Screenshot: Kotaku (Warframe)

Fortuna was released yesterday on PC, and is expected to arrive on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the near future. It’s too early to know whether Fortunat rights some of the wrongs made by last year’s expansion, Plains of Eidolon, when it first released, including it felt too isolated from the rest of the game. What immediately stands out after a few hours with Fortuna is how much more interesting and exciting the presentation around it feels. The underground city of Fortuna and the sprawling landscapes of Orb Vallis above offer a more compelling window into the Warframe universe.

Fortuna is named after the trader settlement in which it takes place, an outpost on the planet Venus populated by debt slaves. This cavernous, neon-lit social hub is where you can collect new missions and turn in bounties to earn standing, one of the main currencies used to unlock and purchase new items and materials.

Outside the city lies Orb Vallis, a terraformed section of the planet’s surface surrounded by snow and dotted with gigantic sci-fi mushrooms that one character describes as “a blizzard in a firestorm” because of its dynamic weather., Orb Vallis serves as the patrol area where all of the action goes down, like killing Corpus, the robotic warriors representing the game’s plutocratic faction, and scavenging for raw materials to less violent pastimes like fishing and mining.

Like I said, it’s a lot, especially for newer Warframe players who might be interested in checking out what all of the hubbub is about. But whereas last year’s expansion Plains of Eidolon felt at times like just another playground to grind for loot and crafting materials (albeit a much more expansive one), Fortuna’s tiny corner of the Warframe universe is suffused with intrigue and class conflict.

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Fortuna is ruled by Nef Anyo, a profiteering aristocrat who controls and coerces the colonists through debt collection. He reassures the workers, via pre-recorded messages displayed on monitors throughout the city, that they are all part of one big happy family.

One type of Fortuna’s trade-able items are debt-bonds. Warframe players on the game’s subreddit already made it into a meme about the American economy’s reliance on debt.
Image: Warframe (Reddit)

The expansion’s starting mission revolves around helping Thursby, a scrap dealer, steal better wares from the Corpus in order for his shop to make more money so he can pay off his debt. When things go sideways, you work with another comrade, Eudico, to destroy evidence of his plans to rip off his oppressors. Through conversations with Thursby, it’s clear Eudico was once a stalwart hero of Solaris United, the faction representing Fortuna’s workers, but tragic events in the past led her to be less outspoken and willing to challenge the existing hierarchy.

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While the bulk of Fortuna is still geared around grinding repetitive activities on the planet’s surface, the dystopian table setting of its main story quest imbues it all with emotional weight that helps Fortuna feel worth exploring even outside of its crafting cycle. Would I like to lend my superhuman powers to a futuristic class struggle in a cyberpunk colony on Venus? Why yes, yes I would.

The Fortuna expansion has a lot of moving parts that I’ll need a lot more time with before declaring this another great evolution in the five-year-old MMO. I’ve been playing in the game’s new Garuda Warframe, a sleek suit-based around bloodletting enemies. It can sacrifice health to generate energy, which can then also be used on attacks that suck health away from other enemies or use it to increase damage. It’s a tight triangle of abilities that reinforce one another well, allowing for lots of high-risk, high-reward play.

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I’m less fond of some of the new weapons, including the Kreska, a glorified pickaxe that’s just as unwieldy as it sounds, and the Battacor, a rifle that discharges a more devastating volley after storing up energy from a certain amount of kills. I am more enamored with a new crossbow called the Nagantaka, which fires individual bolts that deal a lot of damage at high precision and with a relatively high rate of fire. I don’t normally like Warframe’s bow weapons, but this one rips.

Other new additions of note include hoverboarding, which has its own faction for earning upgrades, a group of kids that live in ventilation shafts. Imagine of a bunch of Dickensian orphans running an underground hoverboard ring. There’s also animal conservation. It turns out the Corpus aren’t just exploiting and abusing workers—their industrial outpost is also destroying the environment. I haven’t had time to go too deeply into it, but suffice it to say there’s a Pokémon element to Fortuna that revolves around using particular animal lures to capture and transport exotic creatures so they can be relocated and their species preserved elsewhere.

GIF: Warframe (Reddit)

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Where Plains of Eidolon had a day-night cycle, Orb Vallis fluctuates between intense cold and warm every 26 minutes, affecting which creatures will show up in a specific area. Every animal you save earns you standing back at the city and tokens that can be exchanged for special gifts. It’s a welcome diversion from the usual mechanic of poaching animals and selling their body parts.

Did I mention there are also giant spider robots? Called Orbs, the big ones normally only come out when you’re out exploring the surface, but some players have been encountering a glitch where they also appear back in the city and cause all sorts of trouble. Hopefully it’s not just a fluke, but a sign of things to come in the game’s later updates.

You can read up on the full suite of additions to the game with Fortuna in the patch notes. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep playing: I have a hoverboard to trick out.