We first learned of Warframe back in June of this year. Warframe is a free-to-play cooperative shooter by Digital Extremes. Warframe is currently in closed beta, but anyone can get in either by signing up, or paying to become a “founder.” Regardless of how you get in, you’re in for real treat. Like the headline says, Warframe reminds me of a much more customizable version of Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer mode.
Naturally, Waframe has a story, but it’s a bit thin at the moment. You’re playing as a race called the Tenno. The Tenno are a displaced people thanks to an ancient war. They’ve emerged to fight the Grineer across different planets in the solar system. The term Warframe refers to the exoskeleton suits the Tenno wear in combat. They essentially turn the Tenno into something of a cybernetic ninja (complete with sword) similar to Raiden or Gray Fox from Metal Gear Solid. Warframes can be upgraded, built and customized. Warframes also have different special abilities. Think of every Warframe as a different combat class.
An Army of Exoskeletons
For example, one of the first Warframes you can have access to is called Excalibur. Excalibur is recommended for new players as they learn the ropes. Excalibur is an effective melee and ranged class. When you dig a little deeper, there are advanced Warframes such as Loki that relies on trickery such as decoys and invisibility to get the upper hand. Are you more into crowd control? There’s a Warframe called Ember that uses fire to dispatch crowds.
Let’s talk about the mission structure. You can choose to do everything solo, open your games to the public, or allocate three spaces just for friends. The missions you go on all have different objectives. Again, if you’re a fan of Mass Effect 3, you’ll feel at home here. Some missions will call for assassinating a specific enemy, stealing an artifact, defeating every enemy on the stage or destroying a vital component. After completing the objective, you have to make your way to an evacuation point where you’ll escape in a small space craft.
Honing Your Skills
You’re going to run into computer-controlled bad guys eventually, so it’s a great idea to have your arsenal ready to go. You start off with an assault rifle and a pistol, but you can also purchase more weapons using the credits you earn in the game. Should you choose to stick with a particular kind of weapon, you’ll level it up the more you use it. Leveling up provides points that you can allocate on a skill tree. The upgrades include things such as increased base damage, puncture damage, fire rate and slots for weapon mods.
The gunplay isn’t different from any other third-person shooter you’ve played before with the exception of a lack of a cover system. You’re still able to jump, climb and roll to avoid gunfire. The individual skills of each Warframe also influence how you plan your movements. Players who like to go stealth won’t jump into the middle of a crowd of Grineer, but Excalibur can jump into a group, blind everyone with a special skill and let Ember inflict damage to everyone when they’re dazed.
Cost To Play
Warframe is free-to-play, so it’ll needs to delicately balance what paid players have access to. Since this isn’t a PVP game, Digital Extremes doesn’t have to worry about one person paying $100 to become seriously overpowered to the detriment of other players. However, it still has to make natural progression in Warframe worth doing. In my experience, I’ve seen some guns that are XP locked. That means they can’t be purchased or used until your Warframe gains a certain level of experience points. That’s a good thing. The items that are available to purchase can be paid for with credits or a premium currency called platinum. Some Warframes can only be purchased with platinum. For example, Ember costs 225 platinum. Based on the current system, you’ll have to pay around $20 to afford him. I think that’s too expensive for a single character, but nothing is final in this closed beta. You can also build your own Warframe by buying blueprints with credits and finding the right components. Fortunately, I haven’t been able to spot any in-game transactions that will seriously hinder the free player’s experience.
I have a really good feeling about Warframe. It’s approachable to anyone who likes shooters with RPG elements. It doesn’t have the intimidating component of PVP battles that a lot of free-to-play games have, and it looks pretty darn good graphically. Sign up for the beta and try it.