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Nightmare Mode is an optional difficulty modifier introduced in Update 9.0. When Nightmare Mode is selected, up to two mission modifiers take effect that greatly increase the mission's difficulty, but completing the mission will reward players with Nightmare Mods, which affect two stats of a weapon, Warframe, or Companion.
To unlock Nightmare mode on a given planet, one must complete all mission nodes on that planet (barring Dark Sectors), and must have a Mastery Rank of at least 1. Nightmare Mode also exists for Trials as a separate Trial Key, and as special Alert missions.
When Nightmare Mode is unlocked, the game randomly selects missions for Nightmare Mode from any planet every 8 hours, and only one Nightmare mission can appear on a single Planet (barring the Orokin Derelict) at a time, limiting the possible Nightmare missions (and thus, potential rewards) to 17 missions every 8 hours. If you already completed the Nightmare Mode mission for a given planet, a new mission node will be selected 8 hours after completion.
Mission nodes under the effects of Nightmare Mode have a scarlet background and a white swirl in lieu of a Faction icon. Mission modifiers will also be listed next to the mission type. From Update 11.0 onwards you may choose whether to run the mission in Nightmare Mode or not. If some of the players in given Cell do not have Nightmare Mode unlocked, only those with it unlocked should select the Nightmare Mode mission or else the mission will start normally.
To access Nightmare Mode Trials, you must build a Nightmare Mode Trial key, which is separate from the standard Trial Key of a given Trial. Additionally, there exists Nightmare Alerts, special Alert Missions which guarantee a specific Nightmare Mod upon completing the mission. In exchange, the No Shields modifier is always among the selected modifiers.
All enemies encounted in Nightmare Mode have significantly increased levels, affecting damage and enemy spawns appropriately, and Ciphers cannot be used during Hacking. Environmental Hazards can also appear as usual.
Up to two of the following challenges may occur per mission, and each modifier has an equal chance of being selected. Nightmare Trials do not use these modifiers, but instead change certain aspects of the Trial's stages to increase their difficulty appropriately:
Player and companion shields are reduced to zero.
Overshields cannot be created while this challenge is active, nor will any shield-affecting abilities work, including Valkyr's Paralysis.
This modifier is guaranteed to occur in Nightmare Alerts.
This modifier is ignored if the mission type is Hijack, even if it is an alert mission. No other modifier will take its place.
By virtue of having no shields, this modifier has no effect on Inaros and Nidus .
This modifier does not affect sentinels.
The mission has a 5-minute timer that will fail the mission if it runs down. Killing enemies will add 5 seconds to the timer.
Enemies dying from sources other than players (such as environmental hazards) will not contribute to the timer. Security Cameras and Corpus Turrets will contribute to the timer however.
It is possible for a nightmare mode mission to not actually have any nightmare mode mission modifiers, but instead, a Death Mark modifier will take its place. If no mission modifier is visible at the start or apparently active during the mission, the player can be sure that a Death Mark will appear during the mission.
Certain mission types that can go indefinitely in normal missions will require players to last a set duration before they are allowed to extract or otherwise complete the mission;
Nightmare Defense missions require players to finish 10 waves to complete the mission.
Nightmare Survival missions require players to survive 10 minutes to complete the mission.
Nightmare Interception missions require players to finish two rounds to complete the mission.
Nightmare Excavation missions require players to gather at least 500 units of Cryotic to complete the mission.