Warframe is a free-to-play cooperative third-person shooter developed and published by Digital Extremes. Originally released for Microsoft Windows in March 2013, it was later ported to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and will be available for Nintendo Switch this November. My son and some of his friends from school got into this title fairly recently. I had heard of Warframe shortly after it was released on PC as it was one of the games offering free items for crafting badges during the Steam summer sale of 2014. Durga wrote a review of the game for this very site earlier in the year, though at the time it was still an unknown to me.
Fast forward to September this year. My son started playing it with his friends and I got a chance to see the game in action. The combat is a mix of shooting at range and quick melee strikes up close. What caught my attention was after he cleared the mission he earnt XP on his gear and started ranking it up. This appealed to my interest in roleplaying games and led me to believe that it had some RPG mechanics working in it. Well, it both did and did not.
Gear does have stats on them, but they never get any more powerful than when they start out. The experience gained on a weapon ranks it up, which in turn award mastery experience to the player. Mastery could be considered the players account level, as most activities and gear are locked until the player achieves the required mastery. This means players cannot stick to a favourite weapon or frame and must switch often to ensure they keep earning ranks on new pieces of equipment, or else they find themselves doing missions and earning squat from them. The game did not really do a good job of explaining this to me, as I had to go into their help screens to have it explain just what was going on.
To confuse matters further, enemies have levels so that they can vary the difficulty of missions. Now, imagine my dismay when I progressed through the missions in my newbie gear only to start hitting a wall when the same enemies I had fought an hour earlier were now crushing me. Part of this was also because I went in guns blazing and setting off alarms left, right and center. Alarms? Yep. I did not know at the time, but I could turn the alarms off to stop reinforcements from arriving. I died, but thankfully the game allows a limited number of revives per mission at the cost of some XP earnt.
The way to actually increase a players power is all but simple. Some enemies drop mods that can be inserted into gear to customise them to the players preferred style. These also increase the damage inflicted by the weapon, but gear has a limited number of slots, and each mod has a drain value. Ranking up gear increases its drain capacity to allow a greater number, or a greater power of mods to be installed. OF course, these drop are not totally random, and specific enemies need to be targeted to get the correct mods to drop. Even then they come in different rarities. Think like World of Warcraft and you would not be far wrong.
I think part of the reason I did not enjoy the game was also down to the setting. It takes place in the Sol system, in fact the first missions are played out on Earth, but the first hours did not seem to feature any humans at all. The antagonist for the first mission arc seems to be part alien humanoid, part machine. Enemies are similar or fully armoured. The player controls a cyber ninja that everyone calls “Tenno” (apparently they are a race themselves) and the game is played at a quite fast pace. Some humans feature in a hub area, but they seem rather primitive compared to the technological state of the system.
One saving grace for the game is that very few of the items needed to be purchased to real currency. Blueprints can be purchased or acquired and new gear can be crafted with drops in the game. Like end game Diablo, Warframe seems to be largely about running missions for endless loot drops. How much of a grind this is I cannot say, as I gave up on the game long before I would need to have tried. As a freemium title Warframe does not seem to demand money at every turn, but should anyone want to dedicate time in it, then guides and many hours of investment will be required.