If you're an avid Warframe player, you may have been looking forward to a very particular and well-hyped content update. The War Within has been teased numerously for months, promising a new story chapter that will both explain vast parts of the lore within the universe, as well as a few new gameplay mechanics. On top of that of course, the update adds more weapons and vanity items.
Let me preface with saying that The War Within is a content update for the fans and players of Warframe who both concern themselves with the story progress in the game, as well as receiving a new game mechanic to support the existing gameplay. It doesn't address the grinding nature of the game nor does it entirely change it. Some players thoroughly enjoy the way the game plays. I could offer some insight as to why the game, despite its obvious grind, has a loyal fanbase that hangs on the lips of the developer team, but that's a story for another time.
From this point forward, you may spot some spoilers, be it related to this content update or the last one named The Second Dream. The mechanics are intertwined and justified by the story told in the quest, so it's impossible to discuss them completely separately.
The War Within is a continuation of the last cinematic quest. In The Second Dream, your player character is revealed to not be a Warframe, but rather an un-aging teenager-looking character called an Operator, or Tenno that controls Warframes remotely. While I do call them cinematic quests, you're still largely in control of your character. You move around, fight enemies, all while listening to on-going conversations. Unless it's a fight that's important to the story, fights against regular enemies proves hardly a threat and seems more like something to keep you busy while the plot unfolds.
With the quest of The War Within, this proves partially true. There are far fewer moments where you're just being kept busy as the plot reveals itself, and a lot more figurative corridors to walk through as the Operator, and not your Warframe. The story basically revolves around the Operator (you) needing to do some soul searching and self-exploration. There is a dark past and tremendous power locked deep within you. As you are ousted out of control from your Warframe, you'll be stuck inside an icy mountain. Within, an old Orokin ruin lies where you slowly regain several memories of your past that double as unlocking skills.
You see, The Second Dream unlocked a skill where you can call upon the Operator to perform a specific skill unique to the 'school' you chose for them. This skilll can range from a blast that levitates enemies helplessly, a strong healing AoE, to a destructive laser of ridiculous power. All of which could be customized through a separate skill leveling system. Sort of like an ultimate attack that always takes a long time to charge in the background.
However, The War Within unlocks a skill that lets you not only summon the Operator, but run around as them. As you run through the Orokin ruins during the quest, you'll unlock skills such as the laser blast seen in The Second Dream, a wide blast that stuns enemies, an invisibility skill, and a medium-range dash. While summoned, your Warframe remains unmoving and can seemingly be attacked. The Operator themselves can be attacked as well, sporting only a measly 100 health, but will instead be summoned back to your Warframe had they perish.
It is for this reason that I'd like to warn you now before you start the quest. First, make sure you are satisfied with the visual looks of your Operator. You'll be seeing his/her face a lot, and at times up close. So make sure they look the way you want them to. Secondly, pick a Warframe and melee weapon that you are confident with. Preferably a Warframe that can take some damage, and a melee weapon that'll deal good damage. Doing so will ensure your smooth progression through the quest at the times you will be needing both.
The way you are introduced to your latent Operator skills might prove frustrating at first. Having fallen down deep within the mountain, a burrowed Orokin-styled monster worm roams a sea of bones that you must cross. At first, you have nothing but a measly sprint and a single jump. Walking on the bed of bones alerts the enemy to your position. If it catches you while you remain on this grisly sea, you will be caught and presumably eaten, after which you return to the start of the room and have to try again.
While I understand that your Operator is meant to feel weak and useless at this point, this first room gave me a lot of grief as I was unsure what the optimal way of progress was. Eventually, I figured out you needed to hop from solid rock bed to another, avoiding the grisly sea of bones in order to not get eaten and forced back to the beginning. Once you learn the dash and invisibility skills later on, it does become smooth sailing.
Beyond the quest and the new Operator mechanic, The War Within also includes a new mod type. Veiled Mods have a vague description that reveals on what they can be slotted, commonly a weapon, and list what requirements must be met in order to reveal its true nature. This requirement can vary wildly, but mine required me to start an Interception mission solo, completing it without dying.
This feature has been the topic of heated discussion in the player base, as the attributes and assigned weapon (as it's commonly limited to a specific one) are completely random and have lead to some ridiculously underpowered and overpowered combinations, such as gigantic flat damage upgrades seemingly surpassing the potential of even Prime Mods. The means to reroll a veiled mod is also said to be extremely costly over an extended amount of rerolls. This feels conflicting, as recent updates by Digital Extremes have shown they want to make random rewards more reliably satisfying, although this seems to be a step in the opposite direction. Add to it the fear of many frequent traders that it may cause Platinum (Warframe's Premium currency) to 'crash' similar to a currency such as dollars in a stock market, as the trade prices between players have been steep for rare, overpowered veiled mods.
Regardless, The War Within raises the cinematic bar that the developers had set for themselves with The Second Dream. If you remotely care about the story and would like a new mechanic, then the content update delivers. There is no cost to it either. The update is free on top of a free game, and becomes available as you unlock a specific travel junction between two planets and complete The Second Dream.
I do find it a shame that Digital Extremes has chosen to write their stories more centric to the Player. In past events it was often the Grineer and Corpus, the largest two factions, butting heads for some reason. Sometimes the Infested would throw a wrench in things, but it was always the Tenno (which are all the players) who were then called upon to interfere or take part in order to 'preserve balance', as the Lotus would put it.
The Second Dream and The War Within reversely focus more on the individual player character, forming a certain dissonance with the preceding events, story or otherwise. You as a singular character are saved by the Lotus, the single most important character in your faction, at the end of The Second Dream. You killed the Grineer Queen, one of the only two rulers that head the massive Grineer army. In fact, it is sneakily alluded to it early on in the new Quest, as your open hand grasps at a snowflake just after you recover from being unconscious. A clear nod to you being the 'special snowflake' that has to be the sole hero. A sharp contrast to the earlier implication that you are meant to be a cog in a grand machine. A soldier in a war.
If anything, I find that this new update exemplifies that it is best to keep your own expectations in check. If you expected a rework of the entire game or a story that rivals that of The Witcher 3, look again. The War Within doesn't live up to the hype because of the inherent nature of hype itself. But if we look past that, we see a free and beautiful game with an honest business model doing its damnedest to tell a story. It is a very cliche story, with stellar music that invokes an oriental atmosphere and voice acting that, considering its market, is the best there is. It's only a shame the Veiled Mods aspect fails to be the welcomed and balanced featured that would round off the new content update.
In perspective, The War Within comes with content that will largely please most of its current playerbase. It has provided more story, background and lore for the fanbase to work with and dissolve the mysteries that cloud the universe. It provides a new mechanic that, while not as overpowered as the last one, gives a new level of freedom. Not to mention the new enemies, new mission tilesets, and new weapons that will certainly last a long while on their own. And with the new Prime Access pack looming on the horizon, players won't have to wait long for another injection of weapons to try out.