As the years roll on so does the ever growing popularity of MMO-Lite Shooter Looters. 2017 alone has seen the rise and (potential) fall of Destiny 2, the announcement of Anthem, major updates to The Division and fans crying out for Borderlands 3. Shooters have been a pillar of the gaming world ever since the early days of Robotron, Asteroids and the ground breaking Doom, but throw progressions system ripped straight from beloved niche dungeon crawlers like Diablo and we get an entirely new beast.
Throughout the course of this article I’ll be looking to brieflysummarise my feelings on Warframe’s current state; what it is, what’s new, how does it compare to others in the genre and if it’s worth playing moving in to 2018.
What Is Warframe?
Warframe is a Futuristic Third Person Shoot ‘n Loot/Hack ‘n Slash MMO-Lite Action Game about Space Ninjas wiping out countless hostile races that occupy our Solar System. When you first enter the game you’re given the choice of three beginner frames with the ability to unlock more later on in the game. The player must Shoot, Stab and Parkour their way through various procedurally generated missions that are built from locked tile sets that vary from snowy landscapes to alien infested corridors in space ships.
If there’s one thing that Warframe does expertly, is its enabling of the player’s power fantasy and choice. The game is played through the perspective of a characters chosen “Frame” that acts as a character class with over 33 of them to choose from. Yeah that’s right, 33 different classes to choose from and more being added every couple of months with distinct differences and upgraded versions (known as primes) between those releases. The same goes for weapons that are separated in to three classes; primary, secondary and melee with close to around 300 weapons, including their prime variants.
And then we have the expansive modding system the loot game is based around. Each piece of weapon and armour (and pet) is extensively customisable with a variety of mods that can also be upgraded using resources farmed through gameplay. These mods grant your standard upgrades to damage, reload speed, critical damage, health, shields etc but also possess speciality mods like melee weapon fighting styles and “proc” buffs.
It’s a lot to take in but this is where most of gameplay in Warframe resides, collecting and upgrading you’re character further and further to take on more difficult challenges. The idea behind this system is simple, allow the player to become as powerful as they could possibly want to be, the limit is evidently when you’re able to walk in to a room and practically empty the entire room with a click of the fingers and without any meaningful PVP within the game it means balance issues aren’t really a thing.
While being one the main positives about Warframe I would also inject here that this also means that with a character so super powerful that much of the game’s content becomes laughably easy, and while it’s a completely personal preference on my part, the lack of challenge can some what make Warframe feel trivial at times, but your mileage may vary.
A Whole New Plain
Autumn 2017 will mark Warframe’s biggest peak player count (according to steam charts) to date, reason for this being DE’s release of their new free expansion, Warframe: Plains of Eidolon. With it bringing a brand new zone in the eponymous Plains of Eidolon, a new social hub Cetus, new resources, weapons, enemies and gameplay systems (UI, missions, etc). This was a pivotal moment for Warframe, throughout its lifespan players have mostly been confined to tight corridors and brief 10 minute missions that the player would then repeat indefinitely, but this expansion brought something completely new and fresh, a completely open-world zone that is absolutely humongous in size and scope and for a 5 year old games and an engine that seems to be holding it’s self together this far in to the games life cycle the Plains are absolutely gorgeous. The battles are frantic, loud and straight up chaos that can only be quelled by the sheer power your Frame lets you dish out.
Alas while providing a ton of new content for current players, PoE offers almost nothing for new players and if you were thinking about jumping in to the game just for this zone then I’m afraid you might leave disappointed, however stick around long enough for the Plains to become relevant for you and you’re in for one of the most exciting Looter experiences going in to 2018.
So What’s The End Game?
Ah the age old question with any game of this nature, “what do I do when I hit end game?” A question that almost every Warframe fan has tried to answer but never managed to adequately respond to. Mostly you’ll hear “there is no end game” or “it’s all about the fashionframe” but what do you actually do?
Well quite frankly, anything you want as long as it’s shooting alien scumbags. It’s a game about setting your own goals and discovering how to achieve them. You may see a sweet weapon an ally has been using and you make it your goal to obtain and level it up or You may want a pretty helmet for your favourite frame but you need currency to purchase it, set up shop in a social hub and sell what you have for that juicy Platinum monies. It’s a bit of a cop out but Warframe’s end game is the entire game. There is no end game in Warframe, just a ludicrous amount of content to be played through and mastered.
Also making your selected Ninja look sexy is pretty satisfying
How does it stack up against it’s competition?
