Slash, Dash, and Cash: Warframe First Impressions

Jun 12, 2013 1 Comment by

Having soft-launched into open beta, Warframe garnered minor attention among the gaming press, but evaded the major headlines since the first beta began. Though it’s still in active development, Warframe’s an interesting specimen of a free to play game without a focus on competitive multiplayer. After spending some time with it, it’s clear it holds promise, but it doesn’t come without its own issues.

Warframe’s a hybrid between third-person shooters and Diablo-esque dungeon crawlers. With an emphasis on acrobatic action, your techno-ninja of choice runs with up to three other players through arctic planets and abandoned spaceships. Depending on your class of choice – your warframe – you’ll carve through robots, alien marines and space zombies with an assortment of swords, rifles, and special powers. Its parkour system is the heart of the game’s blazing pace; running across walls, backflipping, sliding, and rolling all flow seamlessly with the combat. When it works, it works marvelously. The game constantly tries to hit a certain level of edgy that makes the player feel like an unmitigated badass. After all, your character is essentially a robot ninja – take that as you will. Every technique is designed to be spectacular in its own way, and it makes shredding through a room of bipedal turrets great fun. The graphical and sound design is fantastic, accentuating every ground pound, headshot, and execution with the shrill clangs of steel on steel and .

For all its violence and acrobatics, Warframe can’t help but undermine itself every now and then.  Take the bo staff. As one of the few melee weapons in the game that’s not a blade of some sort, enemies, appropriately, don’t split in half upon death. Instead, they fly against walls with the weight of a teddy bear. The aforementioned alien marines, called the Grineer, sound like stereotypical sci-fi grunts with comically inappropriate lines. When the last Grineer in the room shouts “I think we’ve got him surrounded!” you can’t help but chuckle. Many of the boss battles are essentially bullet sponges with more powerful guns than normal. When faced against Tyl Regor, Grineer swordsman, the fight boiled down to running circles around him while I kept him stun-locked with my sword. Despite how hard the game tries to be cool, it just gets laughable, but that’s part of its charm – the contrast between gritty, brisk combat and goofy, B-movie elements gives the game a surprising levity that grants it a good amount of leeway for some of its bigger disappointments.  runframe Within a couple hours, some of Warframe’s charms wear off. The levels are procedurally generated by connecting pieces, much like Diablo or Torchlight. At first, it makes for great replayability, but it starts to wear thin as each level becomes more and more familiar. The small things start to become more abrasive as well: Lotus, your pig-nosed supervisor, is constantly chiming in to remind you of the enemies on the level. She’ll incessantly bump in on combat to say, “Enemy units detected. It’s the Grineer,” all dictated with the energy of a loaf of bread. She’s effectively just saying, “Hey, there are enemies in this level.” Like every other level. It’s just frequently enough to be silly but occasional enough that you can still laugh over it. The various level objectives generally boil down to very similar gameplay, with the occasional hostage or defense mission spicing things up.

It’s hard to believe anyone plays Warframe for the scarcely existent narrative – though it’s clear there’s a story behind the Tenno and the Grineer, the game explores the story as much as Super Mario explores class warfare. There’s no progression of narrative, and the few times Lotus tries to encourage you to defeat a boss to stop the Grineer’s whatever, it’s hard to drum up any excitement that extends beyond the fight and its spoils. Normally, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning – many games aren’t about their story – but Warframe keeps bringing it up. If it wants its players to care about its story, it needs to break down the thick wall between it and the gameplay and make them converge in a meaningful fashion. Otherwise, don’t bother saying anything about how killing General Vay Hek for the hundredth time will be a big win for the Tenno. gunframe In addition, the free-to-play structure is a little out of whack. It’s not pay-to-win, thankfully – just about everything can be gotten without paying a cent. If you want to use more than a couple classes without selling others, you’ll need to pay, though, and the number of weapons that can be kept at once is similarly limited. So far, not so bad. In terms of what’s a serious issue, the problem is twofold. First, the prices. Warframe uses its own special in-game currency, called Platinum. For five dollars, you can get 75 Platinum. For ten dollars, you can get 170 Platinum, and for thirty, you can get 570 Platinum. The prices feel frankly unrealistic given what little you actually get. You can customize your warframe’s colors to a certain extent with the default 18 colors. You can spend 75 Platinum – five dollars – to fill out the palette with 72 more colors, which are just lighter and darker shades of the default hues. You can spend another 75 Platinum to get another 90 shades of colors, more saturated than the last. If you’re not interested in cosmetics, you can also spend money to buy weapons. Most weapons go for 225 Platinum – a little under fifteen dollars – and most warframes cost between 225 and 375 Platinum – twenty-five dollars at the highest.

Full games are sold for less than these prices. Buying the Rhino warframe costs about the same as buying Hotline Miami and Super Meat Boy on Steam.

The second issue is how often spending Platinum is brought up. There are two ways to make a new weapon: either buy it with Platinum or use the in-game currency, credits. However, most higher-tier weapons won’t let you just buy them. First, you have to buy a blueprint with credits. Then, you have to collect all the ingredients to craft the item. So far, not so bad, but take into account the variable difficulty of acquiring the ingredients. Some things only require common resources you amass as you play. Some more important items, especially warframes, require special items that necessitate fighting the same bosses over and over again, hoping for the invisible dice to finally roll in your favor. You can fight the same dull boss battle ten, twenty, thirty times and never have that crucial piece drop. The grind in the game saps the fun faster than anything else. Time is a commodity, and when it comes to free-to-play games, there’s no incentive of investment to make players slog through the grind if they haven’t paid a cent. Once you have all of the prerequisites, you have to wait 12 to 24 hours for the item to craft. It’s an arbitrary restriction that goes from dismissable to insulting when the game prompts you to spend Platinum to rush the crafting. There’s nothing wrong with being able to spend real money to compensate for less game time, but it’s aggravating when the game reminds you at every turn that the menial labor it puts you through could easily be replaced by forking up some cash.

Warframe isn’t a bad game, and its developers are clearly committed to producing a satisfying final product – new content is constantly added, adding in additional features like a early-stage stealth system. It’s got a ways to go on a number of fronts, but that doesn’t detract from the serious potential the game has. If the developers can strike a better balance between how players spend their time and money, Warframe has the potential to go far.

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About the author

Amateur games journalist looking to expand his portfolio. When I'm not writing for Super Combo, I'm editing articles for others or goofing around in Dota 2. If you enjoyed the article, let me know! I always appreciate feedback. You can learn more about me at WillUhl.com.

One Response to “Slash, Dash, and Cash: Warframe First Impressions”

  1. C1de says:

    I don’t know about you guys but after 100 hours into the game I can acquire anything I actually want in the game. And this alert system really keeps you from having to pay for other items since if you’re actually paying attention you can get more things than usual.

    The only thing you would pay money for with 75 platinum is Orokin reactors and cataclysts for high level areas that are still easy to do with a good team and an extra warframe slot.

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