Co-written by Kosta Andreadis and Adrian Haas
Here’s the thing, Warframe has been around for quite some time. The first Closed Beta took place in 2012 and the first free-to-play version launched alongside the PlayStation 4 in late 2013. At the time a lot of interest surrounded the game due to the fact that it was free-to-play on a home console. Plus, the fact that it was a co-operative sci-fi themed shooter didn’t hurt. With loot. Lots of loot. But this early version was a little rough around the edges, garnering average to above-average review scores.
Cue montage music and smash cut to 2018, where there have been several key updates made to Warframe. Improved combat, balance updates, new story content, more mission types, better crafting, and a large open-world style location to explore called the Plains of Eidolon. Since launch the audience has also grown, with it now comfortably sitting in the ‘most-played games’ category across PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. For a fast-paced shooter with action-RPG meets MMO mechanics like levelling, crafting, modifying items, and spending hours to get a piece of shiny loot, sometimes it takes time to get it right.
And in the process become essential. If you haven’t checked out Warframe yet, or played it years ago then forgot about it, there’s no time like the present. It’s the most rewarding loot-based sci-fi shooter available. Sorry, Guardians.
Here are Tenno* reasons you should be playing Warframe.
*- Tenno, are a race of ancient warriors and who you are in Warframe. The bad guys are the Grineer, Corpus, and Infested. Also, Tenno is a play on the number 10. Which is one less than 11. Reasons to play Warframe that is.
1. War. War Never Changes. But Your Warframe Will
As a Tenno you pilot a Warframe, which at a quick glance is a biomechanical space ninja robot thing with cool abilities. In Warframe there are no less than 34, err, Warframes to collect/choose from. Some of which come in super-rare Prime variants that only the most dedicated players will ever get to pilot. Each frame not only looks different, whilst also having badass names like Valkyr, Chroma, Rhino, Octavia, and Inaros, but their abilities vary wildly too. As do their base stats like speed, armour, health, and shields.
From the healing powers of Trinity to the seemingly invincible coat of armour that Rhino can trigger, and the AoE disco-ball-of-death that Octavia can throw out, there’s no shortage of variety. And fun. Right from the get-go Warframe understands the basic promise of a class-based action-RPG. Look different, feel different. And give players that want to cast powerful attacks whilst being a glass cannon a place to shatter into Tenno thousand pieces.
Frames are also versatile. They can be equipped with different modification loadouts to suit certain types of missions. Or locations. Levelling them up also opens the door to becoming more and more powerful, with a system that ensures that there’s always room for improvement. More on customisation a bit later on.
2. More Weapons Than a Well-Stocked Cult Compound in Texas
We don't think we've played a single game with more weapons than Warframe's arsenal. The plethora of primary weapons alone makes Ammu-Nation look like a kid's toy box. There's enough variety here to suit any playstyle or predilection; bows and sniper rifles for remote kills, shotguns for the up close and personal touch, and even long-barrelled rifles that shoot spikes that can impale enemies. But, when you absolutely positively have to kill every mother-Corpus in the room there are the usual suspects - assault rifles, flamethrowers, and grenade launchers.
And in case you'd forgotten you're a space ninja, there are Nikanas (fancy swords), Nunchakus (what everyone’s favourite Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, used), and Hikou (throwing stars). Perhaps you're in the market for something a little more exotic or unique? How about a rifle that fires an enormous plasma lance. Or, a bow that shoots a freeze arrow that detonates in a huge AoE explosion. Let’s say you want to coat your enemies in a toxic goop that solidifies and explodes. Warframe has got you covered. In addition to said enemies covered in toxic goop.
For any given mision your weapon loadout includes a primary, secondary, and melee weapon. How you choose to fill those slots is entirely up to you. Sure you can just bring your knife to the ensuing gunfight, but understanding the type of mission, and a little common sense, will help determine how you go about choosing your loadout. A Survival or Exterminate mission will require something that can clean house quickly and efficiently. Stealth-based Spy or Rescue missions will mean a silenced weapon, or an emphasis on melee damage only. Choosing the right weapons is by no means essential, and most all missions can be completed with pretty much any weapon that’s your personal fave. Mmm, sweet Tigris. Ahem.
