Review #055: Warframe (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Frank W.
Developer: Digital Extremes, Panic Button
Publisher: Digital Extremes
Category: Action, RPG, Third Person Shooter, Online multiplayer, Free to play
Release Date: 11.20.18
Download Warframe from the Nintendo eShop here.
Warframe and I Go Way Back…
I have a long history with this game. I first tried it shortly after it came out on PS4 in late March 2013. It was fun. It had space ninjas! You can never go wrong with Space Ninjas. The game does something not many do; its gameplay is fun enough that it can carry itself just about anywhere. The fluid movements married to the various weapons you can use, mixed with the flashy powers of the titular Warframe—the bio-suit you wear—put a smile on my face on many occasions. There's just something about the way they jump out of a slide, spiraling forward through the tightest spaces of the enemy warships, throwing ninja stars from mid-air, landing and pulling out a sword made of light to shoot slashes of light through the air and dicing up aliens into their various bits.
The game just felt great! But, it felt almost directionless, as this was before the opening sections of the game had been changed up—and lord does this game change! Digital Extremes are some of the best developers in the industry without a doubt. I’ve never seen developers LISTEN to the community like they do! They hear what we say and take that into consideration with all of their actions. This game is unlike anything I've ever played before. When I was listing genre categories for this review, I almost considered including all of the space combat, heavy stealth missions, the AMAZING story, the fighting mini-game, the Flappy Bird-style game, and the old school arcade game. Or maybe the open world segments as well, including the current apple of us console players’ eyes, Fortuna, but I will get into all of that soon enough. For now, we continue with my story of Warframe.
I Had No Idea What Was Going On…
I enjoyed playing right off the bat, but I was not understanding the progression system, nor was I able to figure out what to do with the mod system, which is the main system that determines how strong you can get. I couldn’t have told you what each damage type did on a status proc, nor could I tell you what a status proc was. I didn’t know what stages to play to get farther, and I couldn't figure out where to get new Warframe parts. I felt very defeated. I would pop on occasionally to play a couple of missions flipping through the air because it was just so fun, but eventually I just stopped logging on.
Two or so years later, with a heavy marketing push to celebrate either melee 2.0 or parkour 2.0 update—I honestly forget which one it was—I gave it another try! The mod system was now a bit more clear on how to level things up, the progression felt more purposeful, and I found myself getting into the game again. The community had grown by this point, as well. I joined a clan, made friends, and learned where to get the things I wanted. I was enjoying myself so much that I spent probably $20 on some of the special in-game currency, Platinum—which is obtainable without paying money as well mind you—because I felt that Digital Extremes deserved to get some money!
I could really feel how much they had improved this game by the time I came back to it. It's nice when you don't feel forced or strongly encouraged to spend real money, and instead find yourself doing it just to give thanks to the developers! I’ve played a lot of free-to-play games in my time, and I think Warframe and Vindictus are probably the only games where I’ve ever felt like that.
I was enjoying my time completing quests and doing the different missions. I would get new frames as well, which would essentially create an entirely new character class to explore. This was during a very busy time in my life, however, and there were a lot of things coming out rapidly, so at some point, Warframe fell off of my radar once again. I felt like a boyfriend breaking up with his girlfriend. “It’s not you, it's me!”
Third Time Is a Charm
Years pass, and I start to hear inklings of Warframe’s progress from friends and on message boards, but I never picked it back up. That is, until maybe 8 months ago, when I found myself once again DEEP in the rabbit hole of Warframe, now sitting around 500 hours played.
The game I downloaded again on a whim because I enjoyed it in the past felt like a completely different game now, in terms of progression and explaining itself. The mod system was COMPLETELY reworked and felt 200% better, the mission progression was completely redone, and various goals were added to help move you in the right direction. They had staff in the chat answering questions on where to find some parts, and the combat and movement was further refined. There were new pets, an open-world area, MASSIVE endgame bosses, and something that is SO good that the community, in unspoken agreement, would not spoil or talk openly about—something that I’ve never seen before with a gaming community! Like, it is that good!
