On Warframe

Everybody should try Warframe.

Everybody should try it, if only to gain a little empathy for newbies coming into their game of choice completely lost and having no context to understand any of the terminology.

It doesn’t help that the game is deeply in love with its own vocabulary, so much so that even basic game concepts require a trip to a wiki. I have an almost bottomless capacity for useless space words (I play Destiny!) but even I read about the folly of overinvesting Endo in performing Fusion on the damaged Serration in my MK1-Paris and think: wat.

– Chris Thursten, Eurogamer, “Warframe in 2017 is a shooter at the crossroads between art and business”

That said, Warframe does try to drip feed information to you. It has in-game tutorial instruction pages, neatly broken down into easy to read (if less easy to absorb and internalize) bite-sized pieces.

There’s an entire in-game codex, which is a mini-game in itself to fill out, in order to unlock more of the story, lore and possible tactical information.

Different stations of your ship will unlock through quest progression, so that you only need to worry about the basics at the start, and deal with the more advanced stuff later.

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It’s just that everything feels so very alien when first dipped into the universe of Warframe.

Even the aesthetic is non-standard. Your avatar is all Bio-armor with organic curves and abstract color schemes.

The words are alien. They call you a Tenno. Someone or something called Lotus is talking to you. There’s Ordis, there’s Grineer, there’s weapons and warframes given all manner of names like Skana, Furis, Paris, Oberon, Hydroid and Frost. There’s mastery ranks, levels, mods, resources, credits, platinum, affinity, a codex, sentinels, companions, and more.

All you want to latch onto is, “Ok, this is a gun. I can shoot it.”

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That, and “I think this Excalibur warframe is a bit too slim and curvy for my liking where avatars are concerned, but it’s already the best out of three enforced choices.”

Then you flip through the Warframes in the Market, wondering whose looks and shtick might  suit you the best, and get your heart set on the big bulky Rhino.

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If you’re me in 2015, this is where you take one look at the cost of purchasing the Warframe, realize that the price is listed in platinum (the currency bought for RL currency), do a little calculation over how many dollars it’s going to cost to try out a sampling of warframes and weapons, and quit in a “ugh, P2W, I don’t like the game that much to start paying yet anyway” huff.

Fast forward to 2017 and I’m in a more receptive frame of mind. Warframe has been out for more than a couple years, it just launched some kind of ‘open-world’ map as an expansion patch, it seems to garnered a favorable audience for itself… it makes me receptive enough to start Googling for information, which is where I went wrong in 2015 – I didn’t.

Turns out that Warframe is -not- P2W as many strident fans will tell anyone who cares to read more about the game. You can earn pretty much anything in-game with enough investments of time and focused effort (which could possibly be more grind than you wanted to invest, of course.)

They make their money out of those who want to pay to significantly shortcut the process of progression, which has always been a pretty sizeable number. It’s not the best kind of microtransaction model in my book personally, since it’s very easy to make the ‘free’ alternative a ludicrously impossible grind in comparison to dropping a couple dollars (which then begs the question, “why am I wasting so much time on this one game?” and the answer of “let’s not”), but it is acceptable enough for me to try it free and see how far I can get.

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What I missed in 2015 (or maybe the UI wasn’t like this then, I do not recall) was this little alternate tab that shows that the Rhino blueprints can be bought for the in-game currency of credits.

Mind you, not that I would actually know, as an off-the-cuff newbie that the icon of three blue stacked trapezoids means “credits” and that it can be clicked to bring up a new tab.

You’d then need the parts and resources to make them, and a little more enterprising Googling research revealed this to be a decently achievable medium-term goal for a newbie. Rhino part blueprints were dropped by that boss over yonder, the resources for that part could be found on that planet, and so on.

(Granted, if you had your heart set on something much less newbie-friendly and further up the progression chain, then you were asking for a really really long grind playing stuff you didn’t like in order to get to stuff you thought you might like.)

Since I’d fortunately developed a taste for something conceivably reachable, I decided that my 2017 Warframe trial would take on that challenge. Something a little easier than building a GW2 legendary, perhaps more along the lines of building an ascended weapon or earning a griffon. Something that focused one’s path and laid out a line of clarity.

Turns out that is pretty much Warframe: the game.

There’s a fair amount of lateral progression choices set among the vertical progression of fighting bigger and badder higher level enemies. More so than Destiny 2, I’d wager a guess, even if I didn’t play Destiny 2 beyond the free beta for long enough to really know.

For one thing, my gun didn’t automatically get stronger or increase in attack damage numbers, nor did I get drops of guns with ever-increasing gear levels and higher damage numbers.

Once enemies started hitting levels of 6-10, I found my weapons starting to do very ridiculously small amounts of damage, and desperate need forced me into Google research once more to dig up beginner guides and frequently asked questions.

