Free to Play (F2P) – a term that is ambigous as no other. Similar to other games like “Blacklight Retribution”, the small development studio Digital Extremes is currently advertising their Ninja-Action-Shooter “Warframe” with a witty slogan “Ninja’s play free”. But is it really free? Does the game even motivate in the long run? And what exactly is not “free” about this game?
What it is all about
Warframe is a game best to be described as “3rd-Person Shooter involving Ninjas”. The gameplay is fast-paced and solely based on playing single or coop missions with up to four other players. You play as one of the eponymous “Warframes”, a heavily armored battle suit that sports various abilities which loosely resemble the ninjas from ages past. But since the game is heavily sci-fi oriented the action resembles more that of a loud Mass Effect battle than the old art of silent assassination. That also goes for your abilities: the usage and outcome of various special powers (each frame has 4 of them) is closer to a japanese anime than anything else.Most of the time you run into the battle guns blazing – and that is nothing bad: Most frames have a very distinct feel to them and feature a specific playstyle: Stealh, Tankyness, pure DPS or even spellcaster? Warframe has something for everyone, and all frames feel pretty powerful and useful in some regard.
Let me shoot em’
The game is not just centered about the frames with their individual design and feel. The gunplay itself is also very VERY well done, sporting various weapons to chose from which all can be heavily modified by using the game-inherent modding system – think of card-slots with various elemental and other effects. All guns feel very distinct in gameplay and design and can be leveled up to a maximum of level 30 simply by killing enemies, each level unlocking a further point to fill with mods. By gathering credits, resources and mods from random drops you will slowly but steadily aquire new guns, frames and other apparel, further modding them all towards your needs.
Fluid combat in general is the key factor and also one of the biggest treats of this game. It’s just genuinely fun to slide around (think of games like Vanquish) while murdering tons of enemies from one of three factions: the heavily armored military-structured “Grineer”, the highly advanced “Corpus” and finally the “Infested”, an hive-minded alien race that basically consists of distorted other races. All of these enemies have certain strenghts and weaknesses that can be overcome with special weaponry and frame-abilites. In the later game you also learn about a certain faction called “Orokin”, but that is something better left unspoiled at this point. The gameplay itself is fast paced and features small missions, each being between 5-20 min in lenght. The map where you select your missions is basically our known solar system. You slowly but steadily unlock new planets, each with its special mission type. There are plenty to chose from, starting from simple “clean everything” missions to escorts, defense, assassinations and bossfights. All missions sport a certain level-range which keeps the learning curve within bearable limits. If you don’t feel comfortable with higher levels you can simply chose to repeat any mission you like, as often as you want. Special alerts pop up every now and then, featuring rewards like rare mods, blueprints (for weapons and warframe parts) as well as some extra credits. If you keep your eyes open you can aquire most of the game’s content by simply doing those alerts.
Altough you can completely play Warframe on your own, the general game is clearly designed to play with up to 4 people simultaneously. The game is purely designed for Co-Op VS AI with the sole exception of dueling within your clan (think: guild) dojo. This is a necessity since the frame roles are balanced for PVE only, making a fair PVP balance Since the first few hours in the game can be rather slow-paced and tedious it it always helpful to have some random people (or clan friends) along to play with. That said i highly recommend playing this game with friends only, as the general structure of (most) F2P games often is designed about some grindy mechanic. Warframe is really good in that regard, as the mechanics in general are very rewarding and the progress is clearly visible. Eventually you will go into missions with 4 fully equipped frames and wreak havoc among tons of enemies, greatly enjoying yourself. And altough that process IS really repetitive, it always makes you come back for more after some hours, just to get that other mod or extra resource to unlock another frame.
Pass me that eye-candy, please!
In terms of visuals this game is impressive! I have yet to see another F2P title that sports AAA-grafics and fluid gameplay mechanics for absolutely no cost involved. The developers do monthly feedback video sessions where they show the process of creating this game, constantly improving upon the visuals, sounds and gameplay while closely involving the community. The art direction in warframe is best to be described as “self-concious”, as most ingame names and designs are very well-crafted and detailed. Especially when you reach the higher missions and “Orokin void” levels you will experience jaw-dropping visuals that run very fluent even on mid-sized PCs such as mine.
So should you try Warframe? Yes! Try it! It’s free! But be aware that this game is still BETA and therefore subject to constant change. The DEVs constantly alter the game mechanics, with huge monthly patches bringing in a lot of new content. Your experience may vary due to all those changes, but for the most parts, all of the ideas being implemented have been for the better. There is very little that forces you to buy things for actual money. In my case, helping the small team of programmers out with a few bucks has been the biggest motivation – you get a lot in return. Those people play and like their own game, and that’s something that really shows.
How to get started (awesome YT series by AKAMIKEB):