All stories have a catalyst, and all heroes have a progenitor. In the heady, twisting world of Warframe, one could argue that this nexus of prose and persona is Albrecht Entrati. For Warframe players, Albrecht Entrati has proven to be a distant father, creator of the technology that carried the very first of the Tenno to their fate, and us to our fun. He is the starting point of the vast majority of narrative strings that weave the world we play in, and he just so happens to be one of the focus points of the upcoming Whispers in the Walls update. After ten years, the man who started it all is finally taken the stage.
Exciting times are upon us, Tenno.
While getting an early look at everything that would be announced as part of the update on November 24 Devstream, I was once again lucky enough to get to chat with Digital Extremes’ Live Operations and Community Director Megan Everett. We ended up talking about the beautiful challenge of going against expectations, one particularly lumpy-headed Warframe, and the joy of going back to the start of the story.
“Although he’s such a pivotal character, we’ve never really given him too much of a story other than a few sprinkles now and then,” says Everett when asked what it’s like to bring Albrecht Entrati out of the shadows and into prominence in Warframe’s narrative. “People understand that he created The Man in the Wall. He tried to break through the Void. So we’re in this weird realm where it’s like we have this incredibly pivotal character that doesn’t really have too much of a story yet,” says Everett.
The good news is, this is just the start of Albrecht’s story, and it is coming in a feature-packed update that should hit all the right notes for Warframe’s passionate playerbase.
“This gives us an opportunity to really kind of go crazy with it, which is why we’re going back to 1999 and, whatever that’s gonna be for our players, but also Whispers in the Walls,” says Everett.
1999, for those who have been living under a rock on Cetus, is the intriguing major expansion that was teased at this year’s Tennocon. It will continue the story of Albrecht Entrati, as well as bring players back in time to long before the ill-fated Zariman Ten Zero cracked apart in the Void and created the Tenno, and is due to arrive next year. But we will be dealing with the events of Whispers in the Walls first, and it’s a substantial update all by itself.
It’s also the first major update that the new Warframe team, helmed by Rebecca Ford now that long-time leader Steve Sinclair has switched focus to Soulframe, will be putting out that hasn’t already existed in the public eye for a long time. There seems to be a subtle shift, almost imperceptible, as the team flexes new creative muscles while doing their best to stay true to the established vision of Warframe.
“We make the game we want to play, so, you know, when there is a change of guard that obviously also comes with the game that they want to play and where they see the future of Warframe going. It goes without saying that we have an incredible team here at Digital Extremes in general that is willing to be weird with us and take the story differently than they ever thought,” says Everett.
For any kind of artistic endeavor, a moment like this can be an exciting time. Change can come slowly at first, and then all at once. For the team at Digital Extremes, they are being careful to bring new elements and flavors to the recipe slowly without doing anything to isolate those who have already invested in the deep lore and world of the game.
“It’s exciting because it’s coming from a group of people who have the best intentions for Warframe. It’s always keeping Warframe in mind, the story that’s been told. There is a legacy of Steve to uphold. This is still his baby. We’re gonna continue the story but in just a, a weirder, more engaging way. I think it really speaks to, you know, the games that we love to play.”
In Warframe, everything is interlinked. The story is deeply ingrained in the environment you play, the enemies you fight, and the characters you interact with. That is why Whispers in the Walls is so exciting. Players will have a new Syndicate to work with, new game modes to play, a new type of weapon in the Grimoire, and a new melee feature called Tennokai that will up the skill ceiling and reward of heavy attacks. There is also a new enemy faction called the Murmur, and, best of all, a new hub to explore in The Sanctum.
It is this hub that feels almost painfully symbolic of Warframe’s journey, something new nestled deep within the established world of Deimos and the Necralisk, with lots of possibilities in the future and a foundation set firmly in the past. Hubs have always been a very interesting space in games, and in Warframe, they give us a glimpse of how the world we play in used to be and how the inhabitants of that world are impacted by the wars we fight. According to Everett, my fellow world-hub fans will have a lot to look forward to here.
“Hubs are a really rewarding part of the game, almost like a cherry on top of a quest. You go through all these crazy storylines, and then you have a sense of home. You think, I did all this, I survived all this, and now I’m with my people and my friends, and we can explore this hub together. The Sanctum is a very special place, and I won’t spoil too much, but the hub is important to us in many ways. It’s like a breath of fresh air. You can relax in there. You have the Syndicate members, and things like Arcane Distillation.”
Ah, yes, Arcane Distillation. For anyone who has been gathering up Arcanes for years and now has more of them than they know what to do with, Arcane Distillation will allow you to render them down and use that resource to buy Arcanes from other activities that you may not have been able to explore as much.