Turns out (and this is a very common refrain for Warframe, discovering what is common sense knowledge to regular players and completely alien to anybody else) that there are these things called ‘Mods.’

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Mods are like little Magic cards you collect (ok, they are ostensibly item drops, but they look and function like Magic cards.)

In similar vein to games like Paladins or Hearthstone, you select a limited deck from a broad array that you can collect, which hopefully synergize in effective ways, and make whatever you slot into them stronger/better/more effective.

In Warframe’s case, you stick them into your weapons, your warframes and even your companions.

There’s a bit more linearity to Warframe’s mods. There’s one primary mod that straight up increases damage done for a specific weapon type, like rifles, melee or pistols. That’s the one to go for straight away for improvements to weapon strength, I’m given to understand.

Then there are nice-to-have mods that can tweak how much secondary elemental type damage your weapon might do, make it better against specific faction enemies, increase criticals and so on.

Given that your weapon has a limited capacity to accept mods (its capacity increases as you level up the weapon), this turns into a strategic building exercise complete with third-party website calculator/builder for those that like that sort of minigame.

To add on to the fun, each mod can vertically progress in power, from say, 20% damage dealt to 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% damage dealt, by “fusing the mod.” This involves spending yet another currency, Endo, along with in-game credits to essentially rank up the mod from level 1 to say, level 7.

The cost goes up exponentially, making it not that desirable to completely max out all your mods, not to mention, your weapon has a set capacity, so instead of just a few maxed out mods, it might theoretically be more optimal to have several medium-ranked mods synergizing together instead.  (We’ll leave these for the min-max strategists to calculate, but I like the complexity and potential for different builds, rather than the one true Max Everything Max All The Gearscore path of numerical simplicity.)

There’s lateral progression options in Warframe’s map levels as well.

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You start out on Earth, and from there, you can branch in multiple directions almost at once.

You -could- follow the given quest storyline and aim towards map nodes that complete it.

You could also, like me, decide that you want X item and then concoct your own strategy of shortest path to reach map nodes that would reward the necessary resources for the item.

Along the way, you’d be required to achieve various goals (some of which might be completing a story quest) in order to unlock the junctions that gate the planets you were trying to reach.

Warframe’s maps themselves are open to a small amount of lateral options, in that you could achieve objectives in a stealthy way, or charge in alarms blaring and guns blazing. You could clear methodically, working your way through killing everything and opening every container in sight, or speed rush through all the enemies and go straight for the objective and then make an equally hasty exit.

Granted, some strategies are more optimal for certain mission types. Setting off multiple alarms are not a good idea when trying to rescue a prisoner, for example, as you’d wind up with a time limit of slightly over a minute before the prisoner is killed by the wardens and the mission automatically fails.

I’d guess rushing is probably the favored multiplayer option (knowing how pickup groups generally are) but if you’re solo like me and trying to collect as many rare resources as possible to build a specific item, it may be worth your time to veer off objective and crack open all the resource containers you can.

Bottom line, Warframe lends itself to replay in quite a number of different ways.

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Maybe you need to rank up a bow, so you decide to kill everything with a bow; and if you want to rank up your throwing daggers/shuriken or a sword or giant hammer, that’s a whole different kind of killing method altogether. Maybe you want to fill out your codex, so instead of killing everything without looking, you might spend more stealthy time scanning all the things first.

It’s good that it’s so replay friendly, because that’s essentially Warframe’s entire game. Play and replay all the maps, progressing forward with whatever you’re set on progressing on.

When this gets unbearably repetitive, I guess, depends on the individual player’s tolerance.

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One thing Warframe has going for it is that it is also exceptionally good at parkour movement. ” ‘Freedom of movement’ is fun,” seems to be the refrain that ArenaNet is using when it comes to its Path of Fire mounts, and well, Digital Extreme’s Warframe already knows all about that.

You can sprint, and slide by crouching while sprinting. Double jumping? Yes, of course. Wall-running is apparently a thing, though I’ve not cared to figure it out yet. (It’s gone through a few changes over the years, apparently.)

You can create an insanely ground-chewing pace by first sprinting, then sliding, and then chaining that slide into a double jump leap that spins you into a mini missile torpedo-ing forward.

Bullet jumping is the new in-thing for Parkour 2.0 supposedly, and I use the heck out of it without knowing anything about its history or when it was introduced. It’s a glorious superjump which is triggered by crouching, then jumping. Gets you nearly anywhere, or would, if I were a bit better at it and aiming it properly.

What Warframe -isn’t- that great at, which did contribute to turning off 2015 me, is how its animations connect with the map and the enemies.

They don’t. Not quite. Just a hair shy, maybe. It gives a “floaty” feeling of combat.

