Pumping up the jam

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Meet Warframe’s Octavia, the most unique and fun class I’ve had the pleasure to play in any video game ever. This may sound like hyperbole, but I’m serious.

After finishing the great Octavia’s Anthem quest I set my mind on farming the three required blueprints to actually build this frame. With a bit of luck I’d already managed to do so by Tuesday, but since building frame components takes 12 hours and a frame proper three days it wasn’t until late Saturday that I could finally take her out for a spin.

As the quest strongly suggests she’s all about music. Her abilities’ descriptions confirm as much:

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Click to enlarge for better readability

To make it easier to tell them apart and also stay within established Warframe-lingo I’ll just call them by numbers, so 1 is Mallet, 2 is Resonator, 3 is Metronome and 4 is Amp.

So what does all this actually look and sound like? Let’s see.

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Your 1 drops a little ball to where you’re aiming. It’s indestructible and stays there until its duration expires or you recast it elsewhere. Enemies within its range (depicted by a pulsating sound wave as seen here behind me) attack it and have their damage reflected back to them. This is doubly great because not only does it draw enemy fire away from you, it kills even the strongest foes with ease as it’s their own damage that kills them, not yours. I assume this doesn’t work on bosses though.

In terms of music and visuals it emanates a drum beat, and those volume bars coming out of the ability’s center point pump rhythmically to it.

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The 2 by itself is nothing to write home about. This ball just rolls around seemingly at random and makes enemies run after it. It plays a bass line, other than that it’s not of much use like this. Combine it with 1 though…

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Cast 1 then 2, and the beat latches onto the ball. Disco ball for the win! Now it makes the baddies follow and shoot it, thus killing themselves, and covers a larger area since it’s moving. This might not always be desired as it sometimes leaves your immediate vicinity before all foes are dead, but it works great for clearing out a level in front of you while you’re still looting or scanning stuff. The drum beat and bass line play in unison when doing this.

The 3 plays the song’s melody. It isn’t screenshot-worthy because it just makes some lines appear on the ground moving towards you, one for each note. This is supposed to help you find your rhythm, because you indeed have to crouch, jump, fire or melee to the beat (to the melody, to be precise) in order to activate the various buffs. It’s very worth it to do so; who doesn’t like to have speed and damage buffs running while being invisible at the same time?

The 4 does exactly what it says in the discription. It gives your team and your 1 a damage buff, and the louder it is around you the stronger the buff. Shooting and slashing do count into it (I think), but to get the most out of it just activate all of Octavia’s abilities at once and enjoy the show.

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While listening to the complete song in all its glory

Let me tell you, if you have any love for music this is pure joy. When I play this frame my face starts to hurt quickly because I’m grinning the whole time.

It also changes the way the game is played quite a bit. I imagine that if you can make her abilities strong enough you actually don’t need to bring a gun to most missions anymore. Of the frames I have at my disposal right now she’s arguably the strongest by quite a margin.

But this ain’t everything yet. No, I’ve saved the best bit for last.

A couple of times now I’ve mentioned “the song”. It’s the music you hear during Octavia’s Anthem, and it’s quite nice. But this is only the default song the mandachord, Octavia’s instrument, can play. You can actually compose your own!

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Holy crap, so Digital Extremes release a new frame (in 2017 that is), and not only do they give her a really great set of abilities and unique way to play, they also give us this? For free? In my opinion this is above and beyond what a good F2P title can do for its players. Thank you DE, and take note everyone else!

Anyway, as you can see the notes you can scribe are divided into three categories for your abilities. Your 1 has three different notes (bass drum, snare or clap, hi-hat), while your 2 and 3 get five notes each. Unfortunately this means that you can’t use the full musical scale. For bass line and melody the notes you can use are D, F, G, A and C, from low to high, so just short of one octave in range (ironic, what with her name being Octavia and all). The game doesn’t tell you this, by the way, I had to figure it out myself. You also can’t change the tempo (about 115 BPM), the meter (4/4) and the song length (four bars) after which it repeats.

