Gameplay - 7
Presentation - 6
Lifespan - 5
Freeness - 6
Warframe needs time to be polished up. For now it is an entertaining game with a bright looking future.
Do games need a story to be fun? You might say co-op based online gaming is the cat’s pajamas. If cats wore pajamas that is. Or if these games didn’t sacrifice so much depth in order to fit cats with human garments. The important thing is that there is a right way to do co-operative online gaming. Warframe may have taken a bit of a wrong turn on its way there.
Digital Extremes has designed a game that is initially very engaging. With an endless supply of bad guys and and plenty of ways to dispatch them, Warframe does not fail to impress this gamer. It’s the critic in me that, while this game is still being updated, can’t help but to be disappointed by some of the finer points, and the shortcomings of the third person shooter.
Warframe performs on a level that is both obscenely entertaining and technically frustrating. Combat in this game keeps me teetering on the edge of my seat during the messier engagements. It handles in a delightfully fluid fashion that allows for a satisfying amount of violence to be done without the hassle of clunky, hard to use controls.
While it’s true I spend half of combat sliding around on my knees shooting an automatic rifle, Tenno are the masters of motion, and there are some cool ways to move around the map. You can run on and attack from walls – or any vertical surface for that matter – and run up walls to climb suitable obstacles. Unfortunately, the game’s environments are so excruciatingly shallow and barren, and the parkour mechanics are limited to a handful of maneuvers. Essentially the ability to navigate complex environments is opposed by the simplicity of the environments themselves.
What’s the point of being a space ninja, when the situation calls for a space marine?
Significantly more mundane is the inclusion of samurai super powers. Though to be fair, the abilities offered aren’t exclusively founded on swordplay, as each warframe has a handful of special abilities unique unto themselves. These abilities range from swordplay, to psychic manipulation, to all of elemental mayhem. To supplement these are a plethora of mods that upgrade your weapons or warframe with increases in damage, decreased reload times, and upgrades in shield capacity, with more exotic and powerful mods being more rare.
Perhaps the only commendable thing about the maps in this game is the fact that they are generated procedurally. You can replay a mission and the map will change its layout to keep it somewhat fresh. This of course adds value to a game like this, but there really isn’t anything else about the maps that can be complimented.
I can’t possibly discuss this game without bringing up the wildly irritating technical difficulties I have had with it. On one hand the game runs very well. The graphics are in no way lacking and it runs smoothly with only the messiest situations causing frame rate drops below 50. The other hand had to be surgically removed in order to be rid of what it carries.
It’s not unreasonable to liken this problem to a serious, physical disease.
Warframe is like a Red Bull addict. It’s always crashing. It is beyond infuriating to be at the end of a mission and have the game crash just before I can reap the fruits of my labor. It seems a large number of players have suffered the same issues since a previous update, but despite the skull shattering headache these crashes have given me, Warframe runs very smoothly at a visually satisfying level.
Finally, Warframe can be played online, or by yourself, and there are conclaves where you can test your skill against other players. Most of the missions are difficult to do alone, but they can be done.
The level of inconsistency in the general presentation of this game leaves me with a mild headache, and a certain degree of confusion. It can’t be argued that Warframe sits among the best looking free games out right now in terms of visual quality. In fact my very first thoughts had to have been: “Wow this is gorgeous. Did I accidentally pay money for this?” and “This Tenno guy looks like he belongs in Dark Sector”. On the other hand, the environments are somewhat empty and forgettable. There are a handful of doodads to be sliced, opened, or shot at for ammo and credits, but the maps serve little purpose other than as a means to transport the player from one noisy shootout to the next.
The menu offers a neat way to navigate the various missions throughout the solar system. Everything is accessible from here, and the interface is organized in a reasonable fashion.
I find myself somewhat dissapointed by the general lack of context provided for the story in the game. The lack of depth in the environments lends its hand to the apparent absence of plot. There are tidbits of back-story to be found in the codex on the menu, but I can’t help but to be unsatisfied with so little narrative in what could undoubtedly be an engaging experience.
The solar system is a big place. So huge in fact, I’m sure it would be impossible to conquer all at once. The enormous volume of missions to be done throughout the system reflects the daunting size of this task. There is no shortage of activity to be had throughout the course of Warframe. Each task can be accomplished by yourself or online, or you can even try your hand at Warframe‘s PvP set up. The downside is this: while there are a lot of missions and a lot to be done, there just isn’t enough variety to make it all meaningful.
Warframe uses a pretty standard system of credits and premium currency. Credits can be acquired through doing missions and taking out bad guys. The secondary currency is platinum. Platinum can be purchased and used for weapons, mods, and new warframes. It seems much of the available gear needs to be purchased with platinum, but some can be bought with credits. To supplement this is a crafting system through which you can grind for supplies to make new items, but you need the schematics which you also need to grind for, or buy from the store.
My Final Thoughts
Warframe is an example of the inherent flaws of multiplayer exclusive games. It’s still in open beta, but without a more prominent narrative, all the shooting and killing inevitably loses its value after the 100th gore filled spaceship shootout. This game excels at being sinfully entertaining with its great looking graphics and easy to use mechanics. But Warframe is only half way there. With a little polish and a lot more depth, Warframe could be something worth paying for.