Warframe by Digital Extremes has been around since 2013, and the game has evolved to an unbelievable extent since then. Warframe is a third person shooter like no other, and at the heart of what makes the game so great is the steady stream of content updates, all of which are available to the players for free. The game is still in the beta phase, which means that the developers are still in the process of changing the game based on feedback from the players. This is a living and breathing title, and as such does not have a shelf life. Even if you have tried the game before, you are sure to be surprised at what the game has to offer now.
This is going to be the biggest question for new players, so best to clear that out first. The game is a free to play title, and although there is premium currency known as platinum, everything in the game can be obtained without spending a single penny. There is very little content restricted to paying players, and these are usually in the form of exclusive frames and weapons available in the founders pack. Players can trade their drops for the platinum, and then use that to purchase items from the in game store. Cosmetics, weapons and warframe slots, and animations are the kind of things that require premium currency. The tagline of the game is "Ninjas Play Free".
In the game, you play with warframes which are essentially Ninjas in space. This is a run and gun title, but both the running and gunning requires precision. The maps are made up of spaces known as tiles, which are fit together like LEGO blocks in a fluid, procedurally generated manner as you move through the map. There are starting and ending areas. You can simply walk across the map, but it is more fun to to navigate through the environment using maneuvers. This can be something like starting with a slide, a jump into the air, a glide towards the enemies while shooting them, finish with a sword slash while landing, and then jump into a wallrun. Parkour 2.0 was one of the major updates that significantly improved the running, and removed an energy mechanic that restricted the amount of time you could execute the maneuvers for... for example wall running.
There are a continuous stream of new warframes that keep releasing, and many of them are accompanied by quests. The new quests provide content, and at times reward you with your efforts with a warframe at the end. Most of the quests take place in the regular gameplay environment, but are tougher than the usual missions. Some quests however, take place in special environments, and contain a storyline. These are known as cinematic quests, and the addition of cinematic quests to the game was another landmark update. What followed after the release of one of the cinematic quests fundamentally changed the entire game, but that is a major spoiler and it is best that new players discover this aspect for themselves.
There is also the Tenno armoury, which are new weapons that get added to the game. These weapons are outrageously fun, there are three classes of weapons, a main, a sidearm and a melee. The main weapons include machine guns, rifles, bows, flamethrowers, electricity guns, continuous fire weapons and more. The sidearms are also inventive, ranging from shot bows, dual wield pistols, flame throwers, and even a rocket launcher. The melee weapons include poles, daggers, gauntlets, whips, boomerangs, throwing stars, dual cleavers and more.
My favorite weapons include the Phage, a shotgun that actually continuously fires seven beams that can be spread out to damage a mob or focused to damage a single enemy, the Angstrum, a pistol that can launch a single or multiple rockets, the Halikar, a jet powered mace that can be thrown like a boomerang, and Lecta, an electric whip with a longer range than most melee weapons. Finding the weapon that you like and improving it is one of the biggest joys that Warframe has to offer. Each weapon starts at level 0, and you can level it further, adding more modifications in the process.
Each warframe or weapon allows users to modify it according to their tastes or the kind of enemies being tackled. There are various kinds of damage that can be added to the weapon, such as puncture, or slash damage. Elemental effects can be added as well, heat, cold, electricity, corrosive and so on. These affect the different factions of enemies you will encounter in different ways.
Another major update was the introduction of archwings. Till that update, most of the action took place in tilesets where the warframes were more or less grounded. The archwing update introduced six degrees of freedom, by allowing players to move freely in space. Archwings are kind of like strap on jetp packs that are attached to the backs of your characters. The Archwings also work underwater, which allowed for the introduction of new maps. In some missions, users have to navigate through part of the map on foot, and through other parts using an archwing.
Warframe follows a philosophy of continuous improvement. The developers are not satisfied with the things that are already pretty good in the game, even though users may have no complaints about it. These are called "quality of life" improvements, where things that are not broken in the game, are still enhanced and improved. This means that nothing in the game is sacrosanct, and anything can be changed in a future update. If you revisit the title after a gap of half a year or so, there will be several changes to the game, and it will not even look like the same title any more. Changing everything in the game means that players always have a "new" title to play in.
Because of the continuous changes, there are also a steady stream of new bugs that show up. So much so, that the game is lovingly called "Bugframe" by the community. The players notify the bugs to the developers, and are tackled based on priority. Game breaking bugs are fixed the earliest. There is a steady stream of hotfixes after a major update goes live, that usually focus on fixing bugs. The developers respond to feedback on not only bugs, but even irritants. A player once complained about a particular tree root on Earth looking bad, and the developers actually took the trouble to fix that!