The animations and the sounds effects are themselves great. They spin, they perform, they sort of connect, but not quite…

It’s that “not quite” that I couldn’t quite accept way back in 2015, after having been spoiled by GW2’s combat animations – where every attack has an animation, which connects with impact. Where your avatar’s feet position actually changes level if you’re standing on a fence or a little step.

In Warframe, you hit things with a big ol’ ninja sword, and they don’t reel away or react as an orc might in Shadow of Mordor. Instead a bunch of small numbers pop up, you hear a sword slashy sound and for a split second, it sort of feels like you’re scraping this sword against a bunch of static pillars with declining health bars before they take enough damage to fall down dead.

It’s not unforgivable. You can get used to it. 2017 me has stopped caring about it. The mobs perform their role as target dummies adequately enough. If you’re pincushioning them with multiple projectiles from a distance, you’re not going to see that much regardless.

But in case it feels a little odd, well, it’s not just you. Some weapons feel just a mite off.

Then again, some weapons are freakin’ spot on. My new favorite melee weapon (not that I’ve tried much beyond the basic Skana and a plasma sword) is the two-handed Fragor hammer.

Missing an impactful feeling? This thing has IMPACT as it slams down, destroying anything in its path with an area of attack that sends mobs flying. It attacks slower than I’d personally prefer, but y’know, it’s a gigantic two handed hammer, attacking slowly is both balance factor and a nod to verisimilitude. You can accept that. Especially for what you get in exchange.

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All in all, I am in a comfortable spot with Warframe. I greatly prefer games with lateral progression options over vertical progression ladders.

I ground for/earned my Rhino warframe the other day and love it a great deal – I love bulky, tanky characters.

I ground for/earned my first Archwing a day or two ago and was amused by (if a little disoriented by the controls) the Archwing missions – which involve arcade-like space dogfighting… with basically a giant humanoid robot mech wielding a big gun and an even huger sword.

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Freedom of movement galore… at least, right up to the point you slam into an asteroid or an enemy ship and learn why “ramming speed” in space is essentially a kamikaze attack.

I forsee things slowing down a little as I settle in to enjoy slowly playing my way through all the planets and quests with the warframe I wanted from the get go.

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Lots of planets to trundle through

Similar to GW2, Warframe’s the kind of game where there’s always going to be another stretch goal, if you let it run your life. So my tactic in response is to take it at my own pace and get there when I get there.

It’s not the bestest game out there by far. But it’s a “fun enough” game for me to consider spinning up for the night, getting a mission or three cranked through real quick, and then logging out again to devote more time to my primary game.

Given the many thousands of games I could be playing and how desperately each game is vying for our time and attention, Warframe being able to qualify for the position of a nightly secondary game isn’t too shabby an achievement at all.

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9 thoughts on “On Warframe

  1. Isey says:

    I figured out Mods early because on the post-mission screen every one that you found is listed there, and I moused over one and it explained what it did. That’s how I sorted that out.

    Hat tip to thank me later – in the Arsenal section, go to ‘Mode’ and choose Archwing – it levels up and has it’s own mod section as well, which is pretty hidden if you don’t click mode (there is a PVP mode there too…)

    My 4th Warframe will be ready when I get home tonight (Mag, another easy one to farm) so looking forward to it. And the game keeps on giving, I keep finding new mission types and as you get into new planets far more interesting mods start dropping so you can completely impact / change your playstyle. The range I have built in on my Volt abilities stuns pretty much everything in visible sight.

    The more I understand and the more I play is having the opposite effect than I expected – I half expected to get bored by now, but the more familiar it becomes with the added discoveries makes it VERY comfortable. Guns are all so different and behave differently that each is fun to figure out. I always have one of each kind (melee, secondary, primary) in leveling mode.

    I do disagree with you on the melee weapons a little bit – they actually have location based attacks (sneak up on someone for an instant kill – which is different depending on weapons) and if you slash their leg, the leg falls off. Slash their torso, they are cut in half (with bladed weapons, of course). It has far more impact and believability than any MMO that opts for “weapon goes right through enemy and they fall over and die in the exact same way every time, no matter how they die. In WF, you can freeze a guy and then shatter them. Set them on fire and cut them in half (and the pieces of their body stay on fire, dismembered, on the ground). There is a lot of nuance to it. BUT, it does happen so fast at first I didn’t even notice.

    I am with you. I solo most of it so I can collect everything and explore the maps. I do group for boss and relic farming. I bounce back and forth between “I wish this game held my hand a bit more” and “Nice to have a game treat me like an intelligent adult for a change”. Mostly the former though, especially the story. Which gets more interesting as you go but also gets more confusing as they introduce more varied personalities that are parts of groups I don’t even understand why they exist.