It's also a huge reason for why I’m so invested in this game now. I will just say that it is story related, and I never thought I would genuinely be so into a free-to-play MMO’s story, but man! This game has had me openly gasping at it since 40 hours in, and it is never quite the same afterward. So yeah, this game has me right by the balls currently, and I can’t put it down. I play it every day. I buy brand new $60 games, and then proceed to come home and do my daily missions on Warframe first. It's that awesome—and now I am going to actually get into why!
The Warframe Story
It's the far far far far far future. All of the planets are now colonized, society has risen, fallen, risen, and fallen again at this point. One of the ruling forces of the galaxy is the Grineer, the misshapen cloned soldiers made for war, ruled over by the mysterious twin queens. Mostly unintelligent and preprogrammed for the short life they will live, the Grineer take what they see as theirs with an iron fist. Then you have the Corpus, a money worshiping cult that is an amalgamation of various groups, united in the pursuit of money and their own gain. The Corpus will gladly kill to put themselves in a better position to gain, and you will often run into that. There is also an ancient infection gradually gaining ground, after thousands of years lying dormant, that is sure to cause some issues.
The game opens with a Grineer general, General Vor, venturing back from The Void, which is essentially a spot in space that is affected by wild space-magic stuff, and is generally considered to be bad news if you decide to try and get into one of the wrecked starships left by a civilization long-dead. He has discovered a portal key to bring him to what he seeks. An ancient weapon, designed by the ancient race of the Orokin, the Warframe, is inhabited by the player, the Tenno.
Your Warframe is forced from its rest, but you hear a voice from deep in space call out to you. The Lotus has awoken you in an attempt to save you. The Tenno are few, but powerful, able to cut swathes through entire armies on their own; and in a team, they can destabilize entire warships effortlessly. The Lotus cannot lose another of your kind, but you do not get out scot-free. Before you were able to control your body and escape, Vor installed a crude Grineer device on you. It is now up to you to regain complete control of your Warframe and fulfill the destiny the Tenno were meant to meet.
What Are You Packing?
You have a bunch of options for equipment, and I’ll break it down a little bit here. You have your primary weapon slot, which is going to be anything two-handed and includes all kinds of things. When I say all kinds of things, I mean it! My current arsenal includes assault rifles, shotguns with 20 round and a rotating chamber, snipers that are either a rail gun or a revolver styler sniper, flamethrowers, radiation flamethrowers with alt-fire grenade launchers, a bow that shoots 5 arrows, and countless other crazy weapons. There is seriously a HUGE variety, and you can make nearly anything in the game endgame-viable with the right mods and a good riven mod. Riven mods are super powerful special mods that are each unlocked by completing challenges. The strength of the mod is dependent on how popular the weapon itself is, which gives some punch to lesser-used weapons. It is an awesome system, and rivens are for all weapon slots!
Next is your secondary slot, which is generally reserved for single-handed weapons, or akimbo-style (Dual wield) weapons. Again, this is home to a collection of a TON of crazy weapons that can be as strong as your main weapons as well. I like using a complimentary damage type to my main weapon, since you generally know what you are going to be up against!
After that, you have your Melee weapon, which can be quickly swung even while you are using other weapons; but if you actually switch to it, the real fun begins! With your melee weapon out, your stance mod will take effect, if you have one, and you can actually use awesome and unique combos! From Bo staffs, to electric nunchucks, infected glaives that you can throw to bounce between enemies, huge two-handed swords and hammers, dual swords that can turn into a Darth Maul-esque weapon, and everything in between, the running theme is VARIETY! Each weapon type has all kinds of possibilities for different combos and attack strings, and with the upcoming Melee 3.0 update, it's going to get even better, with air combos and real heavy attacks, rather than holding the attack button mid-combo! Digital Extremes is always improving and innovating the game’s core mechanics, and at this point, it's only getting more polished as time goes on. You also have a companion slot that is filled by either a mechanical sentinel, a dog like Kubrow, or a cat like Kavat. Each of these have their own series of mods and different attributes, so you can experiment TONS!
