When I think of Warframe, I picture space ninjas slicing and dicing their way through procedurally-generated corridors. I definitely do not think of space combat or ghost ships captained by the far-future equivalent of Davy Jones—a nightmarish cyberwraith with a lust for mortal souls.
But, hey, Warframe's changed a lot since it first launched almost a decade ago and space combat is now one of its core features. Call of the Tempestarii, its latest update arriving today is evidence of that. It's a high-seas adventure that requires players to crew up on their Railjack spaceships in order to help uncover the mystery behind a legendary vessel called the Tempestarii. And from what live ops and community director Rebecca Ford tells me, it's going to be another fascinating chapter in Warframe's excellent story.
Easily the coolest part of Call of the Tempestarii is going to be the new warframe, Sevagoth. He's the aforementioned Davy Jones, the captain of the Tempestarii that wanders around the Void—the black magic regions of space home to all sorts of eldritch threats.
If you've never played Warframe, these titular suits of armor are basically like different classes in an RPG that you can freely switch between—except there's now 46 of them. Each has their own abilities and style of play, but Sevagoth easily stands out. "This is the first time that we've kind of put two distinct stacking warframe powers on top of each other," Ford says. "And ultimately, his deal is rooted in ghost-like abilities—very much about soul harvesting. He's pretty edgy."
Like other warframes, Sevagoth has four abilities and one passive one. The difference here is that Sevagoth can also summon a form called the Exalted Shadow that players take control of. When playing as Sevagoth, there's a special meter that fills each time you use abilities like Reap and Sow to slaughter enemy soldiers. When that meter is full you can leave Sevagoth behind and take control of his Exalted Shadow. "And then you have a whole new set of powers that are predominantly melee focused but they have a good degree of [area of effect] and [crowd control] as well," Ford explains. "It's sort of like all of Sevagoth's normal abilities cranked up for Shadow mode."
Don't worry, though, while you're controlling the Exalted Shadow, Sevagtoh will continue to exist in the world but won't take damage. And if you transform back into Sevagoth, he'll automatically teleport to your current location rather than having to backtrack to him.
"It's probably the most anime warframe we've made," Ford laughs. "So if you come to Warframe looking for that, like you're going Super Saiyan and having that escalation of your character's power level. This is very much that flavor."
Exalted Shadow is more than just a living weapon, similar to other frames like Valkyr's claws or Ivara's bow. It's basically like having access to an entirely separate warframe that you can swap to mid-mission. "It is separately moddable, which is also the first time we've done this," Ford adds. "You can mod Sevagoth and then you can also separately mod Sevagoth's Shadow."
Ford gives me an example: Players might mod Sevagoth to boost his shields and ranged damage, but then mod his Exalted Shadow for all-out melee damage. And players can swap between the two almost at will—assuming you've harvested enough blood to trigger the transformation using Sevagoth's regular abilities.
But Sevagoth isn't just a cool new toy to play with, Ford says, he's also the main character in Warframe's latest quest and the other big feature coming in this update.
On the prowl
It's not every day that Warframe gets a new quest, which makes the few dozen it has feel special. Call of the Tempestarii is special for its own reasons though: It's the first time Digital Extremes has done a quest that fully centers on the Railjack spaceship.
First added back in 2019, Railjack has been one of Warframe's most ambitious and controversial updates ever. It lets players build and pilot large ships in orbit around planets, and shares a lot of DNA with games like Sea of Thieves and FTL. Each member of your team, for example, can specialize in different roles like pilots or gunners. Players can even disembark the ship mid-flight and commandeer enemy ships or sabotage them from the inside as if they were in a typical Warframe mission. It was a major evolution of Warframe, but a ton of glitches and a lengthy grind to unlock and level it up really soured the new mode with a lot of players.
A few weeks ago, in anticipation of Call of the Tempestarii, Digital Extremes released a different update that completely overhauled the Railjack and its adjacent systems. The mode is now way more accessible and less complicated, and it's significantly easier to play even if you don't have a dedicated squad to help you. "This is the largest reconstruction effort for a system in Warframe history," Ford says, adding that the team is still rapidly making adjustments and trying to get a full sense for how the community likes the overhaul.
But even if Railjack isn't your thing, it's going to be worth getting one just to play through the Call of the Tempestarii quest. Ford is quick to set expectations: This new quest isn't of the scope of Warframe's main story missions, which often feature plenty of cutscenes and big dramatic twists that affect the entire solar system. Instead, Tempestarii is a detour into a strange and exciting part of Warframe's arcane lore.
Ford wouldn't share much, but we do know the full quest will only take about 30 minutes to complete. She likens it to a "Saturday morning [cartoon] adventure" with "new characters, a few cinematics, and a very memorable moment." What that moment is, Ford wouldn't say. My guess is it somehow involves Vala, a new character introduced in Call of the Tempestarii that Ford confirms will play an ongoing role in Warframe's story. All we know so far, though, is that she's the captain of a Corpus vessel that's on the hunt for the Tempestarii and Sevagoth, its captain, and she's not quite our ally, not quite a villain. Also, she has a badass theme song.
Back when Warframe's Fortuna update was released in 2018, one of the coolest bits was its intro cinematic in which half-human robots enslaved in a labor colony sang a chain-gang tune. It was bizarre, catchy, and very Warframe. And in a teaser trailer that Digital Extremes showed of Vala, it seems like we're getting another one—though this new one sounds suitably nautical.
Outside of the cinematics, though, most of what Call of the Tempestarii will involve is your usual Railjack missions but with some different and unexpected twists. In order to play the quest, though, you'll need to have first unlocked a Railjack (either by completing its own associated quest or buying one from the in-game marketplace) and complete the Deadlock Protocol, another quest that deals with the Corpus faction. The good news is that, even if you're brand new, Call of the Tempestarii isn't that far out of reach, unlike many of Warframe's best quests.
And even though it's only around 30 minutes long, the update will also make some permanent changes that'll keep players busy for a long time. One of the biggest criticisms of Warframe is how separate its different modes (and their associated grinds) can be—and that's always been true of Railjack even though its recent overhaul did a lot to tie it in with the core game.
One of the ways Call of the Tempestarii will help even more is by introducing Void Storms, a special mission modifier on Railjack missions. When a regular mission is afflicted with a Void Storm, which is basically like being hit with a hurricane of dark energy, the difficulty will ramp up and new environmental hazards will appear on the battlefield that players will need to avoid. The reward, though, is that players can open relics, which are like Warframe lootboxes (except you earn them by playing) that sometimes contain parts necessary to build the ultra-powerful Prime warframe variants. Void Storms are also where players will earn the parts to build the new Sevagoth warframe.
Later on this year, Railjack will be expanded even further, including the addition of Corpus Liches, which are an expansion of the Kuva Lich system. If you don't know what it is, it's basically Warframe's version of Shadow of Mordor's beloved Nemesis System, only with a weird Warframe twist. When Corpus Liches are added (also called Queenpins), players will have a whole new minibosses to fight against that can randomly appear during different missions.
But that's still likely a ways off. For now, players will have Void Storms and deadly encounters with ghost ships to deal with. Call of the Tempestarii is out today.