The game looks stylish and slick, and works well even on older machines. One of the major tasks for the Plains of Eidolon update was optimising the larger, open environment. These optimisations are for the entire game, and not just the new content. This means that despite a major content upgrade, the game should actually run faster and smoother. The animations are incredibly realistic, as most of them are motion captured. Here is a developer providing the motion capture for the Octavia warframe.
Over the course of the last few years, Warframe has seen a steady increase in the number of players in the game at one time. Below is a graph from SteamCharts, which tracks the number of players in a title at any given time. The big spikes coincide with content updates, but you can see an upward trend in the player count over the years. This is not one of those games where there is a flurry of activity around the time of release, and then the interest peters out.
A complex title
There is a lot to do in the game. The first activity, as soon as players start the title, involves unlocking all the planets in the solar system, which means completing the missions available on one planet and unlocking the node that allows you to move on to the next one. There are various kinds of missions. You can kill enemies in endless waves, intercept communications, capture targets, rescue hostages, sabotage equipment, or protect objects of interest from the enemies.
Then there is the incredible arsenal of weapons. You have to find the parts, and craft them to get the weapons. The weapons can be upgraded, which requires playing with them repeatedly to accommodate an increasing number of modifications, which increases their effectiveness as well. The warframes themselves can be collected and upgraded in the same way. The void missions are particularly challenging, and drop parts for "Primed" weapons and warframes, which are enhanced versions of the weapons and warframes with boosted stats.
This activity makes the game very grindy, and the players (mostly lovingly) also refer to game as Grindframe. However, this is one of the few games that makes grinding fun. The quality of life updates means that the tilesets also improve, so grinding seems less of a chore with the new and improved environments. The tileset of Earth was vastly improved in a recent update.
There are other fun things to do as well. The Remote Observer lets you capture photographs by sending out a drone. There is a feature known as Captura, which is what I like to call the selfie mode. This allows users to fire up an environment, place enemies of their choice, toggle the speed of the of the action, change lighting and camera settings, and capture images just to show off your awesome frames and gear.
Then there are pets, Kubrows and Kavats are in universe versions of Dogs and Cats. If you have a pet in your spaceship, then you have to play with it and feed it to keep its morale high. Keeping a pet is a demanding and rewarding experience, and it is better to freeze your pets in stasis, if you are not playing the game for long periods of time. If the pets are not looked after, they used to end up dying, but are now sent to the Lotus for safekeeping. The Lotus is your in game guide to the Warframe universe.
There is also a hidden side scrolling shooter in the game. Wyrmius can be accessed by equipping the Wyrm sentinel, selecting the "W" loadout in Appearance. The enemies that you normally play against in a third person perspective are presented in a side-scrolling perspective, and users have to shoot them up with the Wyrm sentinel. There is even a leaderboard for this mini game. If you do not have the Wyrm sentinel, you can access the game by entering "Wyrmius" in the name field and leaving the password field blank while logging in.
There are lots of places to hang out and chill to take a break as well, although this is not an open world title... yet. The Relays are spaces where you can meet other players and buy stuff from traders. Maroo's Bazaar is frequented by players looking to buy or sell gear. The Liset, which is the spaceship of the users offers plenty of activities, including upgrading mods, crafting new weapons, and enhancing Void relics which improve the drop rates of certain items in Void missions, which are kind of like the end game content. Users can meditate and participate in holiday themed events. A couple of years ago, I celebrated Diwali by blowing up firecrackers in the game.
There is also regional chat, and an area for guilds to intermingle known as the Clan Dojo. The Clan Dojo allows highly ranked guild members to design the environment, while others collect the necessary materials to do so. There are research labs on Clan Dojos that allow players to unlock new gear and weapons. Users can practice PvP against other guild members in the Clan Dojo, and there is an obstacle course as well to hone your parkour skills.
For those who like to compose music, one of the frames even has a music production environment of sorts. The Octavia warframe uses an instrument known as the Mandachord, where users can program in their own base percussion, bass and melody tracks. The music actually affects the combat, and you can match your actions to the music in a kind of a deadly dance when playing with this frame. Users can share their creations in the chat, so other players can incorporate the music in their Mandachords. There are a number of instrument sets available, which users can purchase from the store.
After playing the title for over three years, and logging over 3,000 hours, I have not explored everything the game has to offer yet. For example, I have not tried out the PvP arena known as the conclave, not contributed to guild research, not participated in the guild based capturing of solar rails, and have not yet become an active merchant. There is a lot to do in the game, but users can take their own time figuring out which of the activities interest them the most, and get into it one by one.
