Get Lost in the World of “WarFrame”

Who wants to play a third-person co-op shooter about space ninjas? If you first thought is, “Yeah, I’m going to pass,” then we have something in common—I was also blind to the allure of space ninjas. Then I heard that Warframe was free… Five minutes later I was downloading it to my laptop (Warframe can  also be played on Xbox One and Playstation 4). To cut to the chase, this game was well-worth my money (or lack-thereof). To be completely honest, Warframe has so many excellent features that I won’t be able to cover all of it in my review, so I’m simply going to focus on the highlights. 

Warframe is a futuristic sci-fi game set, for the most part, in our solar system. Players are put in control of various Warframes, which are similar to character classes. I wish I could tell you exactly what Warframes are, but the fine points of their nature/origin is a hotly debated topic among Warframe’s player-base. Suffice to say that they’re a race of space ninjas (part organic, part energy, and part machine) that fight to maintain balance on various planets and moons throughout our solar system. Interestingly enough, the various factions in Warframe (Tenno, Grineer, Orokin Corrupted, Corpus, and Infested) seem to represent different directions taken by humanity, most of which are corrupt. In my opinion, one of Warframe’s weak points is its plot. While it is quite interesting, the vast majority of it is lore-based, which takes effort to pursue.

Warframe is beautifully designed; it has a unique mix of traditional Japanese and futuristic sci-fi aesthetics that I haven’t seen before. The sound design, while perhaps not iPod worthy, is certainly fitting. The score is suspenseful, and manages to sound both traditional and sci-fi. The sound effects (footsteps, alarms, gunshots, etc) actually just received a major update, and are currently on par with any triple-A title. Despite these production values, it’s actually very accessible, and can run on out-of-date laptops/computers.

One of Warframe’s best features is the gameplay. There are over 20 different Warframes available to players, each with four abilities (not counting passives) which they use in combat. These abilities include invisibility, blinds, holograms, teleporting, super-speed, flight, a grappling hook, creating a singularity, and wielding unique weapons (pistols and claws). I can’t stress enough how well-done these powers are.

Complementing the Warframes are the weapons, and there are about 190 of them. Weapons for your Warframe fall into three general categories: primary, secondary, and melee. Primaries are your big weapons (these include bows, assault rifles, light machine guns, flamethrowers, shotguns, sniper rifles, etc.) Secondaries are your sidearms, and include throwing knives, smaller shotguns, lasers, pistols, dual pistols, sub machine guns, throwing stars, a small crossbow, and much more. Melee weapons include swords, axes, mauls, staves, a boomerang, daggers, polearms, and too many more to list. One of the best things about weapons in Warframe is that they are all, generally speaking, unique, with customizable mechanics and playstyles (and, like with the Warframes, most of them are fun to use). I would be hard-pressed to name a game with a more satisfying, varied arsenal than Warframe.

To make your Warframe and weapons effective, there are several things you have to do to them. First, you need to level them (through various activities, like killing enemies) which gives you points to add mods (mods are found throughout the game, and enhance your power when applied to Warframes and weapons). The effects include giving you more health, altering your abilities, increasing your movement speed, causing your weapons to do more damage, etc. These mods must be leveled by sacrificing other mods to become more effective. The amount of customization is astonishing, and you will almost never see another player running the exact same build as you (aside from some special circumstances, where specific builds are called for). 

Warframe is rife with cool features and improvements. At launch, there was a standard menu where players selected missions, but now every player has their own spaceship. One moves throughout the ship and makes use of the different facilities as opposed to simply selecting options from a menu, which dramatically increases immersion. You can also raise pets who help you in combat, through building robotic sentinels or breeding dog-like kubrows. Soon, eight-player raids will be making their way to Warframe (similar to what already exists in Destiny). There is an archwing mode, with its own unique classes (similar to Warframes) and weapons, where players fight in space, flying around in jetpack-like machines. I haven’t even touched on the phenomenal trading system. There’s so much more to talk about here, but unfortunately I’m running out of space. Suffice it to say that, in terms of content, Warframe will never disappoint.

When it was originally released in October of 2012, Warframe was received rather harshly by critics. The average score was about a seven out of 10, and as one who played it briefly at launch, I would have agreed with that. However, after playing it again over the course of the last year, I consider it nothing short of negligence that prominent critics have not revisited this title. Warframe’s developer, Digital Extremes (DE), has never stopped developing the game, even since it was released. Systems that players didn’t like, such as the original melee combat, have been redesigned and/or done away with. Gamespot, a prominent gaming website, still has a review of 6.0 posted, which is unjustifiable when considering Warframe’s current state.

Warframe is clearly a success; it has 5.5 million registered players on the PC version, and more on its PS4 and Xbox One versions. It is one of the few successful free-to-play game models. While there is a premium currency that one can purchase with real money, it is completely feasible to play Warframe without paying a cent (I did so for months, and enjoyed it thoroughly). The premium currency can be earned in game via trading with other players, which is both simple and lucrative. The items that one purchases with premium currency are typically cheap and unessential, making the system fair to all.

Warframe has so much going for it. It has more content than any other game in its genre, it’s well designed in terms of graphics, audio, and gameplay, and it’s still being actively developed. Perhaps it was an average game at release, but the Warframe of today has been in development for two more years, and is an entirely different game. I feel that Warframe deserves a 9.5 out of 10; it certainly has its faults, but practically speaking, it’s about as close to perfection as a game can be.