Digital Extremes

Anything You Can Do : Warframe

If you haven’t played Warframe (at all or recently) here is a two minute non-commentated clip of an assassination mission I completed this morning to give you an idea of the gameplay. I am using the Frost Prime warframe (free with Twitch Prime! Even better is that it is free with a Twitch Prime *trial account! Which is how I got it. I am using the starter bow as my primary weapon (I like it because it’s silent, which allows for stealthy play around the map) a giant Axe as my melee, and a sidearm as my secondary.

That is the base model (colors and everything) but the only addition is that kickass cape, which I colored myself when I put it on. You’ll notice a few fun things:

  • Enemies try to run to set the alarms a few times, which I am able to stop them from doing (you can do a hack minigame to turn them off. The alarms increase number and frequency of enemies)
  • The beautiful of two bow moves which makes the gunplay incredible – one when I am running away and shooting over my shoulder, and the second when I zoom in, floating down, Legolas style and kill a baddie.
  • I used two of my four abilities in here (and both not well) – first is “freezing” an enemy, and second is sending frozen spikes in a straight line that kills anything it hits (I hit nothing).
  • You can jump, climb, slide, etc – just move over any part of the map. It’s parkour all the way.
  • The little guy (Taxon I think?) is my companion who loots for me (all items within X range), and I have outfitted him with a gun which freezes enemies. He also steals shields from enemies and transfers them to me.
  • Maps are randomly generated, and are varied and well put together. It’s impressive.

There is a taste of the gameplay, of which I wasn’t doing particularly great, but should give you an idea of the style of the game. I was sliding too much. (Bullet jump – the forward moving barrel roll –  is jump+slide buttons together.)

I wanted to show you that before describing the game to give you some background and flavor of style and game substance. Steam says I have put in 25 hours into the game but Warframe says I am at ten and a half – assuming WF is correct here.

It does so much, so much better than Destiny 2 and outside of the FPS vs TPS difference (a biggie, granted) I can now see why people wish Destiny 2 had adopted much of what is good in Warframe. Which is most of it. Caution here is the first 10 hours “new car smell” of it all but I can’t stop playing right now.

The Good:

  • More unique content than I can imagine consuming at this point
  • Playstyle for everyone – over 30 Warframes with different skills and powersets, and hundreds of weapons
  • No barriers to progression in early game – haven’t seen the need to spend money outside of wanting to reward the developers (but, not sure of a good way to do that either!) Feels like F2P done well
  • Personaliztion to the nth degree – colors, addons, weapons, frames, ships, companions – you name it
  • Co-Op Matchmaking for all gameplay and game styles
  • Deep and interesting systems
  • Tight shooting and fighting gameplay
  • Movement. Wow, The Movement.
  • Codex in game
  • You get your  home home base, your ship (which can also be fully personalized)
  • Helpful community in game and on Reddit.
  • Fun, Interesting and varied mission types

The Bad:

  • Story campaign is drip fed. I am still confused on what is going on
  • Codex is gated behind in game scanning. Which is cumbersome and challenging.
  • Third Person only
  • Systems do not interlink effectively or efficiently, and are confusing at first (and persistently so sometimes)
  • Co-Op “rush” mentality
  • New Player Experience needs fixing / updating
  • Biggest new update does not apply/ not effective for new players
  • Art style is love / hate

Unique Content: Good

I am not going to write a paragraph about each thing (today) but going to touch them over a series of posts. First off the universe is gated by jumpgates and repeatable missions. In Destiny 2 they gave you a handful of planets but took away the original handful from Destiny 1. Here is the solar system map in Warframe, through my ship’s Navigation system (pictures taken with my starter Warframe, the Volt, which I personalized to be blue).

When you zoom in a bit it shows how they are connected and gives you an idea of the number of missions available on that planet.

And of course, further zooming in shows how the missions on each planet are connected.

You aren’t going to run out of anything to do in the short term. Each of those planets and missions are very different, and procedurally generated so if you are running them for the second, tenth, or twentieth time at least there is some variation.  You can see with the blue lights the missions I haven’t completed yet. The mission types I have participated in so far include (and I don’t know if I have done them all yet):

  • Assassinate: Kill a high priority target
  • Terminate: kill X number of bad guys
  • Defend: Protect an item at a specific spot for X waves of enemies
  • Mobile Defence: Carry a hack terminal to three different spots in the map, and defend it while it downloads information
  • Spy: Steal data – if you get seen near the hack terminals and alarms get set, the data will get destroyed so have to be stealthy
  • Rescue: Save a hostage(s). Fun part is after you release them from their cell, you can give them your secondary weapon to help fight. You have to be stealthy in the first part (setting them free, or they could be exterminated) and then escort them out of the area safely in the second part
  • Sabotage: Destroy strategic objectives within a map
  • Interception: Capture and hold control points on a map
  • Survival: Be a distraction so a fellow Warframe can run a mission. Set off the alarm and survive for X minutes.