But, marrying the best weapon and frame for the job will almost always result in a decisive victory.
3. The Fast, Fluid, Space Ninja Movement
Logically speaking, perhaps this should have been number two on this list. But hey, when you’ve got as many cool weapons to check out as Warframe has - who could blame us for taking a detour into plasma rifle land? Right, you did. Anyway, so you know those references to a Warframe being a space ninja robot thing that we keep making over and over? Well, it’s true. Movement is all about momentum, speed, and finesse. Double jumps whilst curled into a ball, ninja style. Sliding several meters down a hallway only to bust out a sword and slice an enemy whilst holding a kill pose for a split second. Ninja style. There’s a real martial artistry to the way each and every frame moves. Which translates to the controls too, and the way you get to carefully and skillfully maneuver them through a Grineer compound.
One move in particular that you’ll master early on is the slide, jump, corkscrew-dive, sprint, slide, rinse and repeat. It’s a very cool way to traverse any location, and in motion it’s almost hypnotic in its awesomeness. Movement alone gives Warframe a different feel to just about any third-person shooter ever released, let alone a loot-heavy action-RPG hybrid. And when you couple the movement with all the different weapons at your disposal you can even turn a gunfight between on the surface of Mars into a John Woo-style ballet of bullets and diving in and out of cover. Sans doves.
4. More Content than Your Favourite Bro-Tastic YouTube Vlog
Of late, any game that aims to offer MMO-like progression and co-op and levelling or what have you, the conversation always seems to steer towards the end-game. As in what’s there to do once you finish the main game, level up your character, and save the galaxy? Well, how this is handled in Warframe is quite ingenious - in that the entire experience is basically end-game. Sure there are endgame things to do like raid, complete daily/hourly tasks and difficult multi-stage missions called Sorties. Plus, story quests that unlock the further into the solar system you explore. Really though, it’s the act of growing your character and developing and honing the abilities and capabilities of new frames and weapons that make up the bulk of the experience.
If that sounds lacking fret not, because there are dozens of different types of missions to check out, with hundreds of variations spread across each planet and celestial body you visit. From stealth-based data hacking to horde modes and even assassinations in the form of boss-fights. At first, like with most of Warframe, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Thankfully early content is kept relatively easy, making learning the ropes more enjoyable and repetition free than most, if not all, free-to-play titles.
But then again, if farming for crafting materials, credits, relics, affinity (Warframe’s name for XP) is your thing, then Warframe caters for the grind too. And then some. Take credits for example, the space bucks used to buy blueprints for new weapons, frames, and other goodies. There are countless ways to earn more, from completing time-based events through to specific types of missions. There’s even a late-game area called the Index which lets you wager a hefty sum for a capture the flag style co-op cash-grab arena battle that’s seemingly broadcast throughout the solar system.
What’s particularly impressive is that you could quite easily max several frames, weapons, and mod cards before getting anywhere near the final planet. Or even fully exploring the new open-area Plains of Eidolon. Some of the most engaging and rewarding story content is saved for those that have put in the time, meaning that you could play it for a hundred hours, without spending a cent, and never once asking that age-old question - what’s there to do now?
5. Cha-Ching! Aka Microtransactions Done Right
As a free-to-play title, naturally there’s a pathway to speeding things up in Warframe. From instantly unlocking new frames without putting in the hard work, to buying shiny new helmets and decorative accents in the form of butterfly wings. Platinum is the name of the in-game currency and buying a stack of it will cost you more than a few real-world sheckles. With the cost of buying absolutely everything with real-world money being ridiculously high.
But, in Warframe the microtransactions and in-game store never feel essential. In fact at no point during the first twenty, thirty, or fifty hours of playing Warframe did we feel the need to spend any money to progress. Sure, it might be nice to have a double XP boost, but you can get one of those as part of the daily login prize. Even crafting a new weapon, which can take roughly 12 hours to complete is often a case of something you begin, and then come back to the next day. There’s an element of instant gratification to some of the microtransactions sure, but for the majority of the time you’ll spend with Warframe - the grind won’t really feel like one.
