Warframe is a Free-to-Play third person shooter from Digital Extremes. You play as a Tenno who operates the eponomous Warframes on a wide variety of mission types typically in co-op squads of up to four other players. It was released as an open beta on the PC in March of 2013 with the PS4 version arriving in November of that year. In September 2014 the beta was extended to the XB1.
Digital Extremes was best known for their collaboration with Epic Megagames working on the Unreal franchise. In 2008 they released their own original IP and game engine in the game Dark Sector on PC and the current consoles of the time. Many of the elements in Dark Sector appear in Warframe, but it is not clear if the game should be considered the prequel or merely a spiritual successor.
Warframe stands out from other games in a variety of ways, mostly because of the enormous number of choices available. There are over a dozen different mission types including killing all the enemies or bosses in a level, defending positions and a horde-mode style survival mode. Each Warframe (currently over two dozen types) has four distinct abilities. Warframes can equip a primary weapon, a secondary weapon and a melee weapon with over 200 different weapons to choose from. There are companions you can take on missions, including the dog-like Kubrow and the floating drone Sentinel. In addition, all of these are upgraded with Mods – reusable “cards” that improve the various statistics of the item. The game is constantly evolving as a beta with new Warframes, weapons, missions and other items being released on a regular schedule.
Free to Play model
First, I wanted to address the Free-to-Play (F2P) model that Warframe uses. F2P has become a very popular revenue model for games, especially for casual games but more and more titles in other genres are using it. In some games after some period of time, spending real money on the game becomes required to advance. In other games, players are penalized with long wait times unless money is spent. Another common tactic is to lock better items behind pay-walls, requiring real money to get these (sometimes required) elements.
Platinum is the in-game currency and other than the amount you start with, is only available by purchase in the marketplace or by trading with other players. However, unlike many F2P games most items can be acquired through play except for certain cosmetic items and inventory slots for Warframes and weapons. Platinum can also be used to speed up the acquisition of items by purchasing the materials required, speeding up the build time or buying the item outright.
You play as a Tenno who operates various Warframes to complete missions. Each Warframe has different stats and distinct abilities that improve as you level up by gaining Afinity and Ranks. One of the three Warframes you can choose to begin the game with is Volt, an electrical themed Warframe. His abilities include Shock which throws an arc of electricity, the ability to create a shield and the Overload ability that damages all the enemies around him as well as causing electrical devices in range to explode. Different Warframes have different specialties, such as Frost being very good at defensive missions and Loki being very good at stealth.
Your mission loadout consists of a primary weapon, secondary weapon and a melee weapon. You can optionally equip one of the companions, which can bring additional abilities to the field. The primary weapons generally fall into the category of rifle, bow or launcher and tend to be your major source of damage besides your abilities. Normally, your secondary weapon is exactly that – a back-up. Generally these are pistols or thrown weapons like knives or shuriken. If you are out of ammo for your primary weapon, carrying an object requiring one of your hands, or near death and bleeding out, you will use your secondary weapon. Lastly, you can equip a melee weapon such as a sword, hammer, staff, etc. The melee weapon does not require ammo and can be used either as a quick attack or properly equipped with its own style of attack.
Warframes and weapons, as well as companions, have Mod slots. Mods are dropped by enemies or awarded in specific events and improve some aspect of the item it is installed on. Mods are reusable, so you don’t have to worry that your choice to use a Mod is permanent and you keep them if you decide to sell the weapon or Warframe they were installed on. Warframe specific Mods improve stats or grant special abilities, while weapons mods increase damage, add damage types, improve fire rate, reduce reload time and many other effects.
Warframe is available from the official site, Steam and the XB1/PS4 game stores. Once installed you will begin the first tutorial mission, starting with the selection of your first Warframe. Choose the one that most interests you or fits your play style as the others are available for you to build later in the game. Don’t worry about screwing up the first battle – you cannot die – so take the opportunity to get used to the controls and use your powers. Once done you will pick a starting primary, secondary and melee weapons. I recommend taking your time at each station and trying all of the weapons provided to find one you like the most. Lastly, the ship you have to defend at the end of the mission cannot actually be destroyed, so focus on killing the enemies and keeping yourself alive.
Once that mission is done, you will be playing the introductory quest Vor’s Prize. It will introduce you to the world and some of the basic mechanics of Warframe including building items in your foundry and the mod system. Warframe is complex, especially at the beginning, so don’t be afraid of using the Wiki and Forum to get answers if you feel stuck. After you complete the second mission in the quest you have access to communications and co-op matchmaking which can help.
Once you are done with Vor’s Prize you should be familiar with the following basic mechanics: using Navigation, crafting new items in the Foundry, equipping items in the Arsenal and using the Modding station to manage your mods. You will have experienced versions of Extermination, Interception, Rescue and Assassination although the actual missions on nodes are typically different than the tutorial’s variations.
The follow up to Vor’s Prize is Once Awake, which introduces you to another major faction – the Infested. Initially, you will need to play missions to unlock more missions and get Affinity and mods to improve your Warframe and weapons. Weapons do not automatically improve when they increase in rank. Instead they have more capacity for mods. Once you get your weapons up to Rank 30 you should replace them initially. The first reason is that the starting weapons are very weak and the second reason is for you to try different weapons so you can get a feel for what you like and matches your playstyle.
While it is possible to play through the game solo to a certain point as I did, it is much better to find people to play through the game together. On the XB1 you can check your friends list for other people you know that have played. Another option is to join a Clan that likes to help new players. Like many multiplayer games, setting your Matchmaking to Public can be a great one mission and horrible the next. Generally the community is good, so don’t get discouraged if you run into toxic players.
Other general advice, which others would probably disagree with, is to avoid upgrading or merging your broken Mods unless they are the same drain as the unranked unbroken one. These cheaper mods are very useful when capacity is tight at lower ranks. While you can unlock Syndicates pretty early, you will make some of them mad enough to send assassins after you and as new player they will be deadly to you. Hold off until you are more comfortable in the game. Lastly, find something you enjoy in the game and focus on it. While you will have to do other things you may not like as much to advance in the game, returning to the things you like to do will rank up your items and give you resources you need. The best way to get burned out is to grind too much in an attempt to “get ahead” in the game. Allow the game to unfold and play it at your own pace.
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