This means that you can’t compose or replicate just any song (like I had so much fun and success with in APB Reloaded), at least not perfectly. But as it turns out many known, catchy tunes are indeed so simple that you can make it work.

As a big football fan my first idea, for example, was of course Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400 (the part you’ll probably rercognize starts at 0:41).

Except for one note I was able to recreate this pretty well I think. I obviously chose a passage with beat and everything, namely the four bars starting at 1:29. Now I get to hear “my” football hymn whenever the Rolling Disco Ball of Death shreds everything. The mandachord-screenshot above shows the first bar and a bit of the second, but if you play the game and would like to have the whole thing just send a whisper to Mailvaltar.

For it to sound just right I bought a couple of additional instruments for platinum though, so I guess it’s technically not quite correct that they gave us everything related to Octavia for free. However 50 platinum for a set of instruments (one drums, one bass and one melody) isn’t all that much, and I was more than happy to give DE a bit of support for this truly awesome frame (and game).

Now, if you dislike looter shooters in general this probably isn’t enough to make you like Warframe – especially as it takes a good while to unlock her – but if you do like this kind of game and also love music you really owe it to yourself to experience this.

There are stories behind those doors

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Warframe continues to amaze me on a daily basis. There’s so much to do and see, it boggles the mind.

Up there you see me on my hoverboard, cruising the mountaintops of Orb Vallis. I’m still getting the hang of riding it, but it’s a lot of fun and also blazingly fast compared to traveling on foot. This is ‘only’ the vanilla version of it too; in time I’ll build my own one, custom stats and all.

Disclaimer: from here on out there will be spoilers if you haven’t finished The Second Dream and subsequent quests yet, as well as some other story bits, so be warned.

Still here? Ok then.

When you go down one of the ramps right behind the arsenal in your orbiter there’s a corridor leading to three doors, all of which are locked initially. By now I’ve managed to open them all.

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Ordis is right, this is disgusting!

A couple of days after I’d played some missions teamed up with strangers I noticed some kind of cyst growing on one of my warframes’ neck. Turns out there’s a virus going ’round, and someone had infected me with it. It’s fully grown one week after the infection, and then the frame in question can enter this room. As of now the only function available here seems to be to cure the frame, but Ordis says that this entity, known as Helminth, serves the warframes and the ship, so there might be more upcoming.

Instead of curing the infection one can use the ship’s incubator unit to drain the cyst (yuck!) and grow a special kind of Kubrow (= doggo) from it, so choose wisely.

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This is the last part of the Octavia’s Anthem quest, which is all about music. Naturally I loved it, although the finale is pretty heavy on the jumping-puzzles, so you better limber up before going in. Unfortunately the quest doesn’t gave me access to the finished Octavia frame as I’d hoped, I only got its blueprint. Getting all blueprints for the subcomponents will take another while.

Moving on to the big story quests and the remaining doors.

When starting out in Warframe the player doesn’t know much about what a Tenno actually is. Where did they come from, what’s the source of their powers, why do they even exist?

The Second Dream and The War Within delve into that and answer some of those questions. I won’t spoil the stories and revelations in detail, but suffice it to say at the end of The Second Dream I at least had a pretty good idea about who’s inside of my frames…because I had to actually create him (or her, if you so choose).

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That’s a first: character creation after having already played for dozens of hours

From that point on every frame has a fifth ability, which makes the operator (he still has no name) leave the frame for a couple of seconds and shoot a big fricking laser beam at his foes.

He “lives” in the second of the three eponymous orbiter-rooms, and his appearance, equipment as well as a whole new progression system of active and passive skills are managed here.

During The War Within he learns more about his past and how to control his powers, making him capable of leaving the frame indefinitely and fight with some powers of his own.

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Now that’s what I call an out-of-body-experience

In my opinion these quests as a whole are very well done. The end of TWW was also a pretty strong emotional moment, storywise as well as visually and audibly.

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One of its rewards is access to the third and final room, which is the operator’s personal quarters. As I’ve talked about before you can place decorations anywhere in the orbiter, but this room is designed specifically to make it your own and feel at home.