What Is a Warframe?
All of these weapons are wielded by the Warframe, huge biomechanical suits of ass kicking. Each of these frames are essentially their own MMO “class” with their own passive abilities, as well as abilities they can actively use in combat by using energy. Each frame has its own stats for health, shields, armor, and other things like movement speed, but what really hammers it home for how unique they are is their powers. Each Warframe has a passive buff and 4 abilities that really define them.
Excalibur, the poster boy with his quick dashes and swords of light; Ember, who brings massive balls of flame; the quick shooting Mesa, who can essentially use the ultimate ability of Soldier 76 from Overwatch whenever she wants; Saryn, who spreads disease all along the enemies; Titania, who turns into a butterfly of death and flies around the battlefield; Valkyr, who goes berserk and is impervious to damage, ripping apart armies with her claws; and Revenant, the one I most recently got, with his ability to dance around blasting lasers all around him, eradicating the enemies.
This is a very small sample size, there are 10’s and 10’s and 10’s of Warframes, each giving you a unique gameplay experience. I can’t talk about it, but just believe me when I tell you that there is EVEN more than this, just…. Play. You will know what I am talking about when you get there. just know that it's so worth it!
Leveling and Farming
One of Warframe’s main systems that is used to unlock more content for you is your mastery rank. No, sadly you can’t come out of the first mission and start using 200-round assault rifles from an ancient dead race that shoots bouncing bladed rounds (with a 75% crit rate too! Ooof!), but you can as you take your mastery rank exams, which are unlocked by leveling up weapons, frames, and other equipment. Each piece of equipment in the game can level up to 30, and then its considered max rank and won’t give you any more experience towards your mastery rank, so the game encourages you to experiment and try new things. Of course, you can always reset weapons with a forma to add a polarity to its mod slots—but more on that later!
As your mastery rank goes up, you will have access to higher initial mod points before your items level up, higher max daily reputation gains, as well as a few other things, but most importantly, more weapons! You build the various items in your foundry from blueprints that require a various amount of resources to make. You spend the resources, and it starts building. Most items are 24 hours, and frames are 3 days. You can use platinum to outright buy some weapons and frames, or to speed up the production cycle for an item in your foundry. The prime weapons and items generally have to be farmed out, however, you can’t outright buy completed prime stuff aside when it first comes out. So, essentially, as you are completing other activities in the game, you are helping to gain resources you will inevitably need in order to make other weapons. More often than not, once I get a blueprint, I already have the required resources to make an item without farming, and if I don’t, it just requires a few runs to get some argon crystals or a couple of excavation runs.
I would say that this game, at its heart, is a looter, kind of like Diablo. You will be taking in tons of different items at all times, but once you get what is going on, it makes tons of sense. At first, there will be a lot of items where you have to double-check what it does, but it becomes second nature as time goes on.
And Then There Were Mods…
All of the aforementioned equipment can be equipped with mods individually to increase the various attributes. You have many categories of mods, so you will be collecting some for primaries, some for secondaries, some for just shotgun-style things, some for snipers, or some for just Warframe powers! There are augment mods that will affect one of your Warframe powers in a profound way, and aura mods that give a benefit to the whole party! Some mods are part of sets that offer bonuses for using multiple mods from the set; the possibilities are truly endless! You can tailor your entire load out to match the way you want to play, or you can try to min-max, the choice is yours; and if you're a good player, you can make most anything viable! You have to use endo to level up mods to make them stronger, at the expense of them taking up more of your mod capacity.
All of the mods have a polarity they are associated with, so if you put them in a slot with a matching polarity, it will take half the capacity that it normally would. In order to really power up your equipment, you will use a forma on a level 30 weapon to reset it to level 1, but you can add or edit a polarity to its mod slots, letting you equip more powerful mods at once, and you can do this multiple times in order to build it however you would like.
