Yes. Yes. Oh, definitely yes.
Warframe is not a new game — far from it, actually. Having been released in 2013, you’d think it would be dated. Ask anyone that’s played the game lately and they’ll tell you that Warframe does not play like an old game. And with a tremendous content drop in the form of the Plains of Eidolon update, Warframe is in the middle of some very exciting times. But does the game warrant a try if you’re not a seasoned veteran already?
Yes. Yes. Oh, definitely yes. I’ll start getting into the details now, but I recommend you start your download now if you haven’t already. Hopefully, you can launch the game by the time you’re done reading.
Warframe is set in a sci-fi universe that puts the player on a path through the entire known galaxy, and a handful of unknown entities that are floating around out there.
The overall art direction is above average, if even it is a bit on the side of generic sci-fi robotics and alien creatures. You are Tenno, a god-like race that serves as a powerful force for both good and evil in this world. The universe in which players are operating is our own many years in a very weird future where every planet is being fought over by the dominant factions. Other than the Tenno, the galaxy is primarily divided up between the Grineer, Orokin, Infested, and Corpus. Each faction has a different style, but none of them are all that surprising or innovative as far as their role in the bigger picture. The Grineer are power hungry, the Orokin are divine, the Infested is gross, everything falls into the expected tropes.
At its core, Warframe is a third-person shooter with frequent, wave-based combat that allows players to wipe out swaths of enemies with just a few moves. The game feels like it’s trying to meld the chaotic gameplay of Diablo III with the in-game camera resembling the Dynasty Warriors series. Combine those traits with a buttery-smooth movement system that truly lives up to all the space ninja memes you find on Warframe’s subreddit, and you’ve got some seriously satisfying in-game action.
Players can take on missions solo or with a group of friends or matchmade players. The amount of enemies being thrown your way and how much health they have is scaled according to how many players are in the game, and it does so rather nicely. The objectives will vary from capture points to escort missions to mobile defense missions. There’s not a ton of groundbreaking material in the types of missions you’re carrying out, but there’s enough variety here to keep the players on their toes.
Early on, one of the most common questions players will ask is “does it get any more difficult?” The short answer is “Yes.”
But I would say that high difficulty is not exactly what the game is designed for. Warframe is all about one thing: empowering the player; I can’t emphasize enough how fluid the combat really feels. There’s a clear effort put into the game’s level design, movement, and combat mechanics that really makes the entire combat experience feel so natural. Compare that to the Destiny series, where giant projectiles are slowly lobbed at you and you can barely move.
Before we even get into the game’s loot and crafting progression, the depth of Warframe is commendable to say the least. Even if you cut the depth of those concepts in half, you would still have a game that has more to play through than most of what you can find on Steam.
There is a huge variety of weapons, many of which make a drastic change to the way you actually approach combat. The same can be said for the game’s warframes, which serve as the classes. Each warframe has its own set of abilities to use in combat, thus shaping the strategy you take into battle. If you’re using Oberon, for example, he’ll typically excel at hanging back midrange and using his rifle, while occasionally diving into battle to use his AOE support abilities.
I found myself leveling up weapons even though I was perfectly happy with the Nami Skyla sword/dagger combo that I picked up as a part of an in-game purchase. By the time my new weapon reached max level, I was usually surprised by how it had become a viable part of my loadout. The game is built for you to fulfill your own power fantasies, not get driven through the wants of the developer.
Alerts are a huge part of what makes this game worth checking in on every day. These are spontaneously generated missions that can have unique rewards attached to their completion. In some cases, such as with Nitain Extrain, Alerts are the only way to accumulate certain resources. If you’re not sure what you can best do to make a little progress in the game’s massive progression system, hopping on whatever Alerts you see popping up can guide you in the right direction.
Of course, this has been built up over time. Before we even get into Plains of Eidolon, Warframe’s most significant single content drop to date, players have about a dozen missions to complete on each planet and numerous reasons to revisit them after they’ve been completed. And with most missions being pieced together slightly differently every time you play them, the experience stays much more fresh than one might expect.
A crafting system that I care about… weird.
Warframe seems to take the equipment system from Diablo III and chop it up into little bits. Getting the big, awesome drop that gives a drastic boost to your power doesn’t really happen all at once. Rather than one-time drops, every bit of loot earned feeds into a massive crafting system. As someone who’s had to drag themselves into putting time into other game’s crafting systems, I’ve found myself really hooked to this one.
Warframe gives you loose but clear goals, and it really encourages the player to craft their loadout with nearly complete disregard of what build is “best.” Once players are reaching deep into the Warframe’s endgame content, they can start to break down the percentages and begin the tedious process of min/maxing their gear. But until then, I found the game to be most fun when I was constantly trying out new weapons and warframes to see what suited my tastes best.
Upgrades feel earned, even if they’re a result of a long grind — especially if they’re the result of a long grind. You’ll find yourself doing the same things over and over again, but the game seems to adequately reward you for your time by constantly providing you with new, interesting things to find, build, and try out.
