Let’s Talk Codename: Railjack…
First of all, let’s talk about what we know about the new game mode coming to Warframe in the future, and then we can talk about what the possibilities are. If you are Spongebob’s best friend Patrick and have been living under a rock, under the sea, and far away from MMORPG.com, you might not know what Codename: Railjack is. You’re lucky, because I had the pleasure of attending TennoCon 2018, and had the privilege of talking to Dave Kudirka the Senior Producer for Warframe.
Even though we talked more about Fortuna than Railjack, he gave me some insight into the hopes and dreams for Railjack. Currently, there is no release date for Railjack and knowing Digital Extremes (DE), they plan to make Railjack the best they can before they do release it. Just as a reference, during TennoCon 2017, DE announced both Plains of Eidolon and the quest Sacrifice. Plains of Eidolon was released in September while it took until July 2018, for Sacrifice to reach all the platforms. Sacrifice might only be a quest that can be completed in an hour or two, but it was a major story arch in Warframe that required a long, methodical development to ensure it fulfilled both the players’ and the developers’ expectations. DE not only pumps out amazing content throughout the year, they painstakingly make sure it is ready to be released.
Railjack is a major change to Warframe one that Dave Kurdirka described as, “taking the combat vertical not only in space but with possibilities for the future of Warframe.” They need to take their time because the possibilities of opening up the star map and building strong immersion in the game could hinge on this new game mode. I feel they do not want it another clickable mission like Archwing. What we’ve seen so far from the trailer, we can get in our warship with our teammates, and fly into space to do a mission. The logistics of how that happens isn’t clear, but through my interview with Dave and the live demo, we can understand it a bit better.
While DE’s Megan and Rebecca were completing the mission on Venus, Danielle was grabbing the Railjack warship. Once both Megan and Rebecca were in the ship, Rebecca went to the command console to press “Launch.” At that moment a seamless loading screen took them to the mission in space. Because we could see Rebecca moving while the ship was loading in the mission, we know you and your teammates are free to move about the ship at this time. It is unclear whether or not you can interact with other parts of this ship, but in my interview with Dave he did point out that the warship will be equipped with everything that is currently on your landing craft. He specifically said, “you will have access to your foundry, mod console, companions, and arsenal. “ What is not clear about that is if everybody on the ship will have access to their stuff by interacting with the stations. I am assuming interaction with the stations will function just like it does when you are in a Relay or on Cetus. Even though other players are around you in the same instanced space, your equipment is accessible because it is tied to your account. If so, the seamless load screen is a huge game changer for Warframe. Essentially, while you are loading to do a space mission, you and your teammates can change their loadout to better suit what you will be up against next. Not only that, the warships will be upgradable, and you will be able to decorate them like the current landing crafts.
Once the mission loads and you are finally in space, you can start the space part of the mission. As we saw from the demo, there are many aspects to space missions that make it interesting for all members of the team. We know Rebecca was manning the main guns while Danielle and Megan were manning other guns. We can assume that there are at least five weapon stations on a ship for our squad of four. The ship will have the captain’s position, the heavy gun behind the captain, and three other gun positions. If we look at most sci-fi movies, we will see most ships will have a side, belly, and rear guns. Personally, I am hoping there are several more gun positions compared to teammates, giving the team tactical options while fighting in space. I think it would get boring just manning the gun no enemy shows up on. Like we saw in the demo, Megan wasn’t shooting much more than a couple of space rocks while she waited for an enemy to get past Rebecca. To keep up with the natural pace of Warframe, having the option to move positions throughout a fight to stay engaged is more interesting than waiting for the fight to come to you. Warframe is about speed and hectic combat.
Let’s talk a little about Archwing. I’m going to come right out and say it; I dislike Archwing. Having to do an Archwing mission is a chore, and it does not give me anything to build upon my fashion-frame end-game. If Archwing somehow helped build a part of my normal Warframe experience, I would love it. Right now, the Archwing game modes are a chore to just complete nodes on my star map. Having Archwing in the Railjack game mode could give players that incentive to build a more powerful Archwing. The Archwing could become a critical part of the new game mode and refresh the currently stale Arcwing missions. I would like to see most of the current Archwing mission changed into Railjack missions. Of course, it would be important to keep some lower-level Archwing missions to help players learn the mechanics and farm for Archwing mods. As for the Archwing itself, imagine being able to take out smaller agile ships or enemies that have their own Archwings to help your teammates on a mission. Like stepping on a fire ant hill, the smaller the enemies would swarm the main ship if they are not swatted away with a faster more dangerous, Archwing. It would be critical to a mission’s success to have a couple of great Archwing pilots to keep the litter buggers of your warships sensitive spots if you get what I mean. The Archwing game mode needs to be more viable in the game beyond cleaning up your star map.
Here is where I go off the rails and speculate what is to come with the Railjack update. If we rewind back to when Rebecca and Megan were first engaged in combat on Venus, what was seen on Tenno Live for over 400,000 people was not what was shown to the press just 8 hours prior in an exclusive screening of the Fortuna reveal demo. During the press demo, we saw a prerecorded session on Venus that only had one Tenno doing the mission. During the first combat sequence, no bombs were dropping on the Corpus before Rebecca engaged with the enemy. What those most likely means is, Danielle was the one bombarding the Corpus before Rebecca and Megan started fighting. Remember, Danielle had to leave to “set up” for later. I’m sure most people realized this at the end of the Fortuna demo sequence, but it is still a noteworthy difference from what the press saw.
Right now, on Eidolon we can fly around on our Archwings and shoot enemies and enemy dropships if we want. Having a warship raining death from above adds a whole new dynamic to the open-world fighting. I feel the warship will need long weapon load times or a limited amount of ammo while in this mode or people will be dive-bombing missions to gain reputation fast. Not to mention if the warships didn’t have the restrictions, the giant end-game boss spiders will be easier than what players are already doing to Eidolons in the Plains. There has to be a balance, but it will be exciting to see how much we can use the warships on Venus.
While in my interview with Dave Kudirka, I asked what their plans were for travel throughout the star map with the warships. Mainly, I was wondering why we should have a landing craft if we can use warships all the time? Even though it is not confirmed or part of the game right now, Dave said, “the spirit of what we want is to be able to get into our warship and continue jumping from mission to mission. We don’t want it to feel like you are pausing the game and resetting to the next mission. Let’s say we finished one mission and now we say, let's go to Ceres.” This was not the first time I heard this is how they wanted Railjack to feel, ultimately. It was even hinted during Tenno Live at about the 54:00 minute mark, where Steve Sinclair said, “Its about riding the solar rails and going into sectors unknown sectors that don’t have a lot of light, sectors that are beyond the railroad of lines that you are familiar with on the map.” I don’t know about you, but it seems like he is pointing to new worlds within the Darksector. It appears Railjack is just the start of shaking up the world we know it within Warframe. This is why people jumped out of their seats and cheered as loudly as they could when Codename: Railjack was announced. For me being an avid a fan of Warframe and knowing this has been teased for a long time, it sends chills up my spine with excitement. From playing other sci-fi shooters or sci-fi spaceship shooters, I always wished both styles of combat could fit together perfectly in one package. Railjack could finally bring that perfect package to us. Who hasn’t ever dreamed about being Han Solo played by Bruce Lee helping Sigourney Weaver kick some serious alien butt?