I first played Warframe 6 years ago when it hit the Steam Free to Play section. Finishing my last year of high school, no job, and probably putting too much time into League of Legends. I wish I remembered more of my time with it for the purpose of this piece, but it left enough of an impression for me to drop it within an hour and put it out of my mind completely. It was topping the Free to Play section consistently, but it was one of a dozen games listed and only a handful that weren’t pay to win (I’m looking at you Blacklight: Retribution), so I wasn’t too surprised.
And that was that, I never thought about Warframe again.
Well, that was until I did and put in 128 hours in a 5 month period with the little time I had between work and finishing school. Who woulda thunk it?
There were a few moments that put it back into my mind, and they all boil down to the same reason. The same reason most have heard about Warframe. Word of mouth. First was Totalbiscuit’s sponsored video for the Plains of Eidolon expansion. As a casual viewer and always respecting his opinion, his rather glowing recommendation of the game in its current state was the first chip in the dam. Second was seeing top streamers like Summit1g and Shroud playing it on separate occasions for no other motivation for playing than their own curiosity. Neither of them played for particularly long, no more than a few days to a week. Last was a video from Skill Up, half of Laymen Gaming, with the very provocative title spanning the thumbnail, “If You Aren’t Paying Attention to Warframe… Then You Aren’t Paying Attention to Gaming.” While applauding the tremendous clickbait, I couldn’t look past one aspect of the video, the community. I had been going from multiplayer titles like CS:GO, Overwatch, PUBG, and others. Every game I enjoyed for the most part, but the vitriol that would regularly been thrown around always wore me down to the point of fearing to que at all and eventually stopping. Seeing the crowd at Tennocon (Warframe’s annual fan event) cheer every second of the ambitious Railjack expansion, developers telling stories of positivity they experience regularly, all on top of game that has seen so much growth it crawled out of the well of mediocrity and into a full blown success. The seed was planted.
I kept my attention on Skill Up as I had the game downloading and watched his 31 minute review from 2017. I’m glad I did. I don’t know how I would have reacted to a game about repeating missions with randomly generated levels for better and better loot without a meaningful preamble. Being briefed on the games many systems and intricacies, how it works together, and goals to set for yourself when playing. The most important part I didn’t quite understand how often I’d fall back to is looking for help. Whether its how efficiently farm that resource you need to craft a new frame, or which mods should be prioritized on a weapon. The complexities of midmaxed builds or which status effects are best against which enemies you’ll be fighting. All together and with the effort put it, any weapon or utility can be effective at any level. I’m beyond sold.
What surprised me the most on start up wasn’t how awe inspiring the worlds are or the stellar movement, it was the new player experience. To put it simply, it doesn’t try. What is told is what missions to play, basic combat mechanics, and that there are stories to be told in the universe. Just about every detail I had just learned from the few videos I watched we’re absent from these beginning hours. This is developer Digital Extremes’ first rework of the beginning, and have said they plan on readdressing it in the future, but in hindsight, it’s hard to imagine a perfect and inviting introduction while also explaining basic reward pools on missions and the importance of every system the game has to offer. Hell, it wasn’t until 45 hours in that I discovered Syndicates, a way of aligning with NPC groups in order to get rewards, most being only attainable through these Syndicates.
You are quite literally dropped into this universe and are told to just run with it. Learning through gathering more equipment, materials, trial and error, and following the little guidance the Star Chart gives you. This is where new players like myself will focus on for many hours. Giving the player the most direction by telling them that they need to clear all the missions on planets and in order to unlock new areas are various requirements. Jumping from area to area, facing new and interesting bosses, gathering weapons, frames, and mods to rank up so your kit becomes increasingly more powerful to the point of absolute destruction with little effort. One of the best ways the game goes about doing this is by making every mission on every planet useful in the farm as they can have varying loot tables and each can be more efficient at farming specific items, while still giving you plenty outside of what you want. Although, I’d remiss the reality that getting stuck farming some of the more rare resources can feel like a chore at times. For instance, the Orb Vallis being the second open world area to be added to the game, being very similar to the Plains of Eidolon, has a rather unreasonably reward system around its syndicate for the area. The missions that are present have a chance of dropping these debt markers in a loot table of 10 or so items, and while they are considered common, I’ve yet to get a single marker after an hour or two of running these missions. It may sound like no big deal to anyone who hasn’t played, but considering these markers are essential to progressing through syndicate, and given the standing points cap out and don’t carry over after leveling your standing. Fortunately this story is only a minor frustration and I later discovered these areas are a bit of trap for newer players, and not being worth the grind until much later.
Given all that, the primary gameplay loop proved only to be enough for me to keep putting time into it. It functioned as a stress free experience after work where I can jump, fly through the air and kill dudes in space, and later getting the satisfaction of crafting new equipment, building them however I felt in order to be better at dispatching higher level enemies. And then I hit Uranus and experienced the brilliant pairing of missions, Natah and The Second Dream. The later being a true masterwork and fundamentally changing how the game is experienced and gravitas to a game that was only about being a space ninja. To think that such a quest exists so far into the game (I put in 73 hours before hitting Uranus), is unheard of and almost sounds like a shot in the foot to put it where it is, but it’s one of the truest rewards, putting its best foot forward for the players who are willing to put in all the time and effort. From here, I’ll follow the rest of the Warframe community and leave you there without spoiling a single second, but know that this is where I went from putting a hour or two daily, to dumping every free second I had.
Unfortunately, this is where I have to end this. To veteran players, I’ve only just started The Chains of Harrow and I haven’t yet completed the Star Chart (doing 15 waves on Stöfler is intimidating). There’s plenty in the game I know I haven’t experienced and won’t for a while, but the idea of putting in another hundred or two hours in or even starting a new game on the Nintendo Switch doesn’t sound so daunting. It’s even pulled me away from Sekiro, the game I plan on covering next. Just know that if you haven’t experienced the craft of Digital Extremes lenticular designed sci fi looter shooter, you absolutely should in a industry that is now clamoring for an experience like it with The Division, Destiny, and most recently Anthem. You want a rewarding live service game where a developer will pull a feature after launch because they realized they accidentally created a slot machine? Play Warframe.