The free-to-play report is a series where I download a free-to-play game and play enough to get the gist of it. I’ll relay my adventures and misadventures to you, the reader. Hopefully by the end of the report, you’ll be able to tell if the game is worth the free download or not.
Receiving largely mixed reviews by critics - a score of 68/100 on Metacritic - Warframe is among the most-played games available on Steam and was described by Digital Extremes as “a rogue success.” It is a third-person sci-fi action game with strong action elements. Is it able to sustain a large number of players regardless of its inability to gain significant attention from others?
How Was It?
When first logging into Warframe, you will be met with a loading bar, how far into the release cycle of the game you are, which platform you are playing it on and how fast your internet connection is. These are all factors which have a direct impact on the amount of time the game takes to load. If we consider some of the other FTP titles on the market, Warframe has a considerably forgiving loading time as each session takes around thirty seconds to fully load.
Once past the initial loading screen, you are shown a short FMV of a ship approaching a planet and a voice informing you that you are ‘the last hope in a great war’. A scene of a grotesque man arguing with another fills the screen, as the narrator explains the situation. When she has finished her dialogue, the game begins and you choose a Warframe to play as. Each Warframe has special abilities that tailor your playstyle and can be suited to any gameplay system. Don’t worry too much about choosing an initial class because most of the classes on offer are able to handle any weapon/playstyle that you may want to utilise.
There are three choices on offer for a base character, these determine skills, abilities and bonuses to gameplay, they are as follows:
Excalibur: Excalibur Warframes are versatile and are the ideal choice for new players. They possess a ‘slash dash’ attack, this is a swift attack which allows you to slice through your enemies as you dash past. They command radial attacks such as the ‘javelin’, this is a large attack which deals high damage and impales your enemies to walls and other miscellaneous environmental constructs. They can also utilise the ‘radial blind’ feature, which allows them to emit a large flash of bright light that blinds all enemies in a small radius, this lasts for several seconds. The coup de grace of Excalibur’s ability, however, is the ‘exalted blade’, this wonderful skill allows you to summon a sword of immense power and light and is capable of devastating even the highest level of enemies.
Excalibur suggestion: I believe that this type of Warframe would suit someone who is brand new to the FTP scene and anyone who is entering Warframe for the first time. While not an exceptionally difficult game to master, it does offer the occasional challenge at intervals which new players may find arduous.
Mag: Mag Warframes are experts of enemy manipulation and command magnetic energy in order to defeat their opponents. They can use a ‘pull’ attack, this is a magnetic force which brings enemies into melee range. In addition to this, they can use their ‘shield polarise’ attack, to detonate the shields of surrounding targets. The ‘bullet attractor’ magnetises a target and causes passing bullets to seek them out, the field then detonates when the target dies.
Mag suggestion: This Warframe would suit anyone who is used to playing fantasy-based RPGs and they will fall quite comfortably into the strategy-based gameplay which this class offers in comparison to the all-out ‘balls out’ approach one could take with the next Warframe.
Volt: Volt Warframes harness electrical elements, they command this ability to catastrophic effect dealing massive amounts of damage and offer a potential alternative to gunplay. The ‘shock’ attack launches a projectile of pure electricity and can be chained to multiple targets for maximum effect as it has high damage and stun potential. The ‘speed’ ability, enables the Volt to energise its own body and that of any surrounding Warframes. This allows increased dexterity and speed for a short period of time. The electric shield is, without question, the epitome of this classes abilities, it is an obstacle comprised of energy and provides cover in any situation and from any foe, regardless of level.
Volt suggestion: This Warframe is perfect for anyone coming to the console from the PC version or anyone who is used to being the ‘tank’ class in other FTPs. Its command of high-impact weaponry and focus on speed is one of skill and will most likely not suit anyone who is unfamiliar with manually building a class or balancing a play-style.
Being that this was my first playthrough but I am very familiar with FTP’s and the art of class building is a forte of mine, I decided to opt for the Volt Warframe.
The tutorial level throws you into the thick of battle with a ‘grineer’ faction - one of many in-game enemies - and you are greeted by the main antagonist, Captain Vor. He is the commander of the Grineer and is intent on destroying all Tenno - the race which all Warframes belong to - in order to take over the galaxy and become the ultimate presence in the universe.
Within the first five minutes of the tutorial, you encounter two enemy classes: one is the lancer, standard infantry unit which you will encounter whenever you meet the Grineer, equipped with a standard but inaccurate assault rifle and can be avoided easily. The second unit is the Ripper: he is armed with a cleaver and is the second most prominent Grineer faction unit, specialising in close quarters and deals high damage at high speed with each attack.
Warframe is played from a third-person over-the-shoulder view, which allows for full environmental awareness and therefore maximum strategic potential. Each situation you encounter in Warframe can be tackled in a number of ways, dependent on the playstyle which you adopt and not the weapons or abilities you have available. If you decide part-way through a level that you would like to throw caution to the wind and blast everyone to pieces then you can, it is simply a matter of making sure your secondary weapons accommodates your second choice of playstyle.
If you decide to adopt the ‘kill all with heavy weapons’ method, you may miss some of the subtle nuances within the environments of Warframe. Observing the surroundings and being a science-fiction aficionado, I realised that Warframe borrows from series such as Star Trek rather heavily, even the Grineer remind one of a poor man's Borg. The environments in Warframe are not spectacular; they are - for the most part - murky, dull and out-of-focus cacophonies of grey, black and green. They don’t capture the atmosphere and often tend to pull you out of the experience when they don’t load properly, sometimes leaving entire sections of map unreachable due to bridges or walkways not loading correctly.
With character design like Warframe’s, the environment doesn’t need to be spectacular, each Warframe is lovingly presented in a vast array of colours - which can be altered later for preference - and has class-specific animations which occur when the player becomes stationary. This attention to detail carries over into the weapon design. Each firearm, sword or dagger is shaded in high-resolution colours which reflect surrounding light, shimmer in sunlight and even possess a ‘ghost’ feature - which can be turned off in the settings. The ‘ghost’ feature produces a small motion blur effect when the player moves the Warframe. While I personally enjoyed this, I understand that, for some people, it could become distracting and irritating.
Science fiction lives and dies on its ability to build an atmosphere: where Warframe does this perfectly overall, the delayed screams of enemies - which are produced two seconds after their death - and an over-arching mismatched soundtrack don’t help to serve the idea of complete immersion.
How free is it?
In a market where free-to-play games have been given a terrible reputation for preying on a person’s psychological need for completion and addiction, Warframe breaks the mould. You can spend hundreds of pounds on in-game items in order to progress faster, however with a limited number of planets on offer, there really isn’t any point in doing so. Taking the game at a steady pace will reward you much more than if you just buy your way through, each weapon can be modified and altered and some of the available modes do however have a real-world cost. However, if you are patient, you usually discover that you can find a better mod by defeating a high-level enemy or completing one of Warframe’s many challenges and raids.
All in all, Warframe is a relatively enjoyable experience as long as you don’t mind the occasional glitch and are already a fan of grinding FTP games that are already on the market. The time you spend with your Tenno will be enjoyable, entertaining and interesting, and you will without a doubt be returning for many years to come.
Oh look, a new mission just opened up in the “Void”, I wonder if this grotesque-looking beastie knows the way back to my ship, I’ll ask him...