Back in 2019 when The Duviri Paradox was first revealed by Digital Extremes. It was a concept that felt strange and incoherent to not only regular viewers but also the Warframe community. A mysterious masked man in a strange colorless world with giant serpents and skeletal knights was definitely not what years of Warframe had led us to expect. But it was a promise to the community that Digital Extremes would always chase the next big and ambitious idea they had.
Fast forward to last Wednesday when The Duviri Paradox was finally in my hands. The hype I felt faded like the color in the world of the initial reveal. The Duviri Paradox boasts both a unique and interesting story and massive creative overhauls to the general gameplay that makes the experience simply addicting. Yet, there is some aimlessness in what the developers achieved with this expansion’s story. It not only feels impatient to onboard new players but there are a few shortcomings that left me feeling confused in the grander scheme of things.
The Drifter and The Child King
The Duviri Paradox takes place, appropriately, in Duviri. Duviri is a strange new world in Warframe that is controlled by a child king named Dominus Thrax. You play as the Drifter, a man stuck in an endless loop of being killed by Thrax who has the ability to reset the day to do this as many times as he wants. That is until a strange hand falls from the sky and aids the Drifter in a daring escape. It is from here that he is given guidance by a mysterious sage named Teshin. Teshin not only helps you fight against Thrax’s tyranny but also uncover the reason behind the paradox in Duviri.
The story in The Duviri Paradox was designed for both newcomers and current players of Warframe. As such, the story starts to fall apart after the initial opening of the quest. Duviri the location is the star. I expected a few hours of purely curated cinematic content centered around Thrax, Teshin, and the Drifter. The story instead focuses on Duviri itself and certain side characters who have way more screen time than Thrax himself, despite being the central villain. Considering Thrax is a new villain in the story, his lack of development will confuse new players and feel unimpactful for veterans.
Instead of fleshing out Thrax and explaining things in a concise manner, there was more of a focus on just adding narrative elements to activities you would replay in Duviri as opposed to more scripted cinematic moments that could flesh out Thrax instead. It was very disappointing for a player like me who has played for years. It also felt misleading given the original gameplay of the expansion shown last year. What was originally shown gripped me more than what was in the launched quest. The mood and tone of the pre-launch content evoked a serious and depressing feel. It also implied that Thrax would be more involved in what looked like the opening of the quest.
However, despite these disappointments, the rest of the cast and Duviri itself have more impact.
A More Involved Cast in The Duviri Paradox
Outside of Thrax being underutilized in the story, the remaining cast includes the Drifter, Teshin, and five side characters who are aligned with Thrax’s emotions that affect the world of Duviri itself. The Drifter despite not being a new character in the story of Warframe overall is fleshed out properly so new players can understand their apathetic attitude that is a result of what they have gone through in Duviri. As you explore Thrax’s emotions in Duviri, they too start to awaken those same emotions. Scott Whyte’s voice acting as the male Drifter was fantastic all the way through. You can feel the resentment in their voice.
Teshin is a curious character. He has been in a strange safe place for longer than Duviri has existed. He speaks of war and his experiences from “the other side” of reality. The Drifter and Teshin do form a genuine bond over the course of the story as well. I loved their interactions even if they do not grow much beyond the student-master dynamic. The real stars though are the other five side characters that impact Duviri in interesting ways.
These characters are the lifeblood of the expansion. There is Bombastine the Envious, Lodun the Angry, Lucinia the Singer of Sorrow, Mathila the Joyous, and Sythel the Fearful. Each character has a pivotal role in the story of Duviri itself. As you play through the main quest, you will meet only a few of them initially and after the quest, there will be replayable stories centered around all five of them. Each has motivations tied to their emotional state that you will explore over the course of the expansion. Lodun wants to retake the kingdom of Duviri back from Thrax’s rule. Bombastine despises anyone who is given a bigger spotlight than him. Lucinia wallows in her own sorrow from how people in Duviri treat her.
They not only have unique and well-told stories, but an effect on Duviri as you play in it.
An Open World Affected by Emotion
The Duviri Paradox brings with it a new open world in Warframe. But Duviri is an open world unlike anything I have seen in the game. The characters change the story you experience in each mood spiral. For instance, Lucinia’s sorrow spiral changes Duviri’s visuals to hues of gray and dark blue. With an altered skybox that shows her crying face while you progress.
Then, when the mood spiral changes to anger you go through Lodun’s story that changes Duviri’s color palette to reds and gray with Thrax’s angry face looming while meteorites fall from the sky. The mood spirals aren’t just for visual effects and offer smaller changes for enemies. When the mood spiral is anger, enemies will deal fire damage while the envy spiral for Bombastine gives them poison damage. Initially, the five supporting characters in The Duviri Paradox might have seemed one note. Yet, the way they alter Duviri and its enemies is a fantastic twist. In a weird way, the spirals helped me connect with each character more since I could see what the world was like through their perspective.
By altering the world, each of these NPCs became more compelling. Mathila was my easy favorite due to her crazy disposition and how colorful Duviri is when you play her story. The only downside to the spirals is that each mood remains for two hours before switching to the next on a loop. This would be an issue if the new gameplay and Duviri’s many activities were not so enjoyable and immersive.
New Endless Roguelite Gameplay
The Duviri Paradox makes Warframe dip its toes into the roguelite genre. It also changes the core gameplay while you are in Duviri itself. The Drifter plays much differently from a warframe. He only has a small selection of melee weapons with unique functions. The dual katanas are able to send out waves of electrical waves to foes while the heavy mace is able to create long-range shockwaves to knock down foes. Combine this with the Sirocco pistol he carries for quick shots to disrupt enemy ability casting leaves the combat feeling more risky and balanced as a result.
