might not expect. To say if it’s in the Origin System or not, I suppose, is open to interpretation, but the idea is that there will be an immediate situation that, as developers, we’re aiming to catch the players’ attention after ‘The New War’ ends.”

You recently showed in a Devstream that “The New War” has a trigger warning detailing a few things to keep in mind before starting the quest, such as limitations in the arsenal and warnings about emotional abuse. Would you say this expansion will be more intense or demanding for the players than the prior ones? If so, in which ways?

“It is. The content we’re covering within the scope of ‘The New War’ […] has an intensity to it that I think is earned, and not because we just wanted to put it there. It’s something that we’ve been building to quite intentionally, and the only way to achieve the proper conclusion to this story is one that must navigate the circumstances that we put our characters in.

“We know what happened on the Zariman. We know what that meant for the Tenno aboard. And, ultimately, we know the relationship between key characters might not be what you think it is. Sometimes those topics are a result of very real things, like emotional abuse or frightening situations. So we were treating it with the respect it deserves with the story we’ve built up, and it’s done only to serve what we feel is an important journey for the world we’ve built.”

That’s a lot to live up to, but “The New War” update will hit Warframe on Dec. 15, 2021 on all platforms, so folks will be able to see the repercussions of these decisions for themselves very soon. Until then, you’ve got just a little more time to catch up on the game’s existing story content to unlock the big battle for yourself and see what all those spoiler warnings are about.