    • Jeromai says:

      Now I’ve got to go slicing and dicing at various body part locations to check that out. 😉 The consequences of the attack animation are fine, though.

      What I’m kind of referring to is the split second where the sword makes contact with the enemy mob, it just sort of stands there as the sword scrapes down with this nails on chalkboard noise. If you do enough damage to take it down in one hit or two, you’d barely notice it because it’ll seque right into the death animation – where I guess it splits into two or does other cool stuff.

      With a weaker sword that takes 3-6 hits to get anywhere, one notices the lack of reaction a bit more. But then, I am a bit spoiled, I’m benchmarking them against the likes of GW2 and Shadow of Mordor type games – one sword hit and the mobs flinch in some way (almost imperceptibly, but it’s there.)

      Good tip on the Archwing mode, the UI for Warframe is totally non-obvious to non-regular players.

  2. Isey says:

    OH – get an Amazone Prime trial account, link it to Twitch, link Twitch to Warframe, and you get a Frost Prime frame, Scindo Prime (giant axe with the oompf you like like the hammer) and Soma prime (huge clip fast firing autorifle). The Primes have double the mod capacities of the base frames and you can really jack up the power. You can cancel the account immediately after you redeem. It’s worth it.

    • Jeromai says:

      Yep, got it.

      In my part of the world, I had to do a Prime Video subscription, which thankfully they offered a free 7 days before charging my card. I’d been intending to try a month, but the selection is still woefully pathetic compared to local Netflix (which in turn is woefully pathetic compared to US Netflix.)

      The Prime stuff in Warframe feels a mite P2W, to be honest. Still, it doesn’t stop me from using the heck out of Soma Prime, the huge clip is super enjoyable.

      • Isey says:

        I thought the same, but really, I have already farmed the necessary components to pretty much prime ANY frame. (Its one Orokin Reactor, which doubles the mod capacity, and two Forma, which gives you two additional polarity slots). The Prime version will still have more base armor / shields (+25, +50, etc.) but that is minor when you are sitting at 1000 shields and 1000 armor with mods.

        The Orokin Catalyst (I have one of those too!) also doubles the mod capacity of a weapon, and you can forma mod slots there as well. So there is a path to make your favourite warframes and weapons “OP” too..

        I’m still sitting on all of mine because I don’t have clear favourites of anything, yet.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    That modding system sounds like the same one almost every Eastern F2P uses. Is it different somehow? If not I’m surprised it could have confused you – I’d have thought you’d have run into it countless times before.

    Other than that, Warframe, exactly like Destiny, looks absolutely hideous in every screenshot I have ever seen. Nothing ever seems to have any physical context – it’s all just there, like the illustrations in a shopping catalogue. You do at least have one screenshot that shows an actual environment, which is one more than I’ve seen anywhere else, but it still looks incredibly vague and undetailed. If there’s now an “open world”, what does it look like?

    • Jeromai says:

      The concept of modding is not hard to grasp, in and of itself. It’s how Warframe layers -everything- on top of each other, in a big pile of jargon, that obscures individual concepts.

      Most of the physical context happens in enclosed spaceship environments, as Warframe is primarily a shooter game set in space.

      What got me checking it out in 2017 is their newly launched attempt at an open world map (probably taking on Destiny somewhat) Plains of Eidolon. That’s the ‘actual environment’ you see in the one screenshot.

      It’s a little hard to comment about right now, given that the context is essentially something like a newbie to GW2 trying to opine about the Heart of Thorns expansion. I can walk in and take a look around, but quite a number of things might understandably kill me. I apparently need an Archwing to get around with any speed, and I just built my first noob one last night – which I presume is similar to just getting a glider with zero masteries. The plains are full of sidegrade activities/minigames with separate currencies to earn, which keep a veteran player busy, but a newbie has better things to be doing (aka playing through the core game to get more up to speed.)

      I personally think it looks quite promising. It felt quite open, compared to the many enclosed space environs. Apparently, it had some usability/playability issues when trying to crank through missions in a group (have to keep running back and forth to restart the instance or something?) but it seems to me like the kind of stuff that would be iterated on and improved for future updates/maps.

      It’s there regardless, I’ll get to it when I get to it.

    • Isey says:

      It’s card/drop based, and you can increase the value / benefits of the cards by spending two in game found consumables. I don’t play many eastern F2P so it wasn’t familiar to me.

      I think the pictures of the environments are minimized because your avatar takes up half the screen. There are a lot of outdoor environments, but also a lot in spaceships and space stations which are much more enclosed. I’ll try to remember to take some more vista like shots when I get back in game.

  4. […] the past. I’ve also been craving shooter experiences, and enjoy the RPG mechanics tacked on. Jeromai has also fully endorsed Warframe in a recent post, and it just seemed like it was time for me to dive back […]

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