With games being few and far between at the minute on PS4, it’s a bold and refreshing move to see another free to play game taking up the proverbial slack and filling in the gaps with what could be a solid entry into the third person, coop shooter genre. Suit up, it’s time for Digital Extremes, Warframe.
You play as the ancient warrior race of Tenno, cryogenically awakened to find themselves in an all out war with three other factions, the Grineer, Corpus and the Infected. After being awakened by the mysterious, yet hopefully, helpful Lotus, and completing the notoriously vague tutorial, it’s time to don a Warframe. Whilst your choice of three is not especially important, it is worth noting that you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in it before acquiring another. You also come gratuitously equipped with each of your weapon slots filled, a primary, a secondary and a melee weapon, each are of the most basic available, but they’ll get the job done for now.
Getting your hands on some of the more advanced weapons either requires spending precious resources for the weapons outright, or hunting, scavenging and getting ruddy lucky to find their blueprints out in the wild. If purchased for premium currency, you will be able to immediately take control of the weapon, if you find the blueprint (or buy it using non-premium currency) then you’ll have to take a trip to the foundry. Acting as a factory, it let’s you build your discovered recipes, for a price. To complete each blueprint requires specific, often rare, materials that must be farmed as well as a hefty (non premium) fee and 12 hours to complete.
In fact, it’s a long time before you acquire anything at all. Pushing past the first few hours can feel futile and frustrating at times, but sticking with it can pay it’s own rewards. The first few missions ease you in gently with objectives that are simple to perform, even on your own, yet soon step up in difficulty to a point where either playing stealthily or in a party is a must for success. Fortunately, Warframe supports coop play for up to four people, with each mission showing a counter of how many people are currently playing. The default settings allow automatic joining with other people in a lobby (thankfully, up to a user determined ping limit), letting you team up against the relentless horde, matchmaking will also allow mid game joining so it’s not the end of the world if you bite off more than you can chew in a solo game, someone might come and help.
Gunplay is similar in style to the Mass Effect franchise with it’s classic over the shoulder shooting along with the obligatory powers as accompaniments. Each of the 17 individual Warframes have their own powers, health and armour values, movement speed and appearance. On top of that, a myriad of weapons can drastically alter your play style. The primary slot can be filled with anything from assault rifles, shotguns and snipers, whereas your trusty secondary is a pistol of various potential forms. The melee slot, at first, didn’t seem all to important as my damage was nicely low enough that I could easily get overwhelmed by the most basic of enemies, whereas team mates were slicing and dicing at pace. It was not until this point I had noticed in the fray of limbs and relentless action that they were equipped with different Warframes, vastly more suited to tanking damage.
Fortunately, everything you equip can also level up, simply by using it, or by being near a homicidal squadmate who’s dealing out some kills. Levelling up your equipment is hugely beneficial, not only do you deal more damage, but also open up more slots in the respective Warframe/weapon to equip modifiers. Items have their number of slots available determined by their corresponding level, basically, the higher the better. Modifications have different values and can range from anything from a higher fire rate to more puncture damage. These would be enough on their own, yet if you own more than one of the same, instead of selling it for a paltry return, you can combine them for a more powerful result. For example, if I had two mods each granting an extra 40% health at a cost of 3 slots each, I could combine them to create one mod which grants 80% extra health at a cost of 4 slots. This can be repeated, but you will need more mods to combine, the higher the level. Not always easy when they are a random loot drop!
Another, possibly greater benefit of levelling your guns and armour is to level up your affinity, this incredibly slow moving bar only moves when you level some of your equipment up, meaning that if your equipment is maxed out (level 30) then you essentially won’t be getting any more experience to your main level. Although being a great incentive to try out new weapons and Warframes, the game does not make this obvious in any way. In fact it seems to go out of it’s way to make you Google the required information on pretty much everything.
With all of the different types of game mode to play and nearly 300 missions to partake in, level design could have gotten stale rather quickly if not for the procedurally generated nature of the missions. Each planet, of our solar system, houses around seven or more missions, each with their own visual style and faction. The first planet houses dark, dank corridors with no sunlight or outdoor areas, whereas later planets offer glorious snowy vistas, with huge scope for exploration. Generally traversing the maps themselves are a joy, you can sprint, roll, slide, wall jump, and dive through the air whilst spraying an assault rifle pretending to be from any 90’s action film of your choice if it’ll help get you to the next waypoint, or maybe just because it’s fun!
All in all, there’s no limit of things to say about Warframe, it is an incredibly content rich game and once you get past the first few hours and see the light at the end of the corridor, it starts to open up. Cross platform play with the PC has been hinted at in the future, along with more content too, almost ensuring a long life cycle on the PS4. Pretty much everything can be gotten for free if you’re not only willing to put in the time and effort, but to also embrace the grind.
Reviewed on PS4, also available on PC.