I have a love/hate relationship with the “Free to Play” scheme. For the most part, it’s either “pay to win” or “oh, I’m sorry, did you want to use the left mouse button? that’ll be $7.99 extra.”. But Warframe brings a much needed change to that model to the table. This is one of the few true Free to Play games I have seen in a while… and it’s actually REALLY GOOD!!!
So what is Warframe? Well, it’s a bit Haloish in it’s lore “evil aliens attack our solar system, let’s all work together and kill them off!” kind of spacey scifi shooter deal. But what’s different is that this game is, right now, purely PvE. Working together in an online game? Unheard of! Well, shooters anyways. But in Warframe, your objective is to level up, unlock missions, and collect gubbins to build new equipment. All really good times!
Now, I mentioned it was free and well, it sure enough is! There really isn’t anything other than some customization items that you ever need to spend real money on. Everything weapon/equipment-wise will drop in game or can be crafted by the player, so it’s just a matter of “spend money to have it now” or “play longer and earn it myself”. And we’re not talking 6 months of grinding. I put in about 30hrs to have a new warframe (what they call classes; you build them!) and 3 new weapons.
What I would recommend spending money on is to expand your available warframe and weapon slots. You get 2 for warframes and 8 for weapons. Not bad to start and they give you some player money to use, which can give you an extra 2 class slots. And for $5 you can easily get 7 more weapon slots.
Gameplay / Control
Controls are amazingly fluid. They are responsive and seem pretty natural. You may want to remap some keys because there’s some jump/slide/attack/sprint combos and juggling the “E, W, Space, Shift, and Ctrl” keys gets a bit cramp-worthy; but you get used to it. I’m sure there will probably be controller functionality later, but the keyboard is fine.
Gameplay is… Ok, let me preface by saying this is still in open beta with plans to soft-launch. You unlock planets to go to then unlock about a dozen missions for each. To farm materials for weapons/warframes, you will need to run the same mission multiple times (darn RNGs!). That being said, all levels are procedurally generated, meaning the same mission will never look or feel the same each time. The map will always change. This really helps to keep things fresh.
My only gripe is that a lot of it looks the same, regardless of the planet or faction you are fighting. However, not to worry… beta remember? So there will be new “tile sets” giving each location more variety in the future.
Replayability / Interest
This isn’t even an issue right now! This game is so addictive, you’ll be playing the heck out of it before you know! Like I said with the procedurally generated maps, things stay fresh and since it is still in heavy development, every month or so we get a new patch with new gear and new classes. So it’s definitely going to keep you busy for a while.
To make new gear will force you to farm a bit, but since leveling up lets you add more “mods” or upgrades to your current gear, it definitely doesn’t feel like a forced grind.
I do have concerns about the “end game”. I have yet to get to that point and explore the tougher levels, but from the looks of it, it seems that there is a bit of a missing end to this quest. So after a while, it might have some repetitiveness to it. However, this is after all, a shooting game. So if you don’t get bored with stuff like Halo or CoD, then it shouldn’t have a problem. But since it has strong “RPG” elements to its core leveling architecture, I would say giving a clear endgame objective, like exclusive hard raid content, would give this game a much longer shelf life.
It’s hard to pin “innovation” on shooters. At its core, you have a classic “over the shoulder mmo shooter co-op game”. However, they skin this with a very unique weapon/equipment upgrade system akin to the RPGs. Also, the whole lore is kind of interesting… ok, not the “kill dem aliens” thing, but the whole biosuit idea is kind of fun. Also also! I really like how the levels are randomly generated. That makes boss grinding much more palatable, though if you get stuck (especially in earlier incarnations of the beta), there’s not always a clear indication of where to go next (aka, there are no lvl maps you can google).
The style is pretty gritty and scifi. I rather like it a lot, though (as stated before) it is beta and the tile sets get reused quite a bit. Once this has some more development time, I can imagine the levels never feeling the same at all. But it’s an intensive process, so I would just give it some extra time to mature before writing the game off if you are hung up on that sort of thing. Honestly, I don’t mind it much.
I will say, like my comic for this, some of the warframe suits are bit wonky looking… Like a big boobed alien with a toaster head. That said, the frames all feel epic and are a lot of fun to play. You have some minor customizations, mostly with the color pallets; though some of the color choices are unlocked with real money.
Uncanny Valley Factor
Since we’re going sci-fi for this, there’s very few instances of the UV factor being applicable. Granted the frames are humanoid, they are different enough to not trigger the effect. That said, some times you get a real bad UV vibe with the character animations and some of the more human-like creatures. For instance, some of the bosses have a real ugly humanish face/build. They don’t express very well which is basically instant Uncanny Valley. Hide that with a helmet and problem solved. However, I have noticed the character animations are a bit off; in particular, the boss intros. You will notice this but when you enter the boss room, the General Whatevers (they all look the same) motions for you come “come get him” and does a little pose. Well, this whole thing lasts a few seconds too long. As in, you feel like he’s about to look at his watch, tap his foot, make a pot of coffee… It might be a filler (I hope), but they need to really look at fixing this. With the face and movements, the UV bomb drops like nuke into a dynamite factory.
Other than that, there’s very little issue.
Get it now! It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s addicting. Unless you don’t like co-op shooters, there’s no reason not to play this. >D
Also, look for me “Salty Bill” if you’re on.
Comics About This Game!