Seeking Warframe & Fortune (Part 4)

One robot ninja's noble journey to see how far they can travel across this great cosmos of ours without spending any money or exerting too much effort.

Part 4: Warframe & Piece

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First off, I want to thank all those in the comments who volunteered their time and resources to boost me over Warframe's notorious early-game wall. From what I can tell (and have been told), there's a point where you need to have access to a sizable number of planets - new ones become available as you continue to progress through the game - to have the breadth of potential farming locations to acquire all the types of resources you'd need to build additional warframes and weapons, and it takes a while to get there. A long while, it turns out.

Certain crafting materials are impossible to come by normally prior to some of the mid- and even late-game planets, and so I think the developer-intended solution barring some major rebalancing is for new players like me to either start jumping into high-level veteran co-op and hover around the back so all the overpowered enemies don't kill you with an errant sneeze, or simply trade with those same players with whatever scraps you might've found - maybe rare mods, because those seem like they'd be hard to come by at any level - for the uncommon materials and blueprints that will elude newcomers until they've made more progress across the starmap. I'm still adamant to go this thing alone: mostly because I'm not a particularly social gamer, but also because I'm curious to see how challenging an entirely solo experience can be. Still, the community of this game has proven to be nothing if not gregarious and magnanimous (or at least that's true of the Giant Bomb clan(s)).

I also want to announce that this will be the end of the weekly Warframe updates, as I'm running out of subject matter for all these "New Development" blurbs. However, I do intend to stick with the game, so I'll be transforming "Seeking Warframe & Fortune" into a monthly feature instead. The plan is to drop the next update around the middle of May and on subsequent months for the foreseeable future. (I just started a different monthly feature that drops at the end of the month, so this'll keep the two separate.) Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be hopping around more planets with lots of different warframes to write about, and have more to say about what the mid-game is like.

New Developments!

More Like Merk-ury

Mercury's kind of a weird destination. For one, the planet is largely Grineer-based (with some notable exceptions, outlined in the next section) which essentially makes all its nodes look like the ones on Earth, excepting the outdoorsy maps. Second, the boss of this area is Captain Vor again, so maybe I didn't kill him hard enough last time. Third, there are no additional planet junctions leading off Mercury: it's a dead end. However, completing Mercury will allow me to visit the Mars Junction back on Earth, and through the red planet the rest of the system awaits.

InfestFest 2019

The sole distinguishing characteristic of Mercury in this stage of the game's progression is that it introduces the Infested faction in earnest. I've already had my run-ins with these creepy, oozy monsters due to void fissure missions - I particularly don't care for the "ancient healers", which like to grapple you across large distances and provide a regen effect to nearby enemies - but we're told a portion of their background via the Mercury-based questline "Once Awake". From what lore we've been given so far, the Infested disappeared along with the "Orokin" (no idea what they are, but they've been mentioned a lot and don't seem to exist any more) many years ago but have since been brought back through the machinations of a Grineer scientist. "Once Awake" ends before the Infested are vanquished for good or the Grineer scientist is brought to justice, so I imagine this particular quest chain will be continued elsewhere.

The Infested represent your typical gross zombie horde enemy faction, like the Flood of Halo or the Lambent of Gears of War. Rather than ducking behind cover and taking potshots at you, all Infested without exception charge at you (or forces you over to them) for close-range combat. It's a good thing I have the melee-focused warframe Excalibur to get me through these missions, because a decent melee weapon and the warframe's melee skills (especially the exalted blade) work wonders against this lumpy space sickness.

This questline also emphasized the importance of elemental superiority. Elemental mods for weapons are fairly uncommon - they're silver, suggesting a mid-tier rarity - and expensive to activate, but using an element against an enemy weak to it will confer a damage bonus of at least 25%, which isn't insubstantial. More so, if you have a secondary elemental type, that bonus rises to an incredible 75%. Secondary elemental types, which I found about on my own, are when you take two of the game's four elemental types - heat, cold, toxin, or electricity - and combine them into a new elemental type: blast (heat + cold), corrosive (electricity + toxin), gas (heat + toxin), radiation (heat + electricity), magnetic (cold + electricity), and viral (youtube + memes).

The downside is the aforementioned expense: it takes six points to install an elemental mod, which is way more than a weapon starts with. That also means you need twelve points if you want one of the secondary elemental types. You'd need to spend a serious amount of time with a weapon for that many mod installation points, and that's not even including the more valuable (and mercifully more common/cheaper to activate) straight damage boost mods like Pressure Point or Serration. Elemental trickery seems like something worth investing in once you have a weapon with a whole lot of progression on it; something I have no problem with currently with how much affinity I've built up for what is still my default weapon loadout.

The various pustules and polyps found all over Infested maps are oddly beautiful, in an ugly way.
The various pustules and polyps found all over Infested maps are oddly beautiful, in an ugly way.

Leash a Kubrow

At the same time as unlocking "Once Awake" as a questline, there's also "Howl of the Kubrow" which allows Tenno to begin incubating and employing a kubrow - a dog-like creature - as their companion on missions instead of a sentinel (robot drones like my Taxon, who is doing very well thank you). The first mission in this questline is a simple enough Survival map against Corpus: the Survival mission type being one where you're constantly hounded by aggro enemies while looking for life support pods (randomly dropped into the level) to stay alive long enough for the mission timer to run out. After that, I either have to go find a kudrow egg or have one on me, and get to cookin'.