I mostly enjoyed using the polearm due to its longer hit range and loved swapping to the pistol to snipe enemies from afar. This was especially useful for a lot of encounters with the new class of enemies. There are new skeletal Dax enemies introduced in Duviri. Similar to the Drifter, they are all melee focused but can use long-range abilities. Each foe feels more threatening, however, due to the Drifter being more susceptible to damage than warframes in the main game. To help even the playing field, the Drifter can also parry melee attacks to open a window and perform a finisher on foes.
Another big addition to Duviri itself was the roguelite Decree system. These are an assortment of random upgrades you can choose from to help in each Duviri run. Some will offer increases to movement speed, kills restoring health, or, my favorite, adding additional fire damage to melee attacks. Some upgrades like Lodun’s Rage can even light enemies on fire around the Drifter. The new gameplay system, as well as the new foes and decrees, are all very well executed.
An Activity-Filled World
Each run in Duviri will always have a set of main objectives to do depending on what mood spiral is active in the rotation that leads to an epic fight against the Orowyrm. A two-stage mechanics-driven boss fight that offers rewards to unlock the rest of the Drifter’s arsenal. This will always be the highlight of every Duviri run to me since it was always fun to take down and the grand scope of the beast is incredible.
Alongside these main objectives are bite-sized side activities like killing multiple waves of enemies, or a unique fishing mini-game where you are a fish and have to eat other fish. These began to feel fun at first, but repetitive after a while. However, they always offered meaningful rewards like materials for crafting items earned in Duviri to use outside of it. It is an interesting way to entice me to grind Duviri itself outside of the Intrinsics.
Intrinsics are a set of skill trees that unlock unique passives across multiple trees. My go-to Intrinsics were Endurance, which helped the Drifter stay alive in each Duviri run as well as Opportunity which offered more warframe and weapon choices for warframe activities like the Circuit. The Intrinsics also never had a single upgrade that felt pointless outside of being able to name your horse in Duviri so I never felt like I wasted my time earning Intrinsics or doing these repetitive activities.
But Duviri is not the only addition in The Duviri Paradox. There is also a new warframe-centric activity called The Circuit.
Reinventing The Grind in Warframe
The Circuit is a new endless game mode in The Duviri Paradox that is brilliantly executed. The Circuit consists of multiple different activities that rotate after completing one. There are defensive game modes or objective-based activities and missions where you just kill enemies.
After each activity is completed, you will earn experience points on a new weekly battle pass-like system for guaranteed rewards you can choose. Each week, players can choose between the normal and steel path versions of The Circuit. The normal version allows players to pick a specific warframe to earn alongside other miscellaneous rewards. While the steel path version is significantly harder due to higher leveled enemies and more damage output, it allows players to pick two incarnon adapters to grind for.
Incarnon adapters can go on specific older weapons to breathe new life into them. As they not only offer new passive buffs like flat damage increases, or increasing the magazine size of the weapons. But also gives them an alternate firing mode that fundamentally changes how they work. The Circuit is a masterstroke of an activity since it encourages teamwork from even seasoned players and feels refreshing since Decrees can be earned to offer equally powerful boons to players in their warframes. Not only is it fun, but it offers incredible rewards for both old and new players.
Technical Performance, Bugs, and Music
Similar to every update in Warframe, The Duviri Paradox was very broken at launch and still has some problems to work through. When it launched there was a nasty bug that deleted the main objective waypoint if you did any side activity. This is gone now but was a frustration during the review process. There are still other random bugs, like players loading into the Orowyrm fight as their horse and not being able to fight it. Horse racing was also removed after day one and still is not back as of the time of this writing, six hotfixes later. This is a shame since that was a very enjoyable side activity to do.
But outside of that, The Duviri Paradox runs very well on the Xbox Series X. It holds a consistently smooth framerate, and I have not experienced any crashes or freezes. If not for the miscellaneous bugs, it would have been a much better experience overall.
One final piece of The Duviri Paradox that brings it all together is the new music added to the game. There is not only new epic orchestral tracks. But some tracks lean heavily into Duviri’s weird setting. You can hear opera singing from Lucinia in normal battle music. As well as the Orowyrm theme. The usage of acoustic guitars mixed into some tracks with the opera singing gives off a surprisingly poignant Western feel. It is an incredible combination of music in a crazy new expansion.
Final Thoughts on The Duviri Paradox
The Duviri Paradox is a strange expansion befitting its setting. The new gameplay is incredible. Duviri itself and how the five side characters affect it are a unique twist. There are so many new custom-built side activities for Duviri that range from simple to weird to complex. The Drifter’s unique skill trees inside of Duviri and the revolutionary new game mode are a major boon for new and old players. Yet, I could not help but feel the quest dropped the ball when it came to using Thrax as a new villain. While there is also misleading gameplay from last year that showed what could have been with its story.
For seasoned players, it is a good story after using context clues from previous story quests. However, the background would still be confusing to explain to new players who did not understand the story all that well without ruining major surprises. I just hope the developers can show representative gameplay for what is next in the game. Despite those shortcomings, it is very hard not to recommend The Duviri Paradox. It is possibly the best jumping-in point for new players and a ton of great fun for current players. Especially at its low low price of free.
The Duviri Paradox is available now as a free update on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, Epic Games Store, and Steam.