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What would a capatin’s quarters be without Jean-Luc Picard’s aquarium?

It’s not huge, but pretty nice. There’s a large pedestal in the middle to install another, bigger aquarium, or one of several vignettes depicting the various planets. I’m using the Plains of Eidolon, mainly because it’s accompanied by very soothing outdoor sounds.

I haven’t played around much with the room yet, but I intend to knock myself out and make it into something special over time.

The first item on the agenda was getting some fish for the aquarium of course. So I grabbed my fishing spear and off to the Plains of Eidolon I went.

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There’s always a bigger fish…

The room also provides a jukebox of sorts, the somachord. Actually using it is unlocked by completing the Octavia’s Anthem quest mentioned above.

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Seen in the bottom right. The urn on the left was rewarded by another quest

Nothing’s easy in Warframe though, so I have to find and scan some more fragments to unlock songs before I can actually use it. That’s fine by me however, because I intend to play the game for a good long while yet.

More musings about gaming goals

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Whether I play MMORPGs, ARPGs or Looter Shooters, I like having goals to work towards. A mix of both short-term and long-term ones works best for me.

Especially the latter two genres need such goals to keep me engaged because, let’s face it, the gameplay loop these games provide stays pretty much the same no matter how long you play them. Not that I mind, if I didn’t like those kinds of gameplay I wouldn’t play them to begin with. Still, having no carrot dangling in front of me makes me less inclined to log in sooner rather than later.

There seem to be two kinds of design philosophy regarding how players can work towards such goals.

The first one is a system of total randomness. All we can do here is play the game to the best of our abilities, because doing any specific thing doesn’t increase – or decrease – the chances of achieving our respective goal. Path of Exile is a good example of this. Any mob can drop every existing item up to its level, so it doesn’t matter in the slightest which mobs you kill as long as they’re strong enough. The only way to increase your chances of getting a certain unique item, for example, is killing more mobs in less time.

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Another unique I didn’t want (Wrapped Mitts, in the center)

The upside of this is that you can opt out of doing stuff you don’t like to do. Hate a particular map? Run it only once, then never again. There is not a single item in the game that drops only there. In theory this also provides for more gameplay variety since you don’t feel compelled to kill the same boss over and over to maximize your chances of getting what you want.

In my opinion this is a pretty big downside at the same time though because, whatever you do, the chances of getting the exact item you want are abysmally low. Hence, if you’d like to play a build that needs a couple specific uniques to make it work you pretty much have to trade with other players, which of course feels much less rewarding than finding the stuff yourself. Also, playing the game only rarely feels like working towards a specific goal, because, well, you just can’t. I love PoE, but if I could change one thing it’d probably be this.

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Rhino on guard duty, protected by a coat of Iron Skin

Warframe marks the exact opposite of the spectrum: to accomplish specific goals you have to do very specific things.

Frames are the best example. For each frame you need its blueprint, which you can just buy for credits at any time, and three manufactured components. Those require various crafting resources and also the corresponding blueprints. A quick research revealed that, for most frames, the latter are all dropped by planet-bosses. What surprised me a bit is the fact that every boss has its own associated frame which it drops all three blueprints for. For example, all component-blueprints for the Rhino frame, which I wanted to unlock first, are exclusively dropped by – wait for it – Jackal. Oh my…

I’d already gotten one of the three blueprints when I beat him the first time though, so all I needed were the other two. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, randomness is random, and I needed to run the mission another 18 times until the third and last blueprint finally decided to drop.

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About to unleash Rhino Stomp (Hulk Smash was copyrighted I guess)

Fortunately I knew by then how to beat the guy quickly, so the bossfight itself wasn’t too big of a nuisance anymore, and you know what? I didn’t mind running the same mission over and over, because, as I said in the beginning, the gameplay loop is always the same anyway. I kill stuff and loot all the things while running towards the objective, then I fulfill that and move to extraction. Rinse and repeat.