In terms of mission types, you have the stealth-based spy missions, where you figure out how to clear the stealth segments using stealth and your powers, combined with your huge amount of mobility. These missions are a lot of fun, and I usually solo them so I can enjoy all of the segments myself, instead of rushing through it. You have your missions that revolve around killing enemies, like extraction, capture or survival; or missions where you defend objectives like defense, mobile defense, excavation, or rescue. You also have assassination missions, which are generally reserved for the boss of each planet, as well as infestation, where you have to eradicate something that is generating the infection. These are the most basic of mission types, but don’t forget the Plains of Eidolon, which is an awesome open-world segment that has HOURS and HOURS of content on its own. In addition, a second open-world area is being released soon, called Fortuna!
What do you do when you have Space Ninjas that can take down entire armies, but suddenly, there's a massive, weaponized, unmanned space station coming to destroy one of the public player relays? Well, you pull out your ancient technology jetpacks, put them on said space ninjas, and, since you’re in zero-g now, why not give them some absolutely massive weapons they wouldn't be able to lift normally? So, in addition to the high-octane on-foot action, sometimes you take to the skies, space, or water, using your archwings for a totally unique and separate gameplay experience with its own equipment mods and levels! Digital Extremes seriously delivers an insanely unique gameplay experience with this game that is not to be missed!
Does It Switch Well?
Now I wanted to talk a bit about how this game performs on the Switch! I have to say, this has to be one of the most technologically impressive games on the Switch by a good margin. The game looks GREAT! It even looks awesome in the handheld mode as well. Warframe demands a lot of finger dexterity to place at its highest levels, so I experienced some cramping using the Joy-Cons attached in handheld mode, but it performed amazingly with a pro controller. I experienced no issues with any of the modes, no matter how many visual effects were going on. I was very impressed by the performance on the Switch version of this game. Panic Button and Digital Extremes crammed in so much that there wasn't even room for video recording in the game, but that sounds like a good trade off to me! Being able to go from playing Warframe in the living room, to lying in bed to finish my mission was awesome to behold.
All in all, Warframe is worthy of your time, and if you love it, don’t shy away from grabbing some platinum and supporting Digital Extremes and Panic Buttons. These studios deserve every penny of it! There will be some grinding, there's no avoiding that. And still, after all of the additions, you will be spending some time in the wiki in order to really understand the game if you are going to get into it. I think what really kept me playing this time, aside from all the improvements to the game, was truly understanding how to utilize the mod system and starting to truly feel strong in the game, combined with the story going from very light to OH MY GOD WHAT I'M SO INVESTED! It really just kept me logging in more and more, and discovering all of the crazy weapons and combinations you can find. It's just a blast to play the whole time, and that really carries it.
I think every Switch owner should give this game a try, put some hours into it, and if you get confused, consult the wiki—you will thank me! It's a MASSIVE game, so it’s a lot to take in. I really don’t think there is a good way to introduce EVERY concept in this game, so do your due diligence, Tenno, and I’ll see you in The Void in no time! For me, Warframe has evolved into something amazing and truly unique over the years. It's a game I will talk about for years, and if I ever stop playing it every single day like I am now, I’m sure I will continue to come back with any big updates.
I am happy to say, Warframe is going to get my first 10/10. For me, a 10/10 game is a game that doesn’t end when you put the controller down. This game has me always brainstorming awesome builds, or trying something different or crazy. I talk about it to friends all the time, and I’m always showing it off. It's a game that has infected my life a bit, and I’m a little obsessed. This game is amazing, and it's my favorite free-to-play game of all time by a wide margin. It is truly deserving of your time. Thank you Digital Extremes for being some of the coolest developers out there! On that note, I’ll end a review that turned out to be a bit more of a monster than intended. See you in The Void, Tenno!
Final Score: 10/10
Download Warframe from the Nintendo eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided By Outrageous PR