While the tides predominately sang of Destiny’s triumph, the developers at Digital Extremes continued to grind away, adding mass amounts of content that for a free-to-play game is considered completely impossible. And that’s something you’ll often hear about Warframe, how is this game free-to-play? It offers just as much, if not more, content than today’s AAA games. It looks fantastic and feels phenomenal
Look guys I was there too, Destiny 2 was the be all and end all games for me once it was released for PC. I went in tentatively sceptical, but hyped none the less and having played a lot of Warframe in the past I thought it would take over as my go to Loot Shooter. However Bungie managed to whiff that one and provide me with one of the most stale and soulless titles I’ve ever laid my hands on, devastating me in the process and shaking me to my roots. (I actually gave the game an 8 on time of release but would happily redact that review down to a much lower rating these days.)
Warframe holds a place in my heart because it never did what Destiny did. Disappoint. It never held my hand but it never let me from its grip either, its a game where care, love and affection spew from every crevice of its design philosophy; by gamers, for gamers. It show’s in the Weekly Dev Streams, in the communication and interaction with the community through forums and even in the in game global chat. In a landscape plagued with questionable decisions and shady business models Digital Extremes holds a torch among the industry as the good guys, implementing a fair free-to-play model with it’s microtransactions and some of the best community interactions.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
- The Movement and Gunplay – Unparalleled freedom and satisfying combat will make other games feel slow and clunky in comparison.
- Completely Free-to-play – Known as one of the fairest free-to-play economies in gaming, nothing bought from the store will make you more powerful but can help speed up the process should you choose to do so or is there simply to make you look prettier. All equipment purchased from the store must still be levelled up and mastered before on par with the rest of your high level stuff.
- In Depth Economy – It’s possible to trade the Premium Currency (Platinum) with other players, meaning that you can farm rare items and sell to others for Platinum to purchase market good. Trading is a huge thing in Warframe and is one of the main features of the game.
- Abundant Amount of Content – This can be counted as a pro or a con for various different players but for me this is a 100% pro. There’s always something new to do and always something to hunt down.
- Engaging Universe – While not evident after the first 30+ hours of game play Warframe actually holds a tremendous amount of backstory and lore which hits massive peaks during some of it’s later story missions.
- Bright and Bold – DE aren’t afraid of making drastic changes to shake up how the game operates, causing polarising opinions in the community in the process but the lack of recycled content is refreshing to see from a game 5 years in to its life cycle.
- Efficiently Stunning – While not holding a more traditional graphical presence, like a plus size model it does tremendous work with what it’s got and it results in some stunning vistas.
- Fantastically Close Knit Community – The Warframe community has one of the most welcoming and helpful communities I’ve been a part of. The genuine consensus around Warframe’s player base is help new players so they may help others once they’re in the same position to do so. For example: I tired to buy multiple mandatory mods/items in the trade channel, instead I was met with a myriad of members that happily gifted them to me instead as they no longer needed them. It’s also still a highly active title consistently being one of the highest played game on steam.
- Good Guy Devs – DE in the past have made it clear for a long time now that their players come first and consistently show this in practice with pro-consumerist actions time and time again. A rarity among fully paid AAA titles these days let alone free-to-play ones.
- Can Be Overwhelming/Confusing For Beginners – While relatively a simple game at its base nature, the lack of direction for new players, aside from following the missions one by one and unlocking the planets, has been known to cause confusion to what the goal of the game actually is.
- Lack Of Definitive End Game – A grey negative as this can also be seen as a positive. But the non-traditional progression structure usually followed in games like WoW and Destiny can be a big turn off for many. While not a sandbox game it does require you to create your own fun.
- Lack Of Challenge – Don’t get me wrong there are certainly challenges to be found within Warframe with it’s sorties, endless missions and Eidolon hunting, but those moments between rolling over enemies and fearing for your life are too far and few between.
So is it worth it?
I guess that’s completely down to you as a player and what you want from the game. It’s possible to play this game casually a couple of hours every week and still make meaningful progress, but it’s also possible to play Warframe endlessly while never running out of things to do. However, without any friends to play with and the lack of challenge sometimes causes me to put the game down for a few months at a time. As of right now I’m around 200 hours in over the space of about 2 years but always manage to find a way back. The universe of Warframe is an alluring enigma but a niche one, if it grabs you then expect to lose most of your gaming time to it, just be aware it takes a certain amount of perseverance to get to a comfortable to level where Warframe turns in to full hobby mode.
Looking back on the newest expansion shows the game still holds potential that’s been locked away for some time. The new open Plain is a delight to explore and lose yourself in, and whether or not that’s a future that may do the game justice or otherwise hurt it remains to be seen. For now, I would happily state this. If you lasted through this article, I’d say you’re already interested, the game is free and requires no investment to try out. Give it a go, it’s almost certainly worth the trial and for a 5 year old game, it’s never gotten worse, only better. No content ever becomes irrelevant, you just keep getting more and more free stuff to do and from a free-to-play game that’s highly irregular and refreshing.