We go hands on with the latest Warframe to be given the Prime treatment, the tornado and whirlwind powered Zephyr.
Zephyr Prime is the latest Prime warframe to be released and as with most Prime variants boasts enhanced stats; higher armor, a larger energy pool and (slightly) faster sprint speed. Plus, some additional mod polarities. The Prime release follows a recent rework of Zephyr's abilities which saw Tail Wind become more awkward to control and Airburst added. Turbulence gained a longer casting animation, and Tornado was improved for better damage and less enemy-to-ceiling pasting.
Zephyr's strengths are mobility (if you can master Tail Wind) and crowd-control with knockdowns from Airburst, incapacitation from Tornado.
When you look at her capabilities individually, some flaws become apparent. Zephyr's speed isn't as great as Volt's Speed buff or Nova's Wormhole. Her airborne mobility is significantly inferior to Titania's Razorwing. Her CC abilities don't stand out amongst the crowd of Warframes with equal or superior crowd controlling capabilities. The invulnerability to projectiles from Turbulence pales in comparison to Rhino's complete damage and CC mitigation with Iron Skin.
So, why bother with Zephyr I hear you asking? Well, when you combine those abilities into one lithe, fun little frame, that speed and (limited) invulnerability with decent crowd control starts to look pretty damn good. And she can become a real damage beast with Funnel Clouds (no this isn't some crazy new vape technology). Mastering her first ability can result in some interesting airborne tactics, and with the right mods Zephyr can really boost across the Plains. A great addition to your Warframe stable.
Zephyr Prime Ability Breakdown
From the ground, charge and release to launch Zephyr into an airborne hover. From the air, tap to dash forward, or aim down to dive bomb enemies below.
In theory this could make for a super fast aerial frame to rival Titania's Razorwing for airborne mobility and battle. In practice however this is not the case. The hover function offers no ability to move once airborne, and as it requires a good three seconds to charge before getting yourself wedged in the ceiling, it's more likely to get you killed.
Mid-air it really is just a dash forwards, and the clunky recovery animation after a collision feels like you're flailing about uselessly in your Archwing. This ability does however excel outdoors. The Dive Bomb is underwhelming. In order to get decent damage you really need to Tail Wind to gain maximum hover height (for the height-damage multiplier), then look directly down to activate Dive Bomb. Faster to simply shoot the enemies really.
Ability Mods - Target Fixation Didn't bother with this. Mainly because the mod increases Tail Wind's damage for every enemy hit while airborne, but due to the low initial damage of the ability it just isn't worth it, especially at higher levels.
Generate a burst massively dense air that explodes on contact and sends enemies flying. Launch Airbursts into Tornadoes to make them grow.
Not so great for damage, but awesome for getting up-close melee enemies out of your face. As a crowd-control ability it's fairly cheap, provides hard knockdowns, and has some innate punchthrough (can hit multiple enemies in a row and behind walls). I didn't find the secondary use for growing Tornadoes to be particularly helpful.
Creates a wind shield around Zephyr, redirecting all incoming projectiles.
This is an incredible skill that renders Zephyr virtually invincible (to projectiles anyway). After a casting animation you're surrounded with the energy field that allows you to give exactly zero f’s about enemies with guns. Just beware AoE and melee enemies, especially Infested. Duration mods are your friend here, because you do not want to be recasting this in combat.
Ability Mods - Jet Stream This provides for a speed boost (always handy) for you and your allies. The downside is that the range for the buff is limited. Jet Stream also gives your (and your allies) projectile weapons a speed buff, but outside of shotguns and bows this doesn't offer much utility.
Create deadly tornadoes that seek out and engulf enemies. Tornadoes deal the elemental damage type they absorb the most. Shoot enemies engulfed in Tornadoes to do additional damage.
Zephyr's "ultimate" ability offers great crowd-control by immobilising any enemies the tornadoes come in contact with. Think of it as Hydroid's Tentacle Swarm but the tentacles free roam all over the map. The erratic movement of the individual tornadoes makes headshots on captured enemies arduous, and you're much better off with a shotgun if you're going to use this ability regularly. This can also make Tornado annoying for your teammates, particularly on Defense missions where the aim is to kill enemies quickly. Ironically it's especially useful on Defense missions for clearing the objective when it's being swarmed by enemies.
Due to the great CC it's not a damage ability per se, but thanks to the latest rework, any damage fired into the tornadoes is transmitted to all enemies trapped within. Combined with the inherent rapid status procs, tornadoes will quickly strip armor or apply gas or viral damage to multiple enemies.
Ability Mods - Funnel Clouds - This mod is a game-changer. While removing the CC ability from Tornado it turns your ultimate into a great damage dealer. Because Tornado transmits damage to all enemies trapped within, more tornadoes = more damage. Because the enemies aren't being ragdolled by tornadoes anymore, the game counts enemies within a five meter radius of each funnel as being affected, allowing for a large number of tornadoes (up to 12) to land on groups of enemies, thus multiplying the damage of your AoE weapons (looking at your Arca Plasmor) to all enemies exponentially.