Earlier this month, Warframe launched its second open-world expansion that included a gorgeous frozen wasteland for players to explore. It is, without a doubt, Warframe's biggest expansion ever—adding all new features like being able to track and capture animals for conservation, customizable secondary weapons, and radical hoverboards to ride around on. But, as live operations and community director Rebecca Ford tells me, this is just the beginning. Before the end of the year, the Fortuna expansion is going to get a lot bigger—and a lot more deadly.
When Fortuna first launched on November 8, Ford tells me that update only contained about "80 percent" of the total planned expansion. As players first ventured out into Orb Vallis, a frozen hellscape patrolled by legions of Corpus soldiers and the indomitable Godzilla-sized robot spiders called Orb Mothers, they befriended the enslaved Solaris people. Forced into a vicious cycle of crippling debt, the Solaris live in an underground colony called Fortuna and spend their days laboring over the terraforming machines turning this slice of Venus into a winter wonderland. But they're not a passive people. A resistance group called Solaris United is working to overthrow their dictator, Nef Anyo, and restore freedom to the people.
But Nef Anyo won't go down without a fight, and that's the headlining feature of what Ford refers to as "Fortuna part two"—the second update due before the new year that will complete Fortuna as an expansion. Scattered across the mountains of Orb Vallis are three Orb Mothers (often just called Orbs), and these massive robo-spiders are the backbone of Nef Anyo's military power. "The biggest threat to the Solaris livelihood, other than the meta-threat of debt, is that Nef Anyo has Orb Vallis on lockdown because those Orbs can obliterate anything," Ford tells me. "The threat they pose is one of control, they're massive, they're engineered to destroy and protect wealth. And, ultimately, that's something [players] want to put an end to."
Right now, any player can go pick a fight with one but that effort would be futile. No one knows how to actually damage the damn things. That's what main characters like Eudico, The Business, and Little Duck are currently trying to figure out tucked away in Solaris United's secret headquarters.
It's a setup that mirrors Warframe's previous expansion, The Plains of Eidolon, which also featured war machines called Eidolons that roamed the landscape at night. Players had to form groups of four and work closely and skillfully to bring one down. But Ford is quick to clarify that the way players challenge the Eidolons and the way they'll attack the Orb Mothers couldn't be more different.
"The current design approach to this is going to involve more than engage, shoot, kill," Ford says. "What we're shooting for is Ocean's 11 with more action. I don't know what that ends up looking like on release, but that's what inspired it." As Ford explains, the idea is that taking down one of these three Orb Mothers should be a complex challenge with an emphasis on planning and strategy. That's why they're called "Heists"—though we don't know what exactly we're stealing yet, but I hope it involves taking control of the Orb Mothers themselves.
At the same time, Digital Extremes is paying careful attention to what the community wants to see in these upcoming boss battles and incorporating those ideas as well. "It's still in a bit of flux right now, and players have given us feedback on what they want the encounters to be," Ford says. "So even though we have our design, we also want to try to incorporate what they want." But if there's one thing that Ford is certain about, it's that these battles will be "very different from the Eidolon fights."
"Having a giant threat is great, but engaging it in the exact same way is, in our minds, not so great," Ford says. "Warframe is a lot of shooting minions, and when we have the opportunity to give you something different, we really want to focus on the different."
While Ford wasn't able to reveal specifics on how these battles will work, she did say that each Orb Mother has their own abilities, so the three fights won't necessarily be exactly the same. It's also unclear whether the three Orb Mothers will all become available to fight simultaneously or if each fight will be locked behind some kind of progress gate.
When Fortuna first launched, several players encountered a weird bug where an Orb Mother spawned inside of Fortuna, which is normally a safe zone for players. It made for some awesome videos, but was assumed to be little more than a bizarre glitch. However, Ford teased that a giant robot spider invading Fortuna could be a reality: "Maybe you'll see that for real one day is all I'll say," she laughs. "Maybe not in [Fortuna] part two, but maybe that particular theme—that idea—is something that we want to do."
These Orb boss battles will also represent the next chapter of Fortuna's storyline, which took a weird turn weeks ago when players reached the maximum possible rank with the Solaris United faction and discovered a bizarre plot twist that baffled the community and raised a lot of questions about the nature of the Solaris people. Ford says that Fortuna's next update will help answer some of them, but players will have to search for them. "With The Plains of Eidolon, we included fragments [an in-game collectible] that players could find that told a story," Ford explains. "We didn't include those in part one of Fortuna, but they will be in part two. Most of the characters will have a new story players can discover to learn more about who they are, how they got to where they are, and what their goals are, what their past is, and what is their outlook on life."
Save the animals
Aside from the endgame Orb Mother battles, Ford says this second update will also expand just about every other feature added in Fortuna. Creature conservation, for example, will be getting three new species for players to track down and capture—which also means three new in-game floofs (cosmetic plushies you can showcase on your ship) to fawn over as well. "We're going to add a couple of flying creatures, so you can take your conservation hunt to the sky so instead of always looking at the ground you might have to analyze flight patterns so you can tranq birds, for example," Ford says.
The animal conservation minigame, which involves first finding animal poop, following a set of tracks, calling the animal using a special lure, and then tranquilizing it, is one of the most original features added in Fortuna. But, as many players have noted, it's also one of the least accessible for people with various vision impairments like color blindness. Ford says it's something that they're working on fixing soon. "We're running a couple of tools to make sure that we're getting every case of accessibility for that mechanic," she explains. "And we're still playing with the brightness, because that's what will let people see the tracks whether they have low visibility or color blindness, so that'll be something for a future release."
K-Drives, the cool hoverboards players get after completing Fortuna's intro quest, will also be getting more cosmetic options and mods so players can further customize them to their liking. And those of you who prefer using them over the faster, flying Archwings can rest easy knowing that even more tricks are on the way too. And, just as exciting, Kit Guns will be expanded eventually to allow you to customize your own primary weapon instead of just a secondary one.
It's a lot to look forward to in what is already a stellar expansion to Warframe. Plains of Eidolon was Digital Extremes first attempt at building open-world zones and, as I wrote at the time of its release, there were a lot of issues that players had to overcome if they wanted to have fun with it. But Fortuna is different. It's more accessible, more diverse, and far less buggy. Similar to the way Warframe's concurrent player numbers on Steam continue to climb, Fortuna represents Warframe getting even bigger and better than it already is.