Speaking of new things, a major new addition to the game will be the Grimoire. This half-alien, half-eldritch book will allow you to blast away at your enemies and hints strongly at the “games that we love to play” that Everett mentioned at earlier. The Grimoire continues to explore something that was first introduced in The Duviri Paradox, the idea of a slower type of combat and how rewarding that can be when presented as a choice for players.
“It’s always a difficult task because we know how fast-paced Warframe is and people like that. People play Warframe because they enjoy melting an entire room. Pressing forward and nuking a room, flying through tile sets, and for us to intentionally introduce the Grimoire that we know is a slower pace, very methodical, very fantasy-based. It really felt right with the tile set and the kind of thing that we expect you would do down there.”
The Grimoire will come with mysteries of its own. The former diary of Albrecht Entrati will bring plenty of reasons to keep players intrigued, although, as always, Everett is way too good at not dropping interesting spoilers and secrets during our chats. We will all just have to wait and see what unfolds with our new strange tome when we get our eager hands on it.
The subject of spoilers also brings us to one of my favorite parts of the new update, Qorvex. Qorvex is essentially a walking melt-down, an irradiated core of Void energy nestling at the heart of a mass of concrete. I loved him instantly when I first saw him, with his big lumpy head and devastating area-denial ability set.
With the new tileset and vibe of Whispers in the Walls leaning into a gothic horror vibe, the temptation to do a Warframe that did the same thing would have been strong, but the team opted for throwing a curveball instead. The counter to the gilded gothic vibes of the labs themselves, Qorvex alludes to Brutalist minimalism, all straight lines and right angles, as if the intent of a stop sign had been given humanoid form and the means to punish anyone who fails to heed that instruction. If you are wondering, this was another conscious decision to not just go the route that everyone might expect.
“I think a lot of people probably when they think about like, oh, if they’re gonna release Warframe with Whispers in the Wall, it’s gonna be a wizard or something like that. You know, very typical of the Grimoire and the fantasy of it all. But yeah, we have a lot of Keith Thompson concepts of Warframes, and we have ones planned out for years to come, but when we were looking at Whispers in the Walls, we felt that we could go the route that everyone thinks we’re gonna go or we could take it a little bit different.”
And this is where we run into more spoilers, so we have a little glimpse of the origins of Quorex, but for the full details we all just need to wait for the update to release.
“He is more Man in the Wall thematic with the concrete and the visual scheme of that. And then in terms of designing him, I found it really fascinating the kind of narrative connection they made with Albrecht designing him to protect someone from his own labs because he’s obviously very aware of the Man in the Wall’s influence. The whole void core containment thing, I think, is a really powerful story, and also leans towards the overarching story of loneliness and, again, I don’t wanna spoil anything, but yeah, he was fun to watch go from concept art to what he is now,” says Everett.
One of the biggest additions to Warframe in the Whispers in the Walls update isn’t really gameplay-related at all, but it is a highly sought-after feature that the community has requested for years. That’s right, Cross Save is on the way. This has been requested for years, and the team has been working on it for so long now. Be under no illusion the work that has gone into getting this feature into the game is difficult to describe. It has been an ever-present project for the team because it is something that players wanted, and the team was eager to deliver, despite how scary it all is.
“It’s something the team has worked on for so long while other stuff is happening, right? Like while we’re making TennoCon happen, people are working on Cross Save. While we’re working on Duviri and 1999. It’s never stopped being worked on. At no point did we say oh, we need to table this for a minute, like it has been such an ongoing process.”
As she speaks, it becomes obvious that introducing this feature is enormously important to Everett and the team. This is not just ticking a box. They are aware of what it means to players and acutely understand what could go wrong. Millions of players, a decade of development, hundreds of weapons, thousands of mods, and dozens of Warframe, combined with all the items, resources, blueprints, currencies, and trading systems that the game has in place. It’s a lot to deal with, and the potential for issues is tremendous.
“It is a very large undertaking, and I literally cannot stress enough how much we don’t want to get it wrong. So that’s why we’re taking this very kind of, you know, slower calculated approach and, hopefully, obviously, all goes well. I wish I could talk for hours and try to paint a picture of how complicated it is for people to kind of understand.”
Ultimately, the continued connection between the developers and the players is that we all just want the same thing, and Everett herself is no different.
“I’ve wanted Cross Save forever because I’ve had my Xbox account and my PC account. They’re both at two different stages of the game, with different items on each platform. So it’s like I want this just as bad as they do.”
And, as already mentioned, change comes slowly, then all at once. CrossSave is nearly here, after a lot of work for the team and a lot of waiting for the community. Albrecht Entrati is about to take his rightful place at the center of Warframe’s narrative, and we are all about to blast some twisted space monsters into pieces with a magical space book.
Here’s to ten more years of Warframe, but maybe just a little weirder this time.