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Best to look at these like a flip-book

Would the gameplay be more varied if those blueprints could drop anywhere? Possibly. But I’d definitely feel much less purposeful while playing, and chances are I still wouldn’t have completed my Rhino yet – which I love, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed.

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I’m pretty sure you have though

Lakisa is also playing Warframe now, so naturally we did it all again to unlock Rhino for her too. Once more it took quite a lot of runs, and I still didn’t mind at all.

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My work here is done

So yeah, if given the choice I’d always favour a system that lets me work towards my goals in a target-oriented way. It might result in a somewhat monotonous, maybe even tedious playstyle for a while, but I’m much more motivated when I have a specific purpose, and I also just love achieving those goals myself instead of tradig for the stuff I want.

What about you?

Wrapping up Blaugust 2019

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And just like that another month of August is almost over again. Time flies if you’re having fun, as the saying goes.

Counting this one I made it to 15 posts this time around. Quite a step backwards from last year’s 31, but since I wasn’t sure if I’d even manage to pen this many I’m pretty happy nonetheless.

From the second week onwards all I’ve been talking about is Warframe, and I expect that trend to continue for a while because I’m still having loads of fun. Since we’ve just returned from our vacation I didn’t have time to check out my new frames yet, which I’ll do right after finishing this post.

Or maybe not. Turns out I was wrong when I predicted it might take the folks at Digital Extremes a good while to introduce a playable version of the shawzin. In fact they’ve just released a meaty content update that already delivered it to us, alongside other goodies like a brand new frame, new weapons etc.

I’ve only tested it for like two minutes, but I dig it a lot. It sounds like a shamisen, which of course fits the game’s space-ninja theme perfectly. You can either strum about freely or try to record whole songs. There are also some pre-built songs you can play along to.

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It’s basically Guitar Hero in space, what’s not to like?

It’s activated via an emote, which I had at my disposal right away since I’d already bought the decoration before. Nice! They’ve also released some colour variations, according to its description one of them even sounds differently. I’ll wait for a video of it to pop up before buying though.

Apart from playing Warframe I also look forward to reading all those posts my fellow bloggers have undoubtedly written during the final stretch of Blaugust. I guess there are at least a hundred new pieces that I very much want to read, not counting the catching up I have to do over at Massively OP.

First I’d like to once more say thank you to all mentors and participants of Blaugust, and of course to our host Belghast. It’s been a blast just like last year, and I hope I’ll be reading all your blogs for a long time to come. Also a big welcome to everyone who’s started just now. I think you’ll find that this is a great community all year round. I know I’m happy to be a part of it. Cheers!

Where parcours is par for the course

Warframe players learn very early on that their Tenno can move in ways most other games’ characters cannot. Whichever frame you use, double jumping, barrel rolling and running alongside walls are all part of your standard repertoire.

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Also sliding, let’s not forget about sliding. It’s what the cool kids do

So I guess it’s no surprise that the folks at Digital Extremes have devised some missions that focus more on movement than fighting. I just wouldn’t have expected them to be quite as…extreme.

After you’ve completed a certain quest-chain a weekly mission that has you hunt for an Ayatan relic becomes available to you. Those are the sculptures I talked about towards the end of this post. So in addition to finding them randomly during missions I can get a guaranteed copy once per week? Hell yeah!

Well, guaranteed if I can beat the mission that is.

The first time around I made the ‘mistake’ to play through the mission in my normal explore everything and grab anything you find kind of way. During normal missions this suits me well because it ensures that I always have crafting mats in abundance, and it’s also the most fun to me. This takes considerably longer than rushing through of course, but if you complete the mission all those extra rewards make it worth it. Again, if.

Once you arrive at the first waypoint the real fun begins. Depending on which mission you got the parcours part starts by stepping onto a pressure plate on the ground or just by passing a certain point in the room (I think). Then two things happen in rapid succession. One: a door opens for a couple of seconds. If you don’t go through in time you don’t go at all and the missions ends right then and there. This is what happened to me on my first try. Two: as soon as you pass that door a timer starts running. Usually a very short timer. The longest I’ve seen as of yet was one minute. Fail to reach the parcour’s end before time runs out and…well, you already know the answer.