Of course, it isn’t all candies and roses. Some of the rare materials required to craft certain weapons and frames are hard to come by. As is the stuff, called Endo, required to upgrade mods. And it’s this rare stuff that usually costs the most Platinum, which is a shame. But again, no matter your crafting goals, every session feels productive - and truth be told one of the greatest feelings comes from cooking up various weapons and different frames all at the same time and then coming back the next day to check out the results or check in on the progress.
6. Let's Make a Shiny New Shotgun and Other Crafting Tales
Every item in the game from Warframes to weapons can be purchased with Platinum or crafted in the Foundry. Crafting an item will require its blueprint as well as the necessary resources. The majority of blueprints can be purchased for credits from the Market. Others will need to be researched in the Clan Dojo. Some will drop as in game rewards or from Relics. Crafting resources are obtained from mission rewards, planetary loot, enemy/boss drops, and items that themselves need crafting.
It’s quite an involved process, intricate and well designed too. But one that isn’t explained all that well in-game.
One thing you’ll quickly learn is that there's one resource in particular that every craft requires that you won't be able to loot or harvest in game. Time. Simple items like keys and ciphers will take a single minute. Warframe components and most secondary weapons will take 12 hours. Primary weapons 24 hours. A complete frame will take a whopping 72 hours to build. That's three days. In real time. As mentioned earlier, you can of course spend Platinum to speed up your builds, but there's a real sense of accomplishment to be had when you pull your latest fully cooked frame from the Foundry and get to start modding it out.
Mods are the core items that can make or break a Warframe or weapon. They can be equipped on every frame, weapon, and companion (and their weapon) and have (mostly) positive effects such as increasing damage or boosting shields. There is of course a balancing act here, as each mod will drain the capacity of the gear it's inserted in - more so once you start ranking up the mod itself. There's a way to increase this capacity, and of making even fully ranked mods 'cost' less, but the general rule for a low rank frame is to build for survivability first. As the frame levels up its base stats will improve. Thus allowing you to shift the focus onto mods that serve to enhance the duration, range, and strength of the frame's abilities.
Weapons are generally much simpler - damage damage, and more damage. But only one or two mods will increase the raw damage of a weapon, so how to fill the other six slots? The options are plentiful. Improving the fire rate, reload speed and critical chance will certainly improve DPS, as will slapping on a multishot mod. Or you might choose to introduce a little Cold or Heat damage into your build. Speed and reach are always solid choices for a melee weapon, but you might find that coating your dagger in Toxin damage and increasing critical damage is sufficient for those delicious stealth kills.
And we haven’t gotten to weapon-specific mods, auras, stances, and rare Riven mods. Truth be told the crafting and item modification system is one of the most in-depth we’ve ever seen. And a lot of fun to learn and play around with. Especially when obtaining new mods happens just about with every mission you undertake.
7. Strike a Pose, Because it’s Fashion Week
For many players, this is the true endgame. All frames have various skins, helmets, and numerous armour accessories. Combined with multiple colour palettes the possibilities for unique, freaky, and garishly rendered Warframes are endless. Which is why the cosmetic customisation portion of the Warframe experience has been lovingly dubbed by the community - Fashion Frame. Naturally, this means that a sizable chunk of worthwhile purchasable goodies like new colours and new helmets that look, well, awesome are mostly behind a paywall. But not all though, as blueprints and crafting recipes can also be obtained for new fashionable items with even them being offered as rewards for completing certain daily missions.
Now, cosmetic upgrades and new skins aren’t exactly a new thing in the realm of the free-to-play game. Or the MMO. But their execution in Warframe is peerless in the sheer volume of choice. Case in point, the ship thing that each Tenno (i.e. player) owns and uses as a jumping off point for starting new missions or visiting town/hub centres. Not only can you now decorate an entire room with a giant fish-tank and various paintings, but you can also customise the colour scheme of the walls, lights, and flooring via a seemingly endless choice of RGB colours. A pink ship to match the gloriously pink Octavia? Yes please. And while we’re at it let's go ahead and change the colour scheme of every weapon to suit the new look.
