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Warframe: Mainline is the Lifeline

Aaron Couture Posted:
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With the release of The Old Blood update, Warframe is poised to bring the highly anticipated Empyrean to us. Ever since Empyrean (Railjack) was announced at TennoCon in 2018, the community has been waiting to fight among the stars in giant spaceships called Railjacks. Over the two year wait, Digital Extremes (DE) has not let up with their content. In less than two years DE has had over 60 patches, hotfixes, or content updates. Three of the patches are noteworthy because they just didn’t bring content or fixes; they brought the much-needed quality of life changes to the game. In patch 24, Warframe made drastic lighting and environmental changes to the game with the Fortuna update.

Only seven patches later those changes were implemented in the Plains of Eidolon Remaster. In patch 25 we saw massive changes to one of the oldest tilesets (Corpus) with the Gas City rework in The Jovian Concord. Over the past six years Warframe has continued to be relevant as a looter-shooter by going under the hood of the graphics engine and reworking it to improve upon the game. These improvements are referred to as Mainline updates. The Mainline updates are the lifeline of Warframe’s longevity.

So what exactly is a Mainline update? Mainline updates are a weird beast when it comes to defining them. Over the years, I’ve heard DE use the phrase Mainline whenever parts of the user interface, graphics, lighting effects, and the graphics engine tweaks. As it is explained by Rebecca Ford “Mainline updates are the type of update where we send out everything we’ve been working on that’s accumulated that isn’t related to the bigger picture feature.” You can say mainline updates are critical to keeping the heart of the game going. I like to think of it as a pacemaker or AI-controlled nanobots programmed to clean out my arteries to keep me looking young and healthy for 200 years.

 In the past, Mainline updates have overhauled the menus and login screen to give the player the freedom to customize the game UI the way they like. Mainline updates have also changed things in a subtle way. If you have not logged into the game in months or years you might not remember how the lighting and shadows looked several years ago. I will give you a hint, they sucked. They were dull, pixelated, and most of the time, non-existent. These types of minor updates to the game might go unnoticed to new or casual Warframe players, but they are a welcome addition none the less. They build upon the immersion and give the game a youthful look. Just look at the difference between 5 years ago and today:

Top: 5 years ago; Bottom: Today

As you can see, the game keeps looking better and better as time goes on. Most games start showing their age after just two years, but Warframe can pass as a new AAA title six years later. That is why the Mainline updates are so important for the longevity of the game. Yes, it is nice to have new features and new content, but if the game looks and plays like its true age, people are going to become bored and move on to the new looking games. DE has done an outstanding job balancing new content like The Old Blood with Mainline updates to help keep the game feeling new and fresh. Without the Mainline updates, the game itself would buckle under the sheer amount of content that DE has thrown at it in the past couple years. Let’s just look at what The Old Blood has to offer to really see how Mainline updates make new content possible.

First, the obvious things you will notice when you log into Warframe with the new content update:

  • Ember and Vauban have had their abilities updated. The updates would not be complete without the Mainline update several months ago that changed the particle effects of abilities. The particle effects have a huge impact on how a person feels about the Warframe they are playing. Ember is a fire element based Warframe that shines when all her abilities are popping off on the screen. There is so much fire to admire! Vauban, on the other hand, is more subtle, but the particle effects of his explosive toys help give a feeling of the impact when they explode.

  • Deluxe skins are an important way DE gains revenue to keep adding more content. If the deluxe skins were set on the graphics engine DE had five years ago; nobody would buy the deluxe skins. For me, every time a deluxe skin comes out, I am in awe of how amazing the detail is. That is only made possible by the Mainline updates. The Old Blood update brings with it a new deluxe skin bundle for Titania and her signature weapons the Diwata and Pixia. Personally, I am not a fan of Titania, but I am going to pick up the deluxe bundle because it is amazing.

  • And then there is Gendel. The new Warframe with full-belly jiggle physics. Mr. Gigglesworth wouldn’t be who he is without the underlying Mainline updates that have been coming over and over throughout the years. When Warframe came out years ago, most of the Warframes were very bland looking and had the same basic body shape with a few minor tweaks to their style. Grendel is about to change that in a massive way. Not only is he a bit robust around the belly section, but his tummy also opens up to suck in enemies. It reminds me of my ex-wife at an all you can eat casino buffet.

  • Lastly, there is the new Kuva Lich. Not only is the Kuva Lich a new nemesis-like mechanic that will help usher in Empyrean, but it is chocked full of graphical beauty that would not be possible without Mainline updates. The Kuva Lich is loosely built around the Shadow of Mordor nemesis system. If the Lich kills you, he steals a part of you as a trophy. For example, if you are trying to kill him with Volt and fail, the next time you encounter the Lich he might have Volt’s head mounted on his shoulder as a trophy, and he can shoot out lightning bolts like Volt. The only way to kill the Lich is by using the finisher with the Parazon. It is like a tool used for lobotomies. The fight to kill him is going to be an epic battle with particle effect spraying all over the place and shadows of doom bouncing off the walls.

If you have not logged into Warframe in a while, this is the perfect time to get a taste of what is coming with Empyrean. Besides the content mentioned above, The Old Blood brings with its phase 2 of the combat changes. This time the combat changes are focused more on close quarters and the finishing moves used to kill the Kuva Lich. Not only that, the story is getting more additions to it and a new vampiric Kavat. Who doesn’t want a blood-sucking kitty to come home to?

With this patch, we can only hope that Empyrean will be coming within the next three months. I was hoping for it to come before the end of the year, but over the years I have known Digital Extremes to work hard and ensure the new content patches are ready when they are ready. It has been a long two-year wait, but I know it is going to be well worth it!


Aaron Couture

Games, motorcycles and guitars! Everything that screams mid-life crisis. Freelance writer for MMORPG.com for over 10 year.