The next couple of tries didn’t end well either. When you rush straight to the parcour and ignore everything else it doesn’t take long, but wouldn’t you know it, you get a different one each time, so I couldn’t even figure out how to get through by trial and error all that well. So I looked for some help.

Looks pretty easy when he does it, right? Well, it’s not, at least not for me. But knowing which way to go was enough to finally make it on the, oh, I don’t know, 12th try or so?

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Yes, yes I have. Not thanks to you by the way!

You still have to make it to the extraction point from there, but that’s a cakewalk in comparison.

That was yesterday. Luckily weeklies reset on Monday morning, so I could jump right in again today. Knowing what to expect always makes things easier, but I still needed seven or eight tries.

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I’m doing all the work here, that loudmouth Maroo won’t see a piece of you

It may not sound like it, but I really like these missions. They’re challenging, but in a good way. They also make me hone my movement skills, and, needless to say, I really love that the rewards are housing items. Well, you can also sell them for a pretty nice sum of Endo, but I won’t, at least not before I have completed the collection.

I also inserted some of those Ayatan Stars you find all the time into the sculptures’ sockets, which animates them and also adds some lighting.

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The third one of these I found in another regular mission yesterday

Can’t wait to get my hands on more of them.

Now I’ve got to go and pack my stuff though – my real stuff this time – as we’re going on vacation tomorrow morning. We’ll only very sporadically have internet-access, so there won’t be any new posts and I probably won’t reply to any comments until August 31st.

Not only will I be immensely rested and relaxed by then, two brand-new frames will also be waiting for me, so I already have something to look forward to. I always like that as it makes vacation coming to an end less disappointing.

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More about how I farmed those parts in the next issue of Wondrous Warframe

Until then have a great time everyone. I look forward to reading up on all the good stuff I’ll have missed.

Modification Madness

Your frames and weapons in Warframe each come with a preset range of stats and abilities, so choosing a combination of those is what mostly defines your ‘build’.

However your build’s true power vastly depends on what mods you use.

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As always, click to enlarge

If this looks like a lot of choice, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. At the time of this writing there are reportedly over a thousand different mods in the game.

What you see here is the mod-section of my level 27 Excalibur frame. The two bottom rows show all frame-specific mods I currently have at my disposal, the area above is where you slot your mods of choice into. Every piece of equipment has eight regular mod slots, some additionally have one or two for special mods. Frames, for example, have one slot for an Aura mod – I’m using Sprint Boost here – which benefit your whole squad and also increase your frame’s mod capacity.

This capacity, seen in the upper left corner of the mod-screen, is basically a measure of how much mod-power the respective piece of gear can accomodate. The more powerful a mod is the more capacity it needs, so in the beginning you have to choose between filling all your slots with very weak mods, or only using a select few better mods and consequently leaving some slots unused.

No mod is very powerful by default though because they all start at rank 0. To level them up you need to pay ever increasing amounts of credits and a resource named Endo. Since you can’t use the same mod twice stacking multiple low-rank copies of your favourite isn’t an option, so if you want to get stronger there’s no way around ranking them up. A mod’s current and maximum rank are indicated by the little dots at the bottom.

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My Redirection mod is at rank 4 of 10 right now, for example

As if all this wasn’t complex enough every mod also has a ‘polarity’, shown in its top right corner. The number tells you how much capacity the mod needs, the symbol shows its polarity. Most pieces of gear have one or more slots that also have a polarity symbol. If you slot a mod with the corresponding polarity into it only half of its base capacity (rounded up) is used. Conversely, if you slot a wrong polarity into such a slot the mod’s capacity use increases by a certain amount.

Dizzy yet?

My personal favourite are damage type mods.

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Burn! Freeze! Breeze…?

If you upgrade a weapon with only one of these the effect is pretty straightforward. The weapon deals additional damage of the corresponding type.

