Take a first look at Warframe's completely revamped Earth maps

This month Warframe will be getting its next major update, bringing a new playable Warframe named Harrow, new items, and a complete visual overhaul of the Earth maps. While Harrow has already been shown off a bit, we've got an exclusive before-and-after look at Earth's sweet new remastered terrain.

You can watch the trailer above to see the differences in motion, or use the slider images below to compare some screenshots side by side. While much of the actual layouts of the levels seem to be staying the same, they've been given improved lighting, extra foliage, better textures, and a whole lot of other improvements. Frankly, the difference is stunning, with some scenes almost looking like an entirely different game.

Click here to see the full size comparison.

Despite this upgrade, developer Digital Extremes says players shouldn't notice any difference in performance. Digital Extremes art director Mat Tremblay told me that developing Warframe for both high and low end PCs has been in their mind since the very beginning of development. "Even though we have done a lot to add lushness to our Grineer Forest locations," Tremblay said, "we have also taken steps to improve performance within systems that would have been negatively impacted by such changes." 

Warframe is also still bound to its PS4 and Xbox One versions, so even as PC technology gets better, the game can't stretch too far past its initial performance floor. But Tremblay doesn't think that limits them from doing what they want. "In the time since we first released the set there have been numerous updates to our engine," he said. "We try to push ourselves, and our technology, beyond those limits but sometimes we have to get creative in the way that achieve our intended goal."

Click here to see the full size comparison.

And Earth is just the beginning, with more visual remasters on the way. "We want to remaster all of the art sets, eventually, to fix some of the issues that have resulted from updating our tech but also because we have evolved as developers," Tremblay explained. I asked him if there were any assets in particular he had his eye on improving, and he said "nothing is sacred." 

"The re-mastery is not our primary focus but we do have teams of developers working to update each set starting with the earliest released sets. The ultimate goal being that we bring them all up to our new standard." And it's been clear recently how much Digital Extremes and its tech has improved since Warframe's initial launch—all of its latest additions to the game have outshined its early work graphically. "We are still very proud of the game we have created, but we all evolve, and so should our game."

Click here to see the full size comparison.

Tremblay says one of the reasons they started with Earth is because they "wanted to improve one of the first planets players see." Everyone who starts fresh will now be immediately introduced to the game with these upgraded visuals, but Tremblay also hopes it will pull long time players back to a planet they maybe haven't visited in awhile. "Above all, our hope is that players who have been with us for so long, but perhaps have not visited a location like Earth recently, are drawn back to see what we have done."

"With improved lighting, a conversion to PBR materials and workflow and a new vegetation system, we’re able to create mood and atmosphere in a much more significant way than when we first released the Grineer Forest set back in January 2014." This gives Digital Extremes a chance to really show what it and the Evolution Engine is capable of now, experimenting with techniques they simply didn't have access to at the time. 

Click here to see the full size comparison.

Tremblay told me that "even after four years now, we still have a big list of To-Dos!" That's certainly in the style of Warframe, as Digital Extremes is always working on or updating something. So while revamping art assets may not be the main focus of their team, it's not unreasonable to expect more of the game's familiar faces get a makeover before too long.  

Tom Marks
Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on Twitch.tv/pcgamer to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.