An active community
One of the things that makes Warframe really great is an active and thriving community of players. The warframe forums, which are extremely well moderated is the de facto hangout space for fans of the title. However, the community is spread across Tumblr, YouTube, Twitch and the Wiki. The Wiki is your best friend here, as users will require to constantly look it up considering the complexity of the title. Usually, obtaining a particular weapon, or working to gain exclusive mods require constantly checking the Wiki.
The developers incorporate elements from the fans into the title. Zephyr was a warframe introduced based on the concept art of a gamer. The developers also included Clem, a funny character who wears two masks, who showed up in a fan made comic. Clem belongs to an enemy faction known as the Grineer, but is defective and kind of worships the warframes. CGI artists can participate by adding cosmetics, gear and weapons in the title through Steam Workshops. The artists get a portion of the payments made to Warframe by those who buy these assets.
The developers regularly host devstreams, where they interact with fans and give away in game currency. The devstreams dive deep into the gameplay, and discuss all the upcoming updates that will make it to the update soon. At times, the devstreams can showcase footage from updates to the game that have not yet been publicly released. The devstreams provide a direct link to those making the game for those playing the game.
The community has even made an 8 bit sidescrolling shooter for Android, known as Lost Sector. Just like Warframe, Lost Sector is also unstable and not the final release.
The Plains of Eidolon
The Plains of Eidolon is the biggest update to the game so far, and it is landing this week for PC players. So far, most of the gameplay took place in instances, four player maps hosted on the machines of one of the players. The few environments where users could interact with other players were the relays and the Clan Dojos. Now, all of that is going to change, as Plains of Eidolon brings in an open environment to Warframe.
The open world environment brings to Warframe what gamers have been demanding for a long time. Even though Warframe is not an MMORPG, it just feels like one, and the Plains of Eidolon is the natural next step considering the way the game has been evolving so far. Users can explore the plains on foot, or fire up the Archwings and take to the air. Normally, the resourcers were available in containers in the map. In the plains, users can mine ores and gems directly from the rocks. There is also fishing, which is sure to be an activity that a lot of gamers will spend hours in, considering how attractive the activity is in Far Cry 5.
There is a new town known as Cetus, inhabited by scavengers known as Ostrons. They seem to be another faction that you can gain reputation with, and undertake quests for. Increased standing will also allow you to purchase Ostron gear. There are vendors on Cetus that will allow gamers to purchase the equipment they need to tackle the plains, or sell the resources collected, the fish for example. There is also a weaponsmith known as Hok with an anvil where you can craft your own custom weapons!
Users can explore the Plains of Eidolon, and find surprises along the way. There are Grineer camps across the maps, where players have to take out the enemies before they send up flares calling for reinforcements. The colours of the flares indicate the kind of new troops that will arrive at the spot, allowing the players a brief period of preparation. So far, each map in the game had its own difficulty of enemies, but in Eidolon, users will encounter enemies of increasing difficulty as they venture deeper into the map.
There is a realistic day and night cycle for the Plains of Eidolon, which is designed to make players spend a lot of time in the game. A hint of this kind of mechanic was previously available on a quest that required the harvesting of flowers that bloomed at night or day on Earth. When night falls in the plains of Eidolon, towering bosses emerge from the waters. These are raid bosses, and will require the cooperation of several frames to take them down.
There is also a new frame inspired by glass, known as Gara, as well as a bunch of new mod packs. There are a bunch of new weapons for the Tenno Armoury as well. These are the Astilla, that shoots slugs that explode with embedded glass shards, the Volnus, a lightweight glass hammer, the Fusilai which are essentially glass Kunai, the Krohkur, a sword curved like a sickle, and the Argonak, a long range rifle that makes it easy to take down enemies at a distance by highlighting them in red when zoomed in.
There are eleven knew achievements related to the Plains of Eidolon. There is a major rework of the Focus Mechanic as well. The number of items one can equip for the gear wheel has been increased to 12, these are items that help you in the gameplay such as health restores, the remote observer, or various scanners. Users will also be able to drop four new stance mods from assasination targets. These stance modes are motion captured animation sets that allow users to wield their weapons in new and inventive ways, as well as use combos.
The Plains of Eidolon update will be dropping sometime this week for PC users, and will be coming to consoles in November.
Published Date: Oct 09, 2017 07:53 pm | Updated Date: Oct 09, 2017 08:11 pm