And I think there are more, but those are the ones I have tried.  There are also there “bad guys” at this point – the Grineer, the Corpus, and the Infested, so each of them have their own style and substance to those missions.

Story Clarity: Bad

Remember those factions I mentioned just a couple lines ago? I don’t quite understand why I am killing them all. In fact, I don’t even understand why I exist at all. I know my ‘handler’ The Lotus, who gives me my missions calls me a Tenno. I know she somehow rescued me from Vor and the Grineer who were trying to capture me. I don;t even know what I am! Am I a person inside the suit? Human? Or am I a robot? When I change suits (are they suits?) do I leave one and jump in the other, or is my programming sent over, OR am I some sort of ghost /soul that floats between constructs to do the bidding of the mysterious Lotus? Who am I fighting for?

By paying attention to what I have found IN game I know the Grineer (who freed me to try and use me for their own desires) are dying out because so much cloning has made their DNA fragile and unintelligent, and that they had planned to use me to rebuild themselves. Or something like that. But I don’t know what year it is, (IS THIS TRUMPS AMERICA IN 2025?) or what/who I am, or how I got here. The Corpus, the second enemies I ran into use more robots and look different but I still don’t know why I am killing them either, or what their society looks like, and how they got to where they are.

The infested, on the other hand, I have sorted out through in game means that they were a weapon that the Corpus were testing on and of course they got out. There were some in game mentions that the infested lived long ago but were thought to have been defeated – eliminated, but these mentions and findings in missions are often during periods of hectic fighting and survival and I don’t always absorb all the information fully.

The Codex: Good AND Bad

Big points for having a Codex in game. Big negatives for not having story elements in baseline. All the questions I have about the Story Clarity in my previous paragraph should be solved through the Codex. It still might be. There is a lot of base information available immediately – all the weapons and Warframes – but the things in the world have to be scanned by you.

You can buy a limited charged scanner from the marketplace for in game dollars (and cheaply) but this isn’t explicitly instructed and I had to sort that out on my own. Add to that, how difficult it is to scan in game (you can’t be interrupted, and its hard to be in a non-combat state) so things are not fleshed out. In 2 of 20 possible scans of a single Grineer Fronteir Lancer (They have more than a dozen Grineer enemy types that I have seen so far – maybe far more) I get little information. I want background info, not stats. 18 more scans to find out!

In the first bit of P2WL (Pay to Win – Lore) I saw in the Codex for companions that instead of my companion that steals shields and loots for me, there is one that automatically scans codex entries. You have to pay real money for it (sadly) or find the Prime blueprints (very rare) via in game activities. I have luckily found 1 of 4 components for that particular companion but also have 1 of 4 components for a dozen other items too. It’s not looking good from a lore / story Codex particulars. And I think when you are trying to build context in a world and game that this part should be especially accessible. I am hoping the story becomes more clear and obvious as I unlock new planets – long time readers here know how much I appreciate stories in games. I have really trashed Destiny 2 for this, but that was because they doubled down on a terrible story/premise. I liked it better when there was benefit of the doubt, of which, the story of Warframe still has.

From a pure game perspective it is incredibly fun to navigate through a map, shoot bad guys, find items, and complete objectives – all the while leveling up your items and frames, customizing skills and abilities, and exploring new planets. All items that I will discuss in future articles.

W(TF)arframe

When googling “games like Destiny” one game pops up frequently. I google that phrase quite a bit as I hope and fantasize about another gaming company building a game like Destiny but addressing the shortfalls and applying a bit more effort. The game that pops up frequently is Warframe. Warframe is a free to play third person loot-shooter. It is very different from Destiny in terms of the third person part, and that from what I understand the missions have a tileset, random map function to keep things interesting. Their tagline is also “Ninjas play free”. I am not a Ninja but still was able to play free! When googling and reading about Warframe I kept coming back to one, consistent thought.

“What the F*ck?”

So of course, to all the better answer that, I logged in.

I think the best way to describe Warframe from a Destiny 1 or 2 perspective is that it would be just like it if you only played using your super ability the whole time. It actually works okay (although I wish there was a first person mode). The story is very confusing at first. You are awoken as a “Tenno” by a bad dude (VOR) who is trying to use you for his / his team’s power, of uniting the universe under a single rule. Some emperor or Queen.  The Lotus is a person/group that wants to free you to do what you do best – going against tyranny and oppressive rule. Or something like that. The introductory mission does a good job of teaching you your abilities, and the focus the game has on movement, but not so good and explaining the bigger lore and story of the universe.

The art style is very unique, futuristic and interesting. After the first mission I googled the Warframe story and what I did find was that it is actually reviewed as pretty good, and spoiler warnings were that the story style of the game is meant to be confusing – you were just awoken, and as you play through the game things will be explained to you more. I didn’t read past the spoilers since I am a big sucker for a good story and will explore it in game. I ran three or four missions and it acts as a tutorial of sorts. The fighting is slick, the weapon options are varied, and I’m sorting things out. Although, to be honest, I am still very much confused at this early stage but definitely intrigued enough to keep going. Free to play, after all.

