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Monday, June 17, 2024

Soulframe's full reveal reveals a "gradual and pensive" fantasy RPG constructed on the bones of Warframe

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I like Warframe, Digital Extremes’ shockingly enduring free-to-play motion RPG, however I do discover its sci-fantasy course a bit a lot. The mashing collectively of tinted alloys and astral flame, the mix of over-the-shoulder capturing and swordplay, the environments that often appear like GPU boxart on steroids – it’s spectacular, however rather a lot to digest.

The Canadian developer’s new challenge Soulframe has the identical sense of swagger, with menus consisting of gorgeous, quasi-medieval illustrations embellished with scrolls and dancing figures. However it’s a quieter thrill, a stately and absorbing world of hazy forests and sun-pierced catacombs, which calls to thoughts each Dragon’s Dogma and the ignored tiny MMO E-book of Travels. After catching a hands-off presentation upfront of this 12 months’s Tennocon, I’m fairly eager to play.

Picture credit score: Digital Extremes

Soulframe’s world is split between the forces of nature and the troopers and magical automatons of an organisation known as the Ode. You play a disgraced Ode soldier, stripped of your recollections and thrown into the wilds. The story consists of combating the Ode’s minions whereas rediscovering the talkative spirits of your ancestors, with whom you possibly can type Pacts that bestow talents – the sport’s equal of Warframe’s lessons. In the middle of reclaiming your previous, you progress between a country open world of recurring enemies and procedural dungeons which can be always altering, as indicated by floor earthquakes. Throughout exploration, you too can warp to your tent within the Nightfold, an inter-dimensional customisation hub that may develop from a single tent to a village of ancestral spirits who present entry to crafting and development methods, like smithing.

“It shares a variety of the construction, the procedural ranges and dungeons, and the MMO-lite features of Warframe, however it’s a type of simplified, bespoke role-playing sport,” noticed Steve Sinclair, who stepped down from his position as Warframe’s artistic director to guide Soulframe.

Elsewhere within the presentation, he added: “It’s a long-running sport, it’s going to be free-to-play and all of these issues you possibly can count on from a Digital Extremes sport, however the pacing is sort of inverted. The place Warframe is quick and frenetic, Soulframe goes to be gradual and pensive.” Sounds fairly appetising to me.

A warrior rides a giant white wolf through a forest in Soulframe

A warrior prepares to fight three enemies in a forest in Soulframe

Picture credit score: Digital Extremes

Your Soulframe character and playstyle are outlined by the virtues of braveness, spirit and style, which function core stats. Braveness is for fighter archetypes, Spirit is for magic, and Grace is for assassins, amongst different issues. There wasn’t time for questions throughout our presentation, however from what I can inform, every advantage has its personal mana pool, and the sum of these swimming pools is your life bar. Abilities embody archery, blades, arcanic and athletic. After which there are the Pacts you signal with Ancestors, which sample your proper arm with eldritch designs. We obtained to see the beginning Pact, Fey, a “Voltaic” tech-magic skillset your character used throughout their time as an Ode trooper.

The sport’s fight is simple in idea however appears well-executed, with delicately paced and readable animations, and a few mild prospers. You’ll dodge and parry, carry out combos and hearth off magic spells similar to fireballs and bolts of inexperienced power that petrify attackers. You can even throw and recall your magic sword, a contact of nu-God of Warfare, and crouch to sneak and carry out backstabs. The layouts include a couple of environmental traps similar to dangling wood frames, and there are wandering souls you possibly can channel on the outset who function dungeon modifiers.

A warrior looks at a mural showing a forest scene in Soulframe

A warrior stands in a watery, abstract realm alongside a stone creature with large, glowing green eyes in Soulframe

A warrior rides a giant white wolf through a forest in Soulframe

A cabbage-like leafy forest creature sits beside some barrels in Soulframe

Picture credit score: Digital Extremes

I get the impression Soulframe is extra for solo adventurers than Warframe (our presentation didn’t cowl the multiplayer parts, or for that matter, monetisation methods). The open world areas remind me of Shadow of the Colossus of their faerie hush and obscurity, with trunks rising from vibrant mist and paths winding by way of carpets of flowers. The vibe is captured by the act of returning to the sport. Your character slumbers in your absence, and also you may sit again down to search out them surrounded by resting animals. It most likely feels like a ‘Cosy Second’, but it surely feels serene and a bit funereal, slightly than saccharine.

Soulframe doesn’t abandon you to your ideas totally, nevertheless. The ancestors apparate frequently as you hike concerning the world, and have loads of folksy titbits to share. At one stage, some vintage wizard spectre urged me to “write that down”, which I discovered amusing within the context of a press occasion. Sorry mate – I used to be too busy taking screengrabs. There are additionally pleasant NPCs, similar to sneezy woodland sprites in cages, who you possibly can ask for tips on quests and suchlike.

A warrior sleeps among forest creatures in Soulframe

Picture credit score: Digital Extremes

The large query I’ve, as a lapsed Warframe participant, is how the sport’s free-to-play MMO constructions will mood its environment. I am not resistant to the lure of Fashionframing, however I do not need my expertise of this pretty, verdant realm to develop into a means of choosing by way of merchandise catalogues – I would slightly pay an upfront price. Nonetheless, that is attempting to close the steady door after the horse armour has bolted, and given their appreciable expertise, I am pretty assured Digital Extremes will stroll the road between letting you savour the fantasy and flogging you cosmetics.

Over the previous ten years, the studio’s had a couple of cracks at diversifying its output past Warframe – the cancelled group shooter Wonderful Legends, the so-so D&D adaptation Sword Coast Legends… Soulframe seems like probably the most convincing effort but. It is steeped within the knowledge of Warframe, but it surely’s additionally a courageous new world with a spirit all its personal.

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