2013 was a simpler time. The Last of Us had just blown people’s socks off on the PlayStation 3, people were anticipating The Order: 1886, and the PlayStation 4 was new. In among such launch classics as Call of Duty: Ghosts and Knack, a free-to-play title called Warframe launched.
Warframe, in it’s launch state, was tough to love. The visuals were distinct and the combat fluid, but the procedurally generated levels weren’t exciting, nor was the constant grind to farm a litany of resource types to craft new gear.
Almost five years on, however, Warframe is thriving. Through consistent updates and constant interaction with players, the game has garnered a sizeable fanbase. In fact, developer Digital Extremes has been holding an annual convention (TennoCon) since 2016 for the game.
With all this in mind, I jumped into Warframe again.
Choosing one of three “Frames” (think character classes) at the game’s opening, you battle through dozens of Grineer soldiers (a not very pleasant alien race) to reach your ship. From there, you complete missions to add a couple of sections to your ship – a foundry for crafting and an armoury for equipping weapons and new Frames.
Its in these early skirmishes that the complexities of Warframe’s combat system begin to unfold. Your Frame carries a primary weapon (an assault rifle to begin with), a secondary weapon (a pistol), and a melee weapon, and you’ll switch between all three on a near constant basis. You’re able to double jump, slide, wall jump, and dive, but your first aim should be to learn the basics of “bullet jumping”.
Essentially, this is a slide followed by a jump which turns your Frame into a tornado capable of tearing through levels at breakneck speed. Aiming weapons in midair will slow time, and the game soon becomes a challenge to get the coolest looking kills possible.
With the basics down, its time to hunt down the leader of the Grineer by completing various types of missions: General Vor. This is where it hit me: Warframe has an impressive array of mission types, thirteen in total. These range from assassinating a certain target to capturing control points or defending an area a la horde mode.
All of those missions will drop different rewards in the form of mods or resources, and both are poorly explained. Mods enhance your equipped gear, while resources are used to create new pieces. Gear comes with a set number of slots which you can add mods to, and most mods take up a number of those slots, which can be confusing. Luckily, there is an auto-install button which I’ve come to rely on in these early hours.
Once modded up, I jumped into the Market section of the ship to see what Frames were available to me, and unsurprisingly there is some grinding to do. From a quick glance, Warframes cost Platinum – Warframe’s premium currency. This felt disheartening, until I realised that everything in this game that costs Platinum can be built from resources gained through playing the game – there are some AAA games that don’t have that option (ahem, Destiny 2). With that in mind, and having done some research, I grabbed the blueprint for the 'Rhino' Warframe which cost a few thousand credits – pocket change in Warframe.
The items needed aren’t too tricky, but they require defeating a boss on Venus – and I’m not there yet. Warframe gates planetary progress behind 'Junctions' – fights against powerful enemies which can only be accessed once you’ve completed a list of goals. The Venus Junction was easy enough to get through once I’d switched to weapons with more mod slots – I’d also picked up the blueprints for a new assault rifle and dual pistols which I already had the resources to craft.
Levelling in Warframe is done by using multiple weapons and Frames; each part of your arsenal levels independently, feeding into a shared 'Mastery Level'. Reaching the threshold to level to Mastery Rank 2 triggers a short “trial” – for example, killing a few enemies only using your secondary weapon. Again, none of this is explained particularly clearly.
For all of the obtuse systems, however, I’m in deep with Warframe. I’m logging in daily to knock off a mission or two within 30 minutes. I’m grabbing plenty of resources and working my way towards that Rhino, and I can’t wait to see how it affects the way I play. Warframe, unlike many games, has a grind that feels commensurate to what I’m getting out of it.
There is so much to discover here, and I haven’t even gone into huge sections such as the open-world Plains of Eidolon update. If you’re happy to research things online or ask for help, the community are extremely helpful. If you haven’t given Warframe a try, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. In fact, even if you bounced off of it in 2013 or since, I still recommend it.
Have you tried Warframe lately? Have you been playing the game since the beginning, or are you a newcomer? Press X to ninja in the comments section below.