I Wandered into Warframe
PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch (soon)
I have never had much luck in finding free-to-play games on consoles that appeal to me. In my mind, they usually fall into two categories. The first is the overly confusing title with a high skill level requirement and an unwelcoming community and the second is the initially fun title that kills my enthusiasm when I hit the paywall after 2 hours. So when I installed Warframe I didn’t have high hopes. In fact, I had tried Warframe previously, way back when it first came to PS4 and I found it both confusing and daunting. But I had heard good things around the traps, saying it had improved greatly and it wasn’t so much of a challenge to get into anymore. So with some scepticism, I downloaded the game onto my Xbox, fully prepared to uninstall again after a few hours. Well, I can say I am now 15 hours in and have no intention of getting out of the game anytime soon.
What I found was very different from the game I first tried years ago. I was greeted with a welcoming introduction, that obviously took some cues from games like Destiny. It guided me through the setup, helping me choose my class, weapons and skills in a natural and appealing manner. It also taught me the skills essential to playing and let me loose into a series of missions that told a small (if somewhat forgettable) story designed to reinforce those early lessons and get me ready for the serious bounty of content on offer. The opening missions showed me a third person shared world shooter with a surprising amount of depth in the mechanics and got me past the brick wall that used to greet players when it first hit consoles.
I am so glad this change was made to the game because I am having a blast. It taps into those same feelings that Destiny did, with group activities and solo questing both equally valid ways to play. The game appears to scale nicely too, so the enemy count is vastly increased when four people are teamed up as opposed to someone kicking about by themselves. In fact, I would say it caters to this sort of gameplay much better than Destiny did, keeping things challenging and engaging no matter how many people were teamed up. Not an insignificant achievement in my eyes.
Where things start getting a little bit daunting is at the 6-hour mark or so. The game really opens up and it becomes apparent just how much there is to do in the game. None of it is gated behind a paywall either which is nice. From what I have seen players can pretty much do everything in-game with their starting loadout as long as they use the mod system in a smart way (and get a little luck in regards to what drops from dead enemies). New weapons, pets, companions and even Warframes (the name of the suit the playable character is wearing) can be created using a foundry, but this is quite the process with components, blueprints and long wait times all factoring in. You can skip this with premium currency, it is a free-to-play game after all, but it is nice that there is still a way through without spending real-world money.
At about the 10-hour mark, I really began to find my grove, mixing up match-made missions, bounty hunting in an open world area and progressing story missions. I found I could happily dip into the game for a quick 30-minute blast or a multiple hour extended stay. Considering I was getting so much enjoyment I felt it was only fair that I gave the developers a little bit of my hard earned to say thanks for the good times. I purchased the starter pack for about $25 dollars and as a result got some premium currency, a couple of in-game items and a desire to go even further into the game. With this sudden boost to my in-game bank account, I lashed out, bought a couple of new weapons and a weird floating sidekick that packs a sniper rifle all of which only further reveal how much there is to see and do in Warframe. If you are a compulsive completionist you might want to avoid this one, you would be at it for a very long time.
The other great thing about Warframe is that I have been playing with my eldest son. No need for my house to buy two copies means that we can both dive in a go questing around the solar system together. As anyone who is in the same position would tell you, playing with your kids is worth the price of the download alone. We go off, do some wave missions, bag each other out, hunt down loot as a pack. These father/son moments cannot be valued, they are simply priceless.
All of this doesn’t hide the fact that Warframe has some problems. There is still some areas of the game that seem convoluted and bolted-on. Earning anything without buying can be a bit of a slog and there is a little lack of variety in the enemy types but none of this has halted my enjoyment. This is a game I went in expecting to be down on, a game I thought I had almost no chance of enjoying. Yet here I am typing away and all I can think of is diving back in for another round. I am sure there will come a point where I can happily walk away and say “I’m done” but I feel like, right now, I am a long way from that point. Please folks, give Warframe a go. After all, the price is right and it may just surprise you.