This isn’t a concept that applies exclusively to equipment, either. If you find a clan to join, which is rather easy to do, you can build a dojo. A very real dojo in which you can build obstacle courses, develop research projects that provide blueprints for gear, and gain access to resources that would otherwise be in much shorter supply (always stockpile Endo, boys and girls).
So, how does the game get paid for?
With all this content, surely there’s loads of microtransactions or loot crates or perhaps a feature that makes an arm grow from your monitor and shake you upside down for your lunch money, right? Wrong.
Although spending your real dollars to buy Platinum, a currency that will allow you to skip much or all of the resource collection and building of equipment to just buy it outright, in reality, the biggest difference makers in Warframe’s gameplay are weapon mods, which are ways to alter the stats of your equipment. These cannot be purchased with real money and neither can the resources required for them to be upgraded.
Prime equipment, which are the ultimate, best versions of everything in the game (warframes, weapons, mods, etc.), cannot be purchased, either. You can get a version of anything by paying real money, but the best loot is locked behind actual gameplay. That isn’t an easy line to flirt with, but the developers at Digital Extremes are doing it with brilliance.
By grinding out the necessary materials, players can build and sell high-end gear for platinum, which means that even the real money currency in the game can be attained without actually spending any real money. I’m not saying this system is perfect, but few other games have struck this balance as well as Warframe has.
To many players, Warframe serves as a shining example of how to do F2P without alienating your customers or compromising the quality of your product. To others, the grindy nature of the game’s progression system is enough to put them off, despite free access to all the game’s content. Every update, content drop, and expansion is available to all players free of charge.
Grinding, as I found in my time with Warframe, is significantly more fun with friends. Helping each other and finding just the right loot to build out your party’s gear makes some of that repetition melt away. And once you’ve got a party cracking open relics, the source of all the game’s prime components, you can start seeing big advances in your loadout in just a few hours.
Low toxicity, high reward
With the emphasis on cooperative PvE, the community behind Warframe has incentive to be helpful and friendly. This is not to say that chat doesn’t have its fair share of trolls, but we’re a long way from anything that resembles today’s standards for toxic player behavior. Knowing that the game has several systems and depth of gameplay, asking questions in chat actually seems productive. Any time I wanted to know where the best farming spots are for crafting materials of certain weapons I want, the in-game chat seemed like a genuinely good resource for information.
And good resources you will certainly need in Warframe.
From the wide array of equipment you can build to the vast number of places and ways that you can accumulate their components, your list of things to do seems almost intimidating in its length. This is why the game is often best played with the game’s wiki readily available in a web browser, unless you’ve got one of those wiki-contributing savants in your clan.
The very last of Warframe’s endgame is what the community has affectionately dubbed “Fashionframe.” Basically, once players have maxed out the practical capabilities of their gear, the most compelling endgame gear is the various capes and cosmetic attachments that can be applied just about anywhere on your warframe. Customization was a big part of the game all the way up until this point, and it becomes an even bigger focal point from here on out.
It’s not an endgame that everyone is going to fall in love with, but it’s no less repetitive than WoW’s endgame raid loot, and it feels more player-friendly than the Destiny 2 market, as it stands today. And, it’s tough to deny that these cosmetics look damn cool. It gives players a genuine sense of individuality when you’re able to look through a sea of warframes in the game’s social areas and notice that nobody there really looks like you.
Plains of Eidolon… let’s do this another time
Plains of Eidolon is a massive expansion that introduces a massive, open-world environment and a few new systems that are completely new to Warframe. It was no doubt that the update launched right around the same time as Destiny 2, as this truly asserts Warframe as a direct competitor to the titanic Bungie series.
My thoughts on PoE are going to be featured in a future review. There’s just entirely too much new stuff happening here to properly cover it along with the base game. The new content is driven towards endgame players, so new players won’t see much benefit from diving into the Plains early on.
Know this: though there are kinks to be worked out, the hype behind this update was warranted. They’ve accomplished something here, it’s just a little rough around the edges at the moment.
What’s the opposite of a cautionary tale? Whatever that phrase is, Warframe could be the best example of it. It’s not a perfect game and I wouldn’t say it’s a game for everyone. Claims of the game’s grind being long aren’t that exaggerated, but they don’t properly account for how addictive Warframe’s mechanics and progression can be. There’s always something after which to chase.
If you’re looking for a new PvP fix, that may be the only scenario in which I don’t recommend Warframe. This game hooked me in hard despite the fact that it was my second time giving it a try. That’s a testament to the huge strides this game has made over the years. If you like loot and want a game that insists that players get what they want out of it, there are few games on the market that will scratch that itch so satisfactorily.
Whereas games like Destiny 2 are offering an experience that’s worth checking out a couple hours a week, Warframe creates a new addiction and allows you to indulge in it however you please. Playing for a half hour feels productive, playing for a few hours can show players major strides towards their in-game goals.
The Verdict: Excellent
Play Warframe. Play it for more than a few hours, preferably with friends, and keep an open mind into doing some third-party research to straighten out some of these systems. Warframe takes so much of what makes ARPG’s addictive, and rounds it out with more polish and depth than anything else on the current games market.If the hooks aren’t deeply embedded by then, maybe something this in-depth isn’t for you.