Playing Warframe in the year of our Steve 2017 is quite the experience.
The game began its life as a mediocre third-person free-to-play shooter on the PlayStation Whichever and was promptly forgotten. But the developers continued to work on it. And update it. And work on it. They poured magical potions in it or something. They spun it into gold. And more people gave it a second chance, or tried it for the first time, and what they found was madness.
It’s madness that you can play right now. It’s free online. Go try it. Remember Vanquish? Warframe is now the Vanquish MMO. I don’t know how it happened either. It’s baffling. An also-ran from back in the day is now one of the most relentlessly entertaining games available on the entire market. People talk about it like it’s Fight Club; it’s the worst-kept secret in gaming. And it’s ridiculous.
This damned thing has almost 150k reviews on Steam, and it’s rated “very positive.” The reviews are uniformly amazing.
We ran this story about how Warframe had things to teach Destiny 2, and I was skeptical of the premise. But Warframe didn’t just figure out how to solve Destiny 2’s end game problems, it somehow became a game that everyone loves and is made entirely of end-game content. The game itself begins after you’ve played for around a bajillion hours. Things become cinematic. This is not a joke. Don’t worry, you’re going to love the journey to get there.
To begin to play Warframe is to become comfortable with being overwhelmed. The game has about 800 systems, and it is very careful about explaining exactly none of them to you. A good friend of mine tried to walk me through the modding system and I blacked out 50 minutes into the conversation. He admitted you just kind of had to play until you understood what was going on.
And what’s going on is some of the best minute-to-minute play in video games. Not in shooters, not for a free-to-play game, but in all of video games. You can get a bow and arrow, or a machine gun. You can rush down a hallway, skid on your knees while firing at the enemies around you, jump through the air like a bullet and continue firing on the way down. You want to try a new weapon? You’re going to need to build it, and you’re going to need materials spread across any number of planets, but the game treats farming like stock brokers in the 1980s treated doing coke. Sure, it’s expected of you ... but it sure is fun!
The game doesn’t avoid grinding, because the entire game is a grind. There is lore, sure, but the point is the grind. And the grind is amazing. It’s like being a quality control worker at the Skittles factory. Sure, you’re doing the same thing over and over, but what a thing to have to repeat. Each item can only be upgraded to level 30, and then you can either continue to make your gear more powerful using cards that can also be upgraded — using Endo, sipping on gin and juice — or buy a new blueprint and create a new weapon and level that up and use more cards. You don’t have to wait for drops, because the only thing that drops are materials and cards. It’s up to you to decide what you want to craft. If variety is the spice of life, than Warframe turns every player into Muad’Dib.
You want guns? Get some. You want swords? Get some. You want a bow and arrow? You got it. You want characters that look like H.R. Giger had a rough night at Taco Bell? You are in for a treat.
The game is free, but you can play the entire thing without paying a dime if that’s what you’re into. The game offers you so much without asking for a dime, and is so smart about what you can and can’t purchase with real money, that it begins to feel selfish to not throw them a few bucks here and there. The amount of value and fun you can take from the game without giving anything in return feels almost criminal.
This isn’t meant to be an in-depth guide about what the game does well, which is everything, and what is does poorly, which is not being on the Switch, but it’s an appeal to the two people in the world who apparently aren’t playing this thing to give it another chance. It has quietly become one of the best and most stylish shooters on the market, building a huge fan base by adding feature after feature and learning from the community.
I urge you to give it another try if you’re skeptical, but I’m almost sorry about the addictions I’m about to cause. My only rationalization is that I am one of you, and I will welcome you as a friend on the field of battle.