Warframe: Ninjas Play Free

I’ve put God (and Gabe Newell) knows how many hours into this game. Even though I haven’t gone with a full collection spirit, I’ve played through large chunks of what this game has to offer. From this point of view, I’d like to write a detailed review. If you want a quick sense of what I feel about Warframe, just go to the very end. One thing to note is that this review is specifically for the PC version. While the large details are about the same for the console versions, I can’t speak to the console version’s graphics or performance.

Premise: You are a Tenno (read Space Ninja) that became awake long after the fall of a great empire that the Tenno were tasked with protecting. You wake up to a solar system at war for complete domination, and a person who calls herself the Lotus seeks to protect you, and in return, you are to help her and the other Tenno maintain stability in the solar system.

Shooting in style

Mechanically, Warframe is a Third-person shooter cooperative RPG that has strong gear-based progression (instead of character-based progression). In a nutshell, this means making a new character is a matter of buying different gear, not starting over from the beginning. Also, while cover based shooter gameplay can last for a while, the intended style is a horde vs the Tenno, making it much closer to Dynasty Warriors than Call of Duty.

Each Warframe, aka class, has a small set of powers that manage to make these frames feel pretty unique, even for the same role. Compare Oberon, a supportish Paladin style that can do a lot of healing, as well as having abilities that lock down areas, to Trinity, your classic white mage that has very little lockdown capability, but having immense survivability through her powers.

Finally, the game itself is structured where the most direct approach is not always necessary. Tenno can wall-run and otherwise maneuver to quickly get to new places on the map, whether it’s finding rare items, getting a good sniping spot, or bypassing a room entirely.

Gear Variety: With Gear-based progression, it’s extremely important that many styles of gear can see use, and in my opinion, Warframe is pretty successful with this, even if there is a set of top-tier gear. While it would be easy to contend that these high-tier gear items are all of what matter, you can progress most of the mid-tier gear to a point where it’s going to be successful enough in everything but the toughest content, where many people would contend that the game is broken anyways.

The weapons themselves range from the mundane AK-47, to some of the same weapons the enemies use, to bow and arrow, flamethrowers, gas cloud launchers, gatling shotguns, gunblades, and even throwing stars. For most weapons, you can at least find a version of it that will be able to keep up.

Gameplay: For a lot of the game, the game encourages moving fast and thinking fast, whether it’s dangerous enemies that reshape the battlefield, moving targets being much harder for the AI to track, enemies you need to take down before they put the whole map on alert, or even balancing progressing an objective and protecting that objective, the Tenno are fast, the powers are big, and every move counts…for most of the game.

Varied game modes mix it up, and even though most of the maps are procedurally generated, there’s enough tiles on each set to make each place you explore in feel different, even after way too much playing it.

Difficulty Curve: This is my biggest criticism of Warframe. Not only does this game have an unforgiving beginning, once you hit a certain point of power, it’s legitimately hard to find something difficult enough for that power without being cheap.

At the very beginning, you’re given your choice of weapons, most of them being pretty bad, given a tutorial that feels both too short and too long, and told good luck. At the same time, the mod system (how you truly progress warframes and weapons) is all about multipliers, not additive bonuses. So, while you struggle through the game, you also don’t have the mods you need to get your damage high enough to keep up with the enemies. There’s also so much about the game that you need to ask others about to make sense, and there are high ranked players that are missing some of the key mechanics because they don’t dive into the Wiki.

This all flips on it’s head as you reach the middle to end game. As I noted before, the mod system lives on multipliers. So, when you start getting all of the multipliers, things start dying at an alarming rate, and to keep up with this, eventually enemies scale to the point where there is no such thing as enough damage. So, you hit a point where there’s very little that can challenge you, and the things that can, can instead wipe the floor with you. If you don’t cross that threshold, the game is extremely fun.

Graphics/Performance: The 3 in-game screenshots you have seen so far is the game at minimum quality. To me, it is still a nice looking game, even without most of the bells and whistles. On the other hand, this game uses RAM like none other. It has gotten better, but there still seems to be a tendency to take up all of the RAM the game can get it’s hands on, especially on weaker systems. If you wouldn’t call your laptop a gaming laptop, this could end poorly, and so can low end desktops.

Monetization: For every F2P game, it still has to have some way of making money to keep going and updating. In some cases, the monetization really gets in the way of having fun. In a case like Warframe, not so much. Everything other than cosmetics and inventory slots that you can buy from the market you can get in game without spending a cent or interacting with other players. In fact, unlike a lot of F2P games, you CANNOT get some of the best equipment from the in-game market. You have to either trade with other players, letting them give up parts for the best equipment for either other parts or Platinum (the paid currency), or you have to get it the hard way. While I have spent money, I never felt pressured to spend money, and given that I have played this game a lot longer than a lot of AAA games that I have enjoyed, it was worth it.

Overall: 9/10 This game deserves it’s spot as one of Steam’s top F2P games. While there are host stability issues at times, it’s something a lot of top games have had to suffer at one point or another. The learning curve does leave with some rough parts, but get some good people who’ll play with you, and even those won’t get in your way as you wallrun deep into enemy territory, looking for the best vantage to take out your enemies.