Note: At the time of this Preview, Warframe is in Closed Beta so there may be several improvements made since the time this article was posted.
On the second day of my road trip, my family and I drove from Denver to Cheyenne. On the way there, I looked out the window and saw how serene the hills were. Four days and 500 hills later, I had grown sick and tired of the landscape . On our way back to Denver from Salt Lake City, the landscape looked exactly like what I saw on the way to Cheyenne. Like the hills in Colorado, it’s easy to admire the aesthetics of Warframe, but it becomes so repetitive that it loses my attention.
I love Warframe’s sci-fi setting. You play as part of ancient race known as Tenno. The Tenno fought in a war a long time ago which left some of them to be frozen in cryostasis. At the time of Warframe, the Tenno have been awakened and are told to fight the Grineer and the Corpus. The Grineer seem to be a human faction that have expanded into the Solar System. You’re never really given a reason in-game to be fighting them, but on the official site it says they have “An ideology of hate and discrimination towards the Tenno.” Backstory aside, it’s an interesting faction to fight against because their army is made up of cloned humans. The Corpus seem to be a merchant faction that has their own robot army with a few humans mixed in. Supposedly, their goal is to recover artifacts for profit. In the game, the Tenno are sent to go on different missions to fight against the Grineer or the Corpus on different ships. What draws me into Warframe is the potential of how deep the universe could be, but the game doesn’t do a good job at showing the backstories of the factions at the moment.
The style of the weapons the Tenno use is really interesting. They’re sleek and colorful, not like the usual gun-metal black that people are used to seeing in most third-person action games. Despite this, Warframe doesn’t seem to differ from most games in terms of mechanics. The melee combat is lacking mainly because it’s too simple. There’s no way to block incoming attacks, but that doesn’t make much of a difference as the AI doesn’t attack in melee often. That being said, the guns in Warframe are much more effective than using melee attacks. The problem comes from the fact that guns are as plain as the melee combat. It’s a pretty basic system; I can zoom in, fire the weapon and reload it. There’s nothing spectacular about the gun-play other than the sheer aesthetic of the weapons.
What’s even more disappointing is the way the maps generate randomly. Because each mission takes place on a different ship, it make sense that these ships should have some variance. After a couple hours of playing, I realized that maps generate in sections. These different rooms would then be pieced together to form a new map. It’s a good idea, but it needs more work. I remember seeing the same room three times in a row in separate missions. Either all the ships in the game are made by the same manufacturer or there aren’t enough sections to make maps completely different. It did not help that all the maps seemed to take place on “different” ships with the same furniture. It’s probably because I was fighting the same faction for the most part, but I was pretty tired of seeing the same military ship environment.
It’s pretty common for free-to-play games to have some form of progression and Warframe does pretty well in that department. All of the equipment the player uses has an ability unlock tree. Equipment like the warframes, which are classes, can gain points to spend on the unlock tree through its usage. These points can then be used to gain health boosts, shield boosts, and many other other things that will help in combat. What I really like about this is it makes the default equipment useful as it tends not to be in other games. Typically, in free-to-play games, the first weapon you get is the worst weapon you’ll ever use. However, the default rifle (MK 1 Braton) that I’ve managed to get to level 14 is usually preferable to a weapon (Latron) I spent my life savings on that is level 5. The MK 1 Braton shoots a lot faster, does more damage per second, and has a higher ammo capacity than my Latron. Although the MK 1 Braton has better stats, it doesn’t make the Latron useless as it is a semi-automatic battle rifle compared to the MK 1 Braton which is an automatic assault rifle. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money for a weapon when the one they give you is good enough.
It’s not often that I see a free-to-play game that doesn’t force the player to spend massive amounts of time for in-game items. Within an hour or two, I had enough credits to buy pretty much any weapon I wanted. Earning those credits was fairly simple and quick enough to let me take a risk and choose something I might like. If I felt that I made a mistake in my purchase, it wasn’t a big deal because I could just spend another hour or so trying to gain some more credits to get a different weapon. In some other free-to-play games, I would spend that same hour getting just enough points to keep my weapon for another day. In Warframe, the weapons are permanent so I was pretty relieved when I saw all of the things that I had bought were still there the next day. Micro Transactions aren’t exactly a big deal in Warframe because almost everything can be earned through credits, the in-game currency. However there are some items that can only be bought with platinum, Warframe’s paid currency. Fear not, for free players can still obtain these items through blueprints which can either be bought with credits or found while playing missions.
Warframe is a solid third-person action game with some really awesome sci-fi environments, but it doesn’t use it’s setting create interesting gameplay. In the game’s current state, the action feels very generic. The melee combat is pretty basic, with no way to block incoming attacks. In terms of gun mechanics, Warframe isn’t all that great when all you can do is zoom, fire and reload. The game puts you in some pretty cool environments at first, but lose its effect after seeing the same rooms over and over again. On the plus side, the game gives very little to no advantage to having platinum. Of course, all of these things are subject change as Warframe is still in Closed Beta Testing. Warframe is definitely worth a try, especially since it will be free-to-play.