Cosmetic changes, being separate to traditional progression in the form of, you know, getting all-powerful, isn’t for everyone. But Warframe is the type of game that fosters and nurtures the creative side of its community, with even seasonal community created TennoGen skins getting released every few months or so.
8. Solar System Stories by the Campfire
In Warframe you take on the role of a Tenno, a member of an ancient race of warriors, waking up after a long slumber. Where the solar system you once knew (and then forgot about thanks to a nasty case of space amnesia) is now in a state of turmoil. With the Tenno at war with the Grineer, your everyday military types that have an obsession with futuristic weaponry and bulky tech-armour. The Corpus, technocrats with a fetish for robots. Unfriendly, war-like AI that love lasers and hate all things fleshy and Warframe-y. And finally the Infested, mindless disfigured victims of a space viral outbreak.
Like with other aspects of the deep and complex Warframe, how it handles the actual story part of the experience is mostly vague at first. With the first few hours being a somewhat overload of strange names for races, things, materials, and most of the usual sci-fi stuff we’ve all come to recognise. Take your trusty AI computer for example. His name is Ordis, and the AI race of intelligent computer bits and bytes he belongs to are called the Cephalon. This strangeness no doubt adds to the overall charm of Warframe. And over time, as story missions unlock in an RPG quest-like fashion, the backgrounds and histories of the characters and the overall Warframe-verse begin to become apparent.
There are even some rather lengthy late-game quests that add new dimensions to the experience. Opening the door to the history of the Tenno, and in the process providing new mechanics to match the knowledge gained. Also, as Warframe has been around for a few years now, you even get some fun detailed story missions to complete alongside unlocking the blueprints to some of the more interesting frames. Like the musical Octavia, which includes a clever (if somewhat frustrating) quest full of action tied specifically to creating melodies in large open areas.
9. Six Seasons and a Movie
Community. Like with any online shooty thing Warframe can of course be played with others. There’s also a PvP mode in here somewhere, but that can be avoided entirely. Playing with others is where Warframe shines, via matchmaking or simply grouping up with friends. Being able to tackle just about any mission, mode, or bit of story content (outside of a handful of the bigger main quests) - is, well, awesome.
Warframe works exceptionally well when played alone, but adding others into the mix like with any action-RPG or class-based MMO opens the door to build variety, co-operation, and synergy. Getting a ragtag group of frames together, all with different abilities ranging from healing to tanking and straight-up damage opens the door to tougher missions and even greater rewards. And for the most part you won’t be skill-locked, with most content suited to almost anyone after a certain point.
Of course there’s no substitute for a fully levelled and modded Warframe with elite weapons to dominate the post-mission stat screen.
As we've stated (many times now) Warframe is a game of great complexity and depth. Because the game simply refuses to supply the player with walls of text or over-long boring explanatory tutorials, it quickly becomes downright impossible to wrap your head around the different mechanisms and intricacies involved in almost every aspect of the game. Thank the Lotus for the unremitting support and devotion of the community. Without this love the amazingly comprehensive Wiki would never exist. Rendering the game virtually impossible to understand at any depth beyond the surface of shoot-things-to-earn-loot. Fan-made sites have been created solely to facilitate player trading, grouping up, fan fiction sharing and so on. And the community love doesn't stop there. Just spending a few minutes perusing the in-game chat screens will see new player's requests for information, clan recruitment, or assistance readily answered by veterans willing to help out where they can.
10. You're a SPACE NINJA!
Enough said really, but in the end Warframe wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular without its core movement and shooting mechanics. The fluid momentum and ballet-like grace to the combat and traversal gives the entire game a feel unto its own, that when coupled with the strange lore, naming conventions, and everything else for that matter, make it one of the most robust and in-depth action games currently available. Regardless of its free-to-play status.
And in the end, it’s hard to look past an experience that every bit lives up to the notion of letting you become your very own space ninja.
Warframe is currently free-to-play on PC, PS4, and Xbox One