Digital Extremes’ Warframe has evolved so much ever since it first launched in 2013, and if I were to list the amount of things they changed and added since then, we’d be here all day. While it isn’t perfect, few games can match the amount of content and depth that Warframe offers for free.
Over the years, what started out as a typical looter shooter MMO with a basic crafting system and no story whatsoever has since turned into a lore-rich universe with countless hours of content—which can be both a good and bad thing—and a dedicated fanbase that continues to grow with every new update.
Virtually Endless Progression
From hunting Kuva Liches and Eidolons to something as trivial as trying to get a certain component for that one Warframe you wanna build, there’s enough variety to keep you from completely burning out after a couple of hours. Unless you’re spending every waking hour playing the game or have extremely deep pockets, it’s going to take you forever to actually unlock everything by the time the next big update comes out.
Everything you do in the game is essentially some form of grinding, with the main goal of attaining the current maximum Mastery Rank, which, as of writing this, is at 29. There’s not much else to work towards aside from that, so most people tend to create their own “end game” goals, since the game is mostly just an endless cycle of killing and looting, with a bit of fishing and mining on the side.
Unfortunately, while I do love the game, it suffers from having (and continually adding) way too many concepts that are either mediocre or straight up poorly executed.
Aptly dubbed “Wikiframe” by many, Warframe keeps throwing shiny new things at players without actually explaining what they do or how they work, opting instead to let users figure it out on their own through trial and error or encouraging them to look it up or ask other, more experienced players. While holding a player’s hand throughout the entire game isn’t ideal, doing the polar opposite—which the game does—rarely works and only serves to frustrate both newcomers and veterans alike. I know most MMOs tend to be like this as you enter the late game phase, but in the case of Warframe, it just throws you to the wolves right off the bat.
As a returning player (I haven’t played in around 3 years) who just hit MR20, there are still a bunch of things that I either don’t fully understand or can’t be arsed to relearn after taking a significant amount of time off from the game. Whether it’s due to, in my opinion, unfulfilling rewards or just because I’d rather spend my small amount of free time playing rather than reading an entire thesis on how to do something efficiently/properly, I just can’t get into most of what the community refers to as “content islands”.
For example, the game’s open world areas, such as the Plains of Eidolon, never really feel connected to the rest of the game, especially once you’ve stomached the incredibly tight standing caps (I understand why they exist, but I can only imagine how frustrating it can get for some players) and unlocked all you need from them. On days where I have maybe an hour to play the game, I’d be disappointed to learn that it’s currently day in Cetus when I wanted to go on a quick eidolon hunt. Of course, not everyone will feel the same, but not everyone has the luxury of being able to grind whenever they want, and little things like this can give off a negative impression to players who may miss out on some bits of content due to “lore-related” reasons (this is the only example I can think of though, since I’m not really a fan of the open-world instances in general).
Smooth Gameplay, Rough Grind
Fortunately, some of Warframe‘s negative aspects are made bearable by the extremely satisfying movement and combat system. Pretty much any frame can effortlessly zip through most maps, cutting down countless enemies along the way. There is a bit of depth when it comes to damage types and weaknesses, but unless you’re playing endgame content (which is just full of bullet sponges), you can use pretty much anything and still feel like an unstoppable god.
With a broad range of weapons and frames to use, as well as freely interchangeable mods for each, you’ll never run out of loadouts and builds to experiment with. The rough part is actually growing your arsenal, as you’ll need to grind countless resources, blueprints for individual parts, and slots (which you have to buy with platinum, the premium currency).
Unlike most F2P games, Warframe made their premium currency tradable, making it possible for non-paying players to buy items that you can’t earn ingame, which are mostly cosmetic anyway. With the exception of a few event-exclusive stuff, the community-run market also lets you easily buy and sell limited/seasonal items, such as vaulted prime frames and weapons.
Of course, you still need to grind tradable items in order to earn plat from other players, and trust me, it’s easier said than done (with some items selling for literally only one to two plat each). The mere act of getting and opening void relics is already pretty time consuming, and you aren’t even guaranteed to get valuable tradables out of it. This makes sense though, as the market would crash if getting rares was easy. I’m just bringing it up so you don’t get the impression that you can just casually earn hundreds of plat within a few days.
Warframe, despite all of its flaws, is still probably one of the most generous and content-rich F2P games out right now. While I do genuinely enjoy playing it, I can’t really say that I’m a fan of how the devs are pumping out too much content to the point where they keep releasing large updates without addressing some of the community’s issues.
Things like the Kuva Lich system—which I can only describe as a watered down version of Shadow of Mordor/War’s nemesis system—just feel completely isolated from the rest of the game and are a complete drag to go through. Unfortunately, liches also happen to be the only place to get some of the currently top tier weapons and a few really cool cosmetics. This is just one of the many things the devs have seemingly neglected since its release, which is a damn shame because there’s so much potential in it.
With all of that said, if you’re looking for a decent and free timekiller, I can still recommend Warframe as it still provides a better experience than most F2P titles out there. This was mostly a cautionary review, since potential players deserve to know how the devs continue the cycle of neglecting certain problematic aspects of the game while releasing large content updates that will eventually suffer the same fate.