Warframe Review: Cyborg ninja all the things
If you've longed for a game that let you play as a cyborg ninja that teams up with other cyborg ninjas to shoot and slash hordes of enemies, Warframe has got you covered. Digital Extremes has crafted an intense, high adrenaline co-op multiplayer game in a free-to-play format that's both highly addicting and extremely fun. However, all of this does come with a giant asterisk.
At its core, the game is about choosing which specialized cyborg ninja fits your playing style, and taking him out to complete missions scattered across a slightly altered version of our Solar System.
Digital Extremes has done a stupendous job at making each Warframe play differently, depending on its specialization. In the beginning, you only get access to three: Excalibur, Mag and Loki. Excalibur is a beginner's choice, being the all-around, jack of all trades, master of none character. Mag is more of a support class, with magnetic powers and an extremely useful Pull ability that can both crush enemies and get other players out of danger. Loki is the stealth class that relies on invisibility and teleportation. Still, these three are the mere appetizer when it comes to the rest of the Warframes.
Each and every one specializes on a different playstyle. Whether you want to be more tanky and withstand damage with Rhino, or perhaps crowd control your enemies and make them attack each other with Nyx, there is definitely a Warframe that you'll feel comfortable with. Best thing is, you don't have to stick to a single Warframe -- you can outright buy new ones or craft them by finding the appropriate blueprints.
This change in playstyle comes through each of the Warframe's four unique abilities, which can be triggered assuming you have the right amount of energy for it. Some of these abilities can be used defensively as well as offensively, and some ultimate abilities can clear an entire room full of enemies. It's all about finding the ability speaks to you.
After you're done choosing which Warframe is right for you, you'll embark on mission after mission across the Solar System. These usually consist of unloading bullets or slashing one of the opposing factions to pieces. The combat is fast and frantic, if just a little bit loose, especially the swordplay.
You always carry your primary weapon, a secondary gun and a melee weapon. While relying on your primary weapon will seem like the good choice, you'll want to focus on balancing out your weapon use among all three, because each weapon levels individually -- but I'll get to that in a bit.
All the guns feel different as well, whether you're using the starting rifle with a high fire-rate but low damage or the slower shooting Strun shotgun that packs a punch at close range.
On the other hand, the swordplay isn't as responsive as you'd want a ninja game to be. Part of that is because that swinging a sword never feels accurate in the game. A lot of the times you'll end up swinging at air, completely missing the opponent. This is largely because each time you swing, you actually take a step forward. It takes some time getting used to, but if you plan on maining a melee weapon over ranged, expect a somewhat steep learning curve.
Even though every mission boils down to killing a slew of enemies, the mission structure varies. Sometimes you'll be tasked with shooting down a particular NPC and capturing him alive, while in others you'll have to find a VIP and then escort them out to safety. Some missions will have you carrying around a datapad that you'll have to insert into various computers while protecting it from enemies, and others will have you surviving waves of increasingly hard enemies.
These mission structures help with diversifying the experience, and give meaning to running around the randomly generated levels, instead of just rushing from start to finish.
Everything gains levels in Warframe, from your individual Warframe to each weapon to even your personal rank. However, unlike traditional levels which raise your base stats, things work quite differently here. Becoming more powerful in Warframe relies completely on Mods, which are slottable items which increase your Warframe's or weapons effectiveness. Each of these mods, however, come with a usage point cost. When you or your weapons gain levels, they'll gain more mod points, which effectivelly lets you slot either more powerful mods, or just more mods in general.
Your personal player level, however, dictates which items you're able purchase or craft. For example, the Rhino Warframe requires your player rank to be 2 before you're able to either purchase or craft him through his blueprints.
Mods can also be powered up by fusing them together. Have a bunch of duplicates or perhaps mods you won't use? Fuse them together with an equipped mod to make it more powerful and effective. However, fusing it also increases its cost to equip, so make sure that your Warframe has enough mod points to use it.
When slotting these mods into your Warframe or weapon, some slots will come with certain polarities, which are indicated by different icons. If you insert a mod into a slot that shares the same polarity, this halves the cost of the mod itself. This system encourages the player to think strategically about mod placement.
Expect to grind, or pay money
Make no mistake about it -- Warframe is a grindfest. If you plan on getting the most out of this game without spending a single dollar, you'll be farming levels a lot to get the materials you need to craft whatever blueprints you have on hand. Couple that with the fact that each item requires a certain time until it's finished crafting, which can range from 12 to 72 hours, and your patience can really wear thin.
This is what separates those who are patient, from the ones who want instant gratification. Nearly every weapon, and Warframe can be purchased with Platinum currency, which is bought with real money. Want the Nekros Warframe? That's 375 Platinum. Want that weapon blueprint to be finished instantly? That's 20 Platinum. Want extra inventory slots for more Warframes or weapons? Yeah, more platinum.
Your enjoyment of the game will directly stem from how willing you are to either farm for necessary items, or how willing you are to whip out your wallet.
Of course, the game becomes exponentially more fun when playing with a few friends, which makes grinding for materials seem almost secondary to the fun you'll be having.
Bookmark the Warframe Wikia page
If there is one major gripe I have with Warframe, it's the complete lack of tutorials, save for the combat tutorial when you first boot up the game. There is absolutely no explanation on leveling, mods, crafting... nothing! Thankfully, the Warframe community is extremely helpful and informative, so if you want to get familiar with the game's basics, there are a bunch of beginner guide videos on YouTube, and the ever so helpful Warframe Wikia page.
The game's interface also lacks a few components that would make it much more user friendly. Hovering over weapons doesn't bring up the damage, so comparing weapons against each other actually requires you to keep clicking into them. A simple compare interface even, which could allow a player to select two weapons, would go a long towards with ease of use. Worst of all, blueprints don't show you any sort of stats, meaning you essentially have to look online.
Other few small annoyances include the mana bar being way too tiny to see, or that the controller doesn't work on the game's mission interface (on the PC obviously) requiring you to keep switching between mouse and controller.
Gorgeous, in a dull sort of way
It's easy to see that Warframe is one of the better looking free to play games out there, whether you're playing on the PC or on the PlayStation 4. It is probably one of the most dull when it comes to color range. It's understandable given its setting and lore, but damn does that game consist of a lot of grey.
I do have to point out the stunning particles though. When you unleash a powerful skill or cause something to explode on screen, it's showered with particles that dance across the screen in the most beautiful of ways. Seriously, it's pretty.
The final slice
If you already enjoy games like Monster Hunter which require you to farm for items in order to craft better ones, Warframe follows that very same formula, except with much more satisfying and faster paced combat. If you're willing to put in the time, Warframe is an extremely enjoyable, albeit somewhat repetitive game that's way better when playing it with friends. If you just picked up a PS4, Warframe needs to be one of the first things you download.