Online games have a longstanding tradition of offering players the illusion of choice. What separates the noteworthy from the mundane is how successfully the developers are able to engage players in those moments, and whether players walk away feeling that something has been gained in the process. This week, Warframe players on PC are able to participate in one such moment with the current operation: Tubemen of Regor.
The operation runs for the next week, concluding on Wednesday, May 20 at 12PM EDT. It came bundled in the latest update for Warframe, and helps provide players a snapshot of the newest major tileset for the game, the Grineer Sealabs. As one might expect given the name, this new content features the Grineer faction, and is set in sprawling underwater lab environments.
To showcase the new tileset, Tubemen of Regor allows players to make a choice in terms of which NPC they would like to assist in achieving their goals which, in turn, also impacts both how players will engage in the missions and the rewards received once the operation concludes. A quick rundown of how this plays out looks something like this:
- Players choose to assist Nef Anyo or Alad V achieve their goals
- Nef wants you to destroy Grineer research by locating a genetic experiment, and defeat it
- Alad is keen on finding a means of curing the infestation that plagues him, so requests that you help him steal vital Grineer research from the DNA labs
This is where things get interesting, as the player reaction via the forums would indicate that they are greatly opposed to helping Alad V in any way given the sins of his past. The way things play out in-game, however, have painted a very different picture altogether. The operation plays out in cycles, setting up a tug-of-war scenario that appeared to be very one sided in Alad V’s favor within the first hours of the operation.
The illusion of choice comes into play thanks to the incentive layer added for participation. Regardless of how players might feel about the two key NPCs requesting help from players, that part is really just smoke and mirrors; it’s the glue that helps bind story and gameplay, and little more. At least that’s how things appear on the surface.
Underneath it all is the real choice: which unique new weapon do players ultimately want to earn at the conclusion of the operation?
- DERA VANDAL – Earned by participating in at least 4 regional battles (or running the mission a minimum of 12 times) if Nef Anyo is victorious at the end of the event.
- KARAK WRAITH – Earned by participating in at least 4 regional battles (or running the mission a minimum of 12 times) if Alad V is victorious at the end of the event.
By bundling in a choice of what new weapon players would like to add to their arsenal, the choice of which NPC is being helped becomes a secondary consideration. The official patch notes and documentation for the event seem to reinforce this notion, as no mention is made as to whether there would be any lasting impact on story or the fate of the NPCs enlisting your help.
As for the new Grineer Sealabs tileset, the new environments are extremely well done, and are certainly a welcome addition to the game. The attention to detail stands out immediately, as does the fact that the new tileset hints at a much more vertical approach to level design. As you progress deeper into the labs, you’re given a real sense of going deeper underwater thanks to numerous windows into the surrounding environ.
So far I’ve completed 9 full runs through the mission, earning the unique event badge and a sizable pile of credits and Fusion Cores in the process. One more regional battle (3 missions) will give me a lock on the weapon rewarded at the end, though this is also where the illusion of choice kicks in for me.
At the end of the day, it matters little what individual choice I make in terms of which NPC I choose to help. If the collective player base opts to see Alad V victorious at the end, for example, it doesn’t matter one bit if I chose to help Nef Anyo instead. Either way, I’d be stuck with the KARAK WRAITH weapon at the end, even if I really wanted the DERA VANDAL instead.
The losing weapon will still come into the game at a later date, but this inability to decide my own fate in terms of rewards for participation is less than optimal. As it is, Warframe players are subject to a massive degree of random number generation to decide how they are able to progress, and what warframes and weapons they ultimately have access to in the game. The only direct choices available are to purchase items directly for cash from the in-game Market, or trade with other players via the horrid and poorly supported in-game trading system.
Still, the access to new map types is – for the time being – a worthy tradeoff. I do have a few minor nitpicks with the new content, but I’m fully aware that these boil down to personal preference rather than culminating in fundamental flaws.
A few examples include:
- Many areas are extremely dark, making it nearly impossible to spot the dark armor of Grineer units in blackened hallways
- As usual, enemy AI is prone to some major train wrecks. In some cases I’ve seen a dozen enemies all stuck in a corner, or spinning in circles while they bump into each other in the middle of a hallway, unable to resolve pathing conflicts.
- More Grineer maps. I’ve been fighting Grineer for over 2 years now, and would be happy to never have to see another Grineer unit used in-game ever again. While it’s nice to face them in a new location, all that attention to detail in the level design seems a bit of a waste when it’s not associated with a new enemy faction or units.
Like I said, those points all come down to personal nitpicks, though the enemy AI (mostly pathing issues) does tend to be Warframe’s weakest element across the board.
In terms of Grineer fatigue, that is simply a byproduct of mission bloat, and how prevalent the faction is within the current crop of celestial bodies in Warframe. Of the 14 celestial bodies, half of them are dominated by Grineer, and then the faction also shows up in certain Void and Orokin Derelict missions as well.
Those concerns aside, the Tubemen of Regor update is very well done, and a new tileset a welcome addition to Warframe. The same update also injected a ton of new bits, pieces, and fixes to the game, with a full rundown included in the patch notes on the official forums.
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