Sometimes you just stumble upon a game and it latches onto you. That was not the case for me when it came to Warframe. My introduction to this game actually came from watching a friend play while they were streaming. When I first saw his character dashing across the map, spinning and twisting around enemies doing some super Hardcore Parkour, I did not know what to think. Part of me thought it looked like an action-packed blitzkrieg. The other part thought that the game looked like a generic, soulless ninjarific game. After finally paying all of $0 for this game, it’s safe to say I was wrong about it being soulless. Warframe has taken me by surprise with its fluid motion, run and gun play style, and beautiful world. However this game is not without faults. So here my thoughts on Warframe.
Presentation in Warframe
The only way to describe Warframe is pretty. Well, there are actually many different ways to describe it, but pretty is the word that keeps coming up when I try to describe it. The characters that inhabit this world, or rather these worlds are diverse and creative. The game’s first antagonists, Vor, is strikingly evil-looking but also believably structured. The way he looks tells a story beyond simple narration or exposition. The character you play as, the Tenno, looks slick and badass while still maintaining a blank slate. As you progress through the game you can get some new skins for your character that are slicker than melted butter on ice. (So that’s pretty slick.)
As for the levels in the game it’s a bit more of a mixed bag. The levels in Warframe mostly take place in the solar system, but all have a very futuristic aesthetic. The biggest issue with this is that the levels tend to blend into themselves. The levels have a very generic look to them at times. Certain levels can be down breathtaking, but many have the same generic and futuristic feeling to them, especially when indoors. My favorite level had to be one of the Earth levels where you are in a blizzard breaking into a Himalayan facility. The blustering snow and characters camouflage make every moment outside tense. When the characters design mix with the levels well is when the game’s design is at its best.
Overall the game is pretty enough and does have its moments where it’s able to leave me with my jaw wide open. However, the imaginative spark that is in the character designs don’t always pan out the same way when it comes to the levels.
The presentation of the game is very good in some areas and okay in others.
Gameplay in Warframe
The gameplay for Warframe is probably where the game’s biggest strengths and weaknesses are. This third person shooter gives an infinite amount of bang for your buck. But a lot of that is because you don’t have to pay anything to play the game. The gameplay is foundationally solid. The characters all move with a kind of flowing grace that is juxtaposed by how brutal your character can be. Whether it’s pinning some stupid grunt by the throat with an arrow, smashing them to pieces with a Bo Staff, or just slicing them open: Warframe is action packed.
Every level has you frantically running, jumping, slicing, and shooting the entire time. The game is also smart in how it requires you to slow down and take in your surroundings. If you tip off any of the guards you’re going to wind up with an endless stream of enemies coming at you. So slowing down and picking your spots will help you out in the long run. Of course, once you complete the mission, you can just zip by your enemies and get to your ship as fast as possible. But there is loot everywhere in these levels that can help you build better weapons, armor, mods, and more.
The multiplayer in this game is where it shines brightest. And also where it’s dimmer than a broken light bulb. When you’re playing with your friends and communicating effectively, the game is an exciting cavalcade of carnage. But more times than not, my time playing with randoms wound up being a confusing trek all around the maps. Teammates would set off alarms, steal loot, and detract from the game in almost every conceivable way. Of course that’s with the randoms and not with friends or people you can effectively communicate. This could have been only with my experience with the game, but it is reflective of an issue about the gameplay.
Some of these levels are clearly built for more than one person at a time. But these levels require the multiple players to actually play together. When played alone, there is a deflated feeling as you progress, like it’s more of a chore. It’s all well and good for a multiplayer game to focus on multiplayer. But when a game is almost unplayable in single player (or at the very least, much less enjoyable) the game loses something. Warframe isn’t the only multiplayer focused game to have these criticisms. Other shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield are frequently criticized for shallow single player experiences.
Additionally, many missions began to blend together the more I played. The gameplay began to feel stale as I progressed. I have been told by people with more play time than myself that the game really starts to pick up once you start to become an advanced player. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to have to eat 6 slices of bread to get to the peanut butter in my sandwhich. The gameplay is fine, but it needs more variety in the early stages, otherwise players will be turned off.
There’s clearly a lot of love put into this game, but the same issues from the presentation standpoint are in the game play. There are moments where my jaw is down to the floor, but the mission structure and copy-paste feeling for several missions leaves a sour taste after playing for a while.
Warframe as Free to Play
Free to play games are a very tricky subsets of the video game industry. The rise of microtransactions has made more possible for games to be initially free. Games like League of Legends and Dota 2 don’t cost anything up front. But then you get into skins, characters, weapons, and other content might be behind a paywall. Games where only the best abilities or extremely important content being locked behind a paywall are the much maligned pay-to-win games. How does Warframe fair in this department?
Warframe is not pay-to-win. However, Warframe does suffer from what I call grind-to-win. Outside of some exclusive skins in a few items, anybody can still get the best of the best without spending a dime. However, it requires a ridiculous amount of grinding to get these items. You can purchase the blueprints using in-game currency, and then find the required materials. Some of these materials are extremely scarce and require several playthroughs of the same level to attain them.
Some games, like Diablo have grinding as a central mechanic of the game. You can tell that it’s there for gameplay reasons. With Warframe it feels different. Because you can just whip out your wallet and get straight to the good stuff, it feels like grinding for the upgrades is a punishment for not paying for them. Rather than being one of the central mechanics to the game.
Other games like the NBA 2K series, FIFA Ultimate Team, and a plethora of mobile games have all been accused of pay-to-win. Letting people pay to quickly upgrade their characters or teams. The problem with this is that some of these games already cost upwards of $60! With games like Warframe it’s much more forgivable to have this pay-to-not-grind system. At the end of the day they do need to make money on this game. Personally I would prefer to just pay for the game and not have this mechanic, but it seems that loot boxes and microtransactions are here to stay.
Warframe as a whole is a good time. The game suffers from many issues that play games nowadays. So levels can feel same-ish, and the mission structures could use more variety. As a whole this game is a ton of fun, if flawed. You really can’t beat a game like this for its price tag, and there’s no harm in trying it yourself since it’s free! If you’re into a single player focused game I don’t think this is the game for you. But if you’re into games where you can hop in with your friends and cause plenty of mayhem it’s a great time. So definitely give this game a look if you can afford a $0 price tag.