If you combine them, though, what you get isn’t a bit of X damage and a bit of Y damage. Instead both bonuses add up and result in a whole new damage type. Heat and cold combined, for example, result in ‘blast’ damage.

Thankfully a community member has made a handy chart:

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Can’t wait to see what “gas damage” looks like

As you can see each damage type has some kind of special effect, so this isn’t just fluff but has actual, potentially huge impact on gameplay.

All the more so as each enemy species has resistances and weaknesses to certain damage types.

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I hope this is still valid, given its date of creation

Fortunately mods aren’t locked into a piece of gear once you’ve installed them. You can swap them around as often as you like and even use the same mod for every applicable weapon or frame. So adjusting your build for a particularly hard mission is very much possible – and, I assume, at the later stages of the game pretty much mandatory.

Whichever game I play, I’m usually very reluctant to fiddle around with my gear ahead of each mission because, well, I’m lazy. This system is a lot of fun though. When there’s more to it than just numbers going up it’s much more worth the effort in my opinion. I’ve already seen heat damage burn enemies to crisp and cold damage freeze them; I look forward to seeing the other damage types in action.

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I love the smell of burning Infested in the morning

I’ve not even talked about mod rarities, mod sets, mods with random effects and various other bits yet, but since I’m still only scratching the surface myself I can’t speak from experience about those.

Anyhow, I like this system a lot and can’t wait to see what kind of mods I’ll discover next.

I believe I can fly

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Alright, nobody move! I got an Archwing here, and I’m not afraid to use it.

I unsurprisingly played some more Warframe yesterday and managed to unlock my Archwing, which is essentially a pair of jet-propelled wings. A big-ass cannon with unlimited ammo and a huge, anime-style sword come as part of the package.

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While doing the quest chain’s final mission you get to a point where you need to extract ASAP because the ship you’re on is about to come apart (or something), so your annoying yet helpful AI deploys the now finished but yet untested Archwing for you, and boom, suddenly you’re flying.

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Ludicrous speed…GO!!!

The world opening up like that was a seriously awesome moment. Of course I went pedal to the metal right away and fired the afterburner. Boy, that thing gives a satisfying boost to an already pretty high speed. Of course just going in a straight line would be boring though, but as you can see the mission got that covered too. Lots of ships, rocks and debris were floating around, and I had to maneuver my way through. It almost felt like Kirk’s and Khan’s thrill ride in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

I really dig that movie. Sue me.

Anyway, of course it didn’t take long for enemies to get onto the scene, so I got to try out the Archwing’s weaponry.

The cannon spews an intimidating stream of bullets, and it seemingly neither overheats nor runs out of ammo. Mowing down waves of drones feels a bit like a three-dimensional shooting gallery. The sword packs a punch, but I mostly tried not to let the baddies get that close at all, so I didn’t use it much.

It’s fun, but unfortunately it starts to feel somewhat repetitive rather quickly. Ground missions just have more gameplay variety. You fight, you collect stuff, you sneak, you negotiate barriers and obstacle courses. The Archwing missions I’ve done – admittedly not a lot yet – were just likeĀ fly here, shoot stuff, now fly there, shoot more stuff, done. It’s somewhat comparable to SWTOR’s space combat, though not quite as simplistic because you move freely instead of on rails here.

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Does look a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

I hope there’ll be some more missions that transition between ground and space combat like the one that unlocked the Archwing, because I liked that change of pace and perspective within a single mission quite a lot.

What I’m looking forward to the most though is getting to use my wings in the open world zones. Yep, that’s a thing, but first I have to reach a higher mastery rank and craft another piece of equipment, the Archwing Launcher.

That should make doing missions there much easier for me. I’ve found out by now that low level missions actually exist on the Plains of Eidolon, but since you often run into high level enemies while traversing the zone they are still pretty hard to do. Being able to fly to the mission site will hopefully enable me to avoid most such encounters. Also, seeing those beautiful zones from high above will most definitely be a sight to behold.

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I still discover something new in Warframe every day, and good stuff just keeps coming. Pretty impressive.