Over the past few months I’ve slowly been reentering the world of PC gaming, thanks to the new gaming computer I bought to replace the depressingly out-of-date laptop that was given to me back in high school. One of the games that has always piqued my interest was the free-to-play shooter Warframe. At the time I had only seen a few screenshots and brief gameplay videos, but the prospect of an acrobatic, almost Devil May Cry-esque online shooter seemed too good for me to pass up.
On the surface, Warframe is pretty much exactly what I thought it would be: a co-op third-person shooter where you can do flips and crazy acrobatics, and everyone looks like the enemies from Dark Sector. The more I played, however, the more I started to realize the hidden complexities to the recipe. You start off with your choice of one out of three characters (or warframes): Excalibur, a balanced close-range fighter, Mag, a sort of spellcaster-type with magnetic abilities, and my personal favorite: Loki, a fast-yet-weak warframe with a focus on tricks like turning invisible or creating clones. With your starter warframe you’re also given a beginner’s pistol, submachine gun and katana that will all soon become vastly underpowered as you progress into later missions.
New weapons and warframes can be purchased with ingame currency or with Platinum, which can be earned by paying with real-people money. There does seem to be a slight bias towards the cash shop, as earning enough credits to purchase a new weapon can take awhile, and purchasing a new warframe requires you to instead find three blueprints, gain enough resources to complete the blueprints, and then purchase a fourth blueprint to combine the three or four warframe parts together. Its a drawn-out, frustrating process, but it makes finally building that new warframe, or purchasing a new weapon feel like you’ve really accomplished something, since each of the weapons and warframes are so different from one another, you aren’t just building something you will replace in another day or so; you’re creating a new way to play the game.
This is one of my favorite things about warframe: there are so many different ways to play the game. Loki – my favorite of the bunch – is the fastest warframe, but he lacks in defensive capabilities and is the only warframe whose four abilities do no direct damage. Instead, I use his abilities in combination with a shotgun to get up close as quickly as possible, and make a whole bunch of heads explode. A friend of mine likes to use Nyx – a warframe that specializes in mind control – along with a bow to pick off enemies from a distance, and confuse any others into shooting the wrong people. With these warframes and weapons you’ll also find Mods: enhancements that add anything from extra damage and shields to freezing bullets or a loot radar. These mods are handled in a sort of trading card format: more unique mods are given a higher rarity, and you can purchase booster packs in the cash shop. While the ability to trade mods with other players is sadly absent, it is still another interesting way to fine-tune your loadout.
Once you have your warframe and weapons set up, you can start tackling missions. Missions take maybe 20 minutes tops, and the objectives range from simple extermination to rescuing hostages, or even a horde mode style wave defense. While you will, unfortunately, be seeing mostly the same level design and layouts, the missions are quick enough and the rewards ample enough that it never really bothered me.
I’m really enjoying Warframe. The different weapons, warframes, and mods allow for players to really find a gameplay style that they enjoy, and playing with friends is a lot of fun. Warframe is still currently in open beta, and I’m really excited to see what each new update brings. It really seems like a project that is well-loved by the developers, and I highly recommend giving it a try. The slight emphasis on cash shop purchases and the overall weakness of the starting weapons can be a little discouraging to new players, but the feeling of finally putting together a loadout that you enjoy is something really special.