Warframe: Thoughts on Story and the War Within (non-spoiler edition)

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Finished the War Within questline.

Immensely enjoyable.

I find myself reflecting on why I feel Warframe’s storytelling is better than Guild Wars 2’s, and somewhat reminiscent of what I enjoyed in Guild Wars 1.

I think it boils down to elegant simplicity and personal, emotional impact.

It doesn’t try to be overly clever; you don’t need a summary of 1000 words broken up into various sections to help you track the plotline and where the hell it’s going; it’s content merely to hint at lore and leave a lot of things unexplained. Ultimately, it leaves you wanting more.

There’s usually one beat going through the main line – find something, track someone, one main goal to focus on. As a character, you know what you’re aiming to do.

When the game throws you a curveball, it impacts you directly, there are in-game consequences and even changes to the game’s mechanics to accentuate the point.

To pull a GW1 example, you work through several quest chapters to Ascend and that Ascension significantly changes your character in permanent ways – the Mursaat’s spectral agony no longer melts you.

To pull a GW2 could-have-been example, it’s as if Blish’s arm conveniently falling off and setting up an elaborate stealth mechanic game wasn’t just treated as “funny ha ha convenient, no?” and a milestone to hit along the plotline of multiple steps to take an outpost to build an army to storm a fortress to defeat Joko – but more along the lines of what-if the portal takes you and Blish into the depths of Joko’s fortress and just before he’s dragged off for questioning by Joko, he divests himself of the arm for you to stealth escape your way out (rescuing him in the process.)

Even better if Joko cuts off your arm during your own questioning and you have to replace it with Blish’s gift arm and get that skillset permanently (but that’s not happening since GW2 is allergic to imposing restrictions and consequences on player characters.)

But at least it would be slightly higher and more personally impactful stakes.

At the end of Warframe’s quests, something always changes. Your ship expands, develops, gains new additions. You, and the story of you, expands, develops, becomes more than you once knew.

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Warframe’s story does not hesitate to take some very dramatic steps.

It is helped along by some of the best video game music I’ve ever heard. They accompany the story beats, accentuating wordlessly the emotion behind what you witness.

 

Gives me chills just listening to it.

That’s a soundtrack sale right there.

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I’m hooked and definitely down for the Warframe ride.

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2 thoughts on “Warframe: Thoughts on Story and the War Within (non-spoiler edition)

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    A less-reported but rather worrying aspect of the recent furore at ANet was the vast gulf between what GW2’s writing team apparently think they are achieving and what, as far as can be seen, their audience thinks they’ve been up to. Some of the extremely bullish statements about the quality of the work being produced seemed at odds both with much of the visible feedback and with reality in general.

    For a good while the story was front and center of GW2’s commercial offer and as far as the marketing department is concerned that may well still be the case but in-game it’s much, much rarer than it was to hear anyone even mention it. People seem to be far more interested in where the best gold-per-hour rate can be found, how profitable the metas are and what’s being sold in the gem store this week. If you listen to mapchat in Queensdale, where most of the open discussions between new players and self-appointed Mentors take place, you can routinely hear advice being given to ignore the story except for practical purposes because it’s bad and not worth the time. I think that’s probably been the mainstream, majority position since HoT and the current LS chapters have done little or nothing to make most people think better of the ongoing narrative, or indeed care about it at all.

    I actually think it’s too late for GW2 to pull its story fat out of the fire. It’s hopelessly compromised now and the game mechanics no longer really support a narrative backbone anyway. There’s a small possibility the recent shake-up will lead to a change of approach and possibly an improvement but I wouldn’t expect it. The voice actors already carry the bulk of the weight anyway, with the dialog generally bumping along well below fringe theater levels of wit.

    I haven’t played enough Warframe to compare and at the very early stage it doesn’t seem very original but at least it’s lean and clean, which is an improvement on what I’ve been used to of late.

  2. Curious George says:

    I won’t comment on the originality of Warframes story (because I am an old cynical burnt-out bastard) but what I find most appealing about Warframe is that I have become invested in the characters. Normally in MMOs I don’t, the stories and characters are something to skip for the most part but Warframe has been different for me.

    I think this is in large part due to the improved quality of their story telling. Sure they have plenty of less than compelling side stories but the main one has me hooked. Over the past two years they’ve managed to evoke feelings within me for their characters from empathy to enmity.

    My experience with GW2 is very old but I don’t recall ever feeling invested in the characters or the story. I’ve stuck with Warframe for several years and I am happy that after over 2000 hours played I’m looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

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