The game makes you make three choices early on. First is your base Warframe – the name of the game. There are three options and it explains each a bit in game which I will let you discover for yourself. I chose Volt, pictured above, which has a caster like electric shock ability. Through out the first mission you also have to choose a melee weapon (Bo staff or Sword, I chose Bo staff) a secondary weapon (throwing knives or pistol, I chose pistol) and a main weapon (bow and arrow or machine gun, I chose the bow). When you finish the first  mission you get your own space ship, which is your base. I like having a cool home base. Of course the various parts aren’t working or are missing so the next few missions you are upgrading core components. The first is the module to upgrade and outfit your gear. The second is the galactic marketplace. I didn’t spend much time at either. Each of these core component discoveries continues the tutorial aspect of what you can do and how you can do it, while also keeping an underlying story going (Vor attached some things to us, that we can’t get off, that gives him access to our mind a bit.. so assuming we have to sort out how to free ourselves from that at some point.)

Then, I find the holy grail in my ship. A Codex. The Codex has a listing of all the available Warframes as well as details about factions, the universe, weapons (Etc.). I spent an hour exploring and reading here. Delicious background information.

There are a TON of frames. How to get them I have no clue yet and I don;t even know what they are – suits I go in? Am I a person?  These things have not yet been revealed to me and I am playing and learning in this game with a lot of enthusiastic confusion.  The Codex, however, has mission recaps (the first picture in this post was from that) and tons of information. Most exciting for me was that there are stories sprinkled throughout. Check out the Codex on the Mag Prime Warframe that I aptly nicknamed “The Geth”:

Warframe Archive – Debrief excerpt

We sat strapped in, safeties off, waiting for the punch. Waiting for death. Through my filthy porthole I saw stars among the outlines of the other Splinter ships queuing for the Solar Rail. It would soon grip us with an incomprehensible power and cast us through the void into the mouth of our enemy.

I watched the ships one-by-one bending and gone. Each crammed with zero-tech soldiers sucking stale air, white knuckling their percussion rifles. Each filled with a desperation that comes from extinction. Our ship would be the last to cross the gap. Our ship had special cargo.

It was essentially empty. Just ten men, like me, strapped in with the best zero-tech suits and weapons the empire could build… and “it”. “It” stood in the aisle, a slender and eyeless metal form. A Tenno inside its Warframe. Vaguely human, vaguely feminine. Was this armor or some ornate carapace for the monster that lived inside? I strained against the harness as the ship yawed for final approach. I could see the Tenno standing there freely. Solemn and gold-gleaming, oblivious to the inertial force.

I had been, until then, a Tenno denier. They were ghosts, propaganda, twisted casualties of the void era. Not possibly real. Yet here it was in the flesh. The Empire, in their desperation, was going to turn the demons loose and hope for the best. Who did we fear more, the enemy or this monster? We had our safeties off, could we trust it? Then it didn’t matter anymore. The punch came – and our windows became blinding. When we could see again our ship was somewhere else, shattered and dead in an instant.

My lungs were flattened, eyes full of death. Ship debris glittered like a night snow. The alien blue star was dark and blinding beyond us. The countless articulating worm-ships of our enemy, ringed in glowing discs, undulating and heat-bursting the surviving soldiers like me. This is where I died. I was in R-disc, sweeping over my right and setting my blood on fire. My vision flattened, the hearing muffled and buzzed. I could feel the side of my face going slack and wet.

I was in a dying dream. I saw a bright spot blurring and weaving toward me. I felt a tug toward it from the metal clasps on my suit. It reached me, rising up – a gleaming beast, a plume of golden wings rising and unfolding behind it. An angel. It snatched me from my death. I could feel my lungs fill as it wrapped me in its wings. Its Void Shield shimmered blue, strained under the enemy beams. I felt a suddenly tug of acceleration. I closed my eyes and held on it like a child.

I awoke on the floor, the sting of crisping flesh on my face and side. It was standing over me, the wings gone. I heard the cracking of weapons echoing down the corridor. Maybe the mission would be saved, but I was dying and so I waved my hand to send it away. I felt a pistol thrust in my hand as I was heaved to my feet. The angel had saved me, pulled me from hell, but it would not pity me. I was to die on my feet, by its side. I turned my good side toward the gunfire and raised the gun. It nodded, its outstretched metal hand surging and pulsing in ancient shapes as blue shimmered around me. It turned, drawing its blade and together we surged headlong into the hailstorm of death and fire that awaited us.

Ok. Still very confused, but also very hooked, lined, and sinker-ed. I do find it interesting that the suits themselves have male/female forms and I am assuming at some point I will be able to jump in between them as I want.

What is Warframe? So far it is fun and I have barely scratched the surface. Whether or not it has staying power for me as a standalone game, or Destiny 2 replacement, remains to be seen. Definitely worth exploring more. The game has been around since 2013, has a ton of contents and updates (all free), and has a huge new open world expansion dropping very soon. I’ll report more back as I play and hopefully there is a lot of war-splaining to come during that exploration.