Trouble is, to complete the process I also need something called an Incubator Power Core, the blueprint for which costs 50k credits alone. After that I'll need a further 100k to actually create one along with nano spores and argon crystals, neither of which I've come across yet. The kubrow questline, then, is perhaps one that is meant to be tackled very gradually and really only exists to tutorialize the process of birthing your own alien attack dog, turning Warframe into "Dead Space to Rights". My next questline starts on Mars, so I'd better keep working on Mercury for now: the last objective to unlock the Mars Junction back on Earth is to complete one of Mercury's more distant nodes.

...And one of the rewards for the Mars Junction was an Incubator Power Core. Funny how that worked out, huh? See you in two days, pupper.

Clanning Ahead

For a while, I wasn't going to consider clans and the joining thereof. Then I recalled Mike Mahardy's words when he demonstrated the game on a recent GBE PlayDate: there are many benefits to being in a clan and having access to the clan dojo, even if you don't intend to mingle with other players. A few warframes can only be built in a clan dojo, and there's multiple ways to enhance the game or simply busy yourself with construction work if you're so inclined. Despite a few gracious and appreciated offers to join Giant Bomb's PS4 clan - a new one has recently been established, which I found out about because they needed a moderator to pin the announcement thread - I'm going to see how far I can get solo. Again, this is more due to my own proclivities and curiosity about the challenges of the game's single-player experience than any rejection of the perfectly amiable community.

First, however, you need to build a key to access your clan's dojo, since there aren't any landlords around to give you one. Second, you need to build rooms in the dojo, which requires a lot of resources including the rare "forma". I've only found blueprints for forma so far from a few void fissure missions, and while the cost to make them isn't astronomical I still need to explore the Solar System more (sounds familiar) to find a few of them. Still, it was worth finally poking my nose into this portion of the game and I'm looking forward to when I can commence with all the base-building. It all feels very XCOM.

Clan Key was always my favorite member of the Kong family.
Clan Key was always my favorite member of the Kong family.

Mad Maxing

So yeah, it finally happened. My Excalibur warframe hit max level and I have nothing with which to replace it. It's going to be well after completing Mars until I get the materials I need for the Rhino warframe - not to mention who knows how many more runs at that awful mech boss to get all the warframe component blueprints I need, plus the three real-life days and oodles of credits to actually construct them - so I won't be changing warframes any time soon either.

On the other hand, now that Excalibur is at max rank there's a whole range of decent mods I can stick on it to make some of these less interesting missions move faster. I also had the fortune of maxing out my Skana blade, the default melee weapon (or one of them), and have switched to the Dex Dakra dual swords which just cut through everything even at their base "unranked" level. It didn't take long for it to be high enough level to accept the absurd +100% damage boost mod I've engineered either, and now I'm tempted to just cut through everything. I still do that in missions of relatively high difficulty like void fissures, or against Infested since most of them like to crowd you. Otherwise, I'm still working on maxing out the Braton and MK-1 Kunai - my primary and secondary ranged weapons, respectively - and am happy to say I have replacements for both of those ready to go in the near future.

The only significant difference between warframes besides their divergent statistical propensities are their unique "class" abilities, which are gradually unlocked and upgraded as you level up the warframe itself. Excalibur has this amazing area-of-effect attack, an even better buff that gives them an "exalted blade" which does huge damage, a basic charge attack, and a different buff that I think increases agility (I don't use that one a lot). Excalibur's built for a DPS role suitable for solo players, evidently, though I imagine other warframes will be more co-op-focused or perhaps intended for very specific roles and playstyles. Rhino, for instance, seems to be your classic sturdy tank. My point being, it's not a huge loss to the game's variety if I can't change yet, because switching weapons and mods can suffice for now. From what I can tell about the late-game, you end up swimming in warframes to choose between - provided you have enough open slots to accommodate them - and the early lack of choice swings far into the opposite problem of having way too much.

Success in Syndication

Finally, the last big update for this week is that I hit Mastery Rank 3 and now have access to Syndicates. This might require more delving into, but the Syndicate program seems similar to the covenants of the Souls games: you earn points for a faction you've chosen to align with by completing certain actions, and earning enough will unlock various benefits.

One issue is that every Syndicate seems to have opposing Syndicates, so while you gain the favor of one you earn the ire of others. That might have dire repercussions further down the road in the form of death squads and the like, so I'm cautious about getting too involved with this stuff too early. On the other hand, it's a new feature to explore and there's rewards on offer so sign me up. Those death squads are just going to have to wait in line behind everything else that wants to kill me.

I won't say who I've joined - I have no idea if I'll stick with them, so it's immaterial anyway - but it doesn't look like I can earn too much "standing" (the resource that determines Syndicate favor) in a single session right now. That'll be something else that rises with future Mastery Ranks.

When researching the Syndicates, I also figured out there was a neutral one called Cephalon Simaris found back in the Tenno Relays (which at first glance struck me more like trading posts for players). To build favor with this faction, you have to scan specific enemies for a glowy AI voracious for knowledge. Since I'm scanning everything regardless and have an interest in any video game universe's lore, it doesn't seem like I'll have to go out of my way to be better friends with this thing.

On the next episode of Seeking Warframe & Fortune: I'm getting my dang ol' ass to Mars is what.