Over the past couple of years Warframe has randomly popped in and out of my periphery several times. I knew the name, I knew the space-ninja element, but I had no clue what it really was.
As fortune would have it Danny O’Dwyer of NoClip recently published a documentary on the game, and how it was made, by developer Digital Extremes.
It’s always been on my “to try” list, but I had no real idea what it is. Having watched both parts of the documentary, seeing how important it is to the studio, and having spoken to the boys in VasDown that have played it. Now is as good a time as any to get stuck in!
What is it?
Now, there’s a question!
I’m about 10 hours in, and I’ve been having a blast with “Mag” Warframe. Slicing and shooting my way through hoardes of enemies, achieving missions and learning the ropes.
You are a Tenno, which is an alien race, and more importantly, you are a “Warframe”, which as far as I can tell, is a conduit for the Tenno to use their abilities and create great warriors. So, you’re awoken, you pick your Warframe (each has different abilities), and then you’re off.
Straight into the action, and straight into a story.
Style and substance
I often (wrongly) attribute “free to play” to mobile phone games. The term conjures up more imagery of Candy Crush and Angry Birds, than it does a full 3D Third-Person shooter, with a campaign, with multiplayer (both co-op and competitive).
It turns out, that these free games can be “proper” games……
You start in this really good looking world, with a full set of levels and missions. Free-roam areas, hub areas. It’s all there. Think Destiny but with a story and no full-game price to pay up-front.
Better still, it feels excellent. Sure, I’m late to the party and it’s been improved upon massively, but man is this a solid game. Mechanically speaking, you traverse areas with ease (I imagine once I get good, there may even be some grace?). sliding, jumping, wall-running. The fluidity here is excellent. Honestly, sliding on your knees to swipe your sword, then jumping out of the way, to turn around and aim your bow mid-air, finishing your target-off, holy shit!
It’s worth mentioning that the camera works really nicely, and your control of it is excellent. Third-person with acrobatics isn’t exactly a dream to level designers when it comes to having full visibility, and it just works here. I’ve never really suffered any visual issues because of the camera, which is impressive. This game is free…….
A full, good looking, great sounding third-person shooter, with no entry fee? What?!
What’s the catch?
Ok, you have what must be a billion combinations to customise your Warframe and your weapons. Is it necessary? Absolutely not.
So far as I can tell, the only means to spend money comes via visual cosmetics. There are a lot of ways to buy new things. Colour pallettes, skins, special packs of limited edition suits and helmets. All of these require “platinum” which is a premium currency that costs real money.
Warframe is free, it only costs if you want to buy currency for cosmetic improvements and there’s no being held back behind a paywall? Outstanding.
You know what? Because it isn’t trying to exploit players and only let them play so far before they have to spend cash etc, I’m far more inclined to pay a little here and there to support the studio. Particularly after seeing how cool everyone is at the studio in the NoClip documentary.
Simply put, there’s not really any catch.
You get a great game, a shared-world shooter with all the hallmarks of a fun and excellent experience, for no cost.
At this stage, I feel like this comes across as some kind of paid-for ad. I wish! Ninja Refinery has never made a penny, and literally only costs me money.
The truth is, I’m really surprised at the quality of Warframe, and I’m a little gutted I’ve left it this long to give it a go. Looking for a Destiny replacement for us all to play has been tough, but it feels like this delivers that experience, albeit very differently.
I haven’t played co-op yet, but I’m really enjoying just hitting missions one after another, solo. All being well someone else will join in soon, and I can really see if it hits those same notes that Destiny 2 just seemed to miss.
Comparing it to Destiny feels a little lazy, and it feels a little inaccurate, but, it’s the only way I can really draw any parallels to anything. I’ve never played MMO’s and this feels more like a triple-A third-person game than anything else.
As it stands, I’m eyeing Warframe up as the next VasDown title we can all play and work together on. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know. There’s a lot to learn and understand, and I’m not really sure how to sell it to the others. I guess we’ll see.
Until then, I’m not done having fun on my own, and it’s kind of knocked my pile of shame back to the side…….But it didn’t cost me anything, so that’s ok, right?