By Mento 3 Comments
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 7: Less is Moreframe
I know, I know, everyone's talking about Empyrean this and Rapololyst that, but I'm never going to find out what are those are. Those, my friends, are raids and other activities for the discerning max-level, Mastery Rating 10+, four-person elite groups that take this game far more seriously than I (though I say that in the midst of penning the seventh of these pleonastic rundowns). In any MMO, especially of the paid content kind, there is a hierarchy of haves and have nots; the best way to not let it drag you down is to avoid other people at all costs, something I find a lot easier to do in single-player games.
That isn't to say that Warframe is bereft of joy for the financially and socially challenged, mind you. Though it's been slow going over the past month, having hit no end of walls between high challenge levels and a new warfame I'm not particularly sure I'm using right, I'm still finding my own fun with a combination of level revisits (usually boss fights, to farm warframe component drops), tense Void Fissure gauntlets, and testing the occasional node on the most recent planet - Europa - to see if I can at least run through it like my ass was on fire (and it regularly is with those Corpus Machinists around) and make it to the evacuation zone in spite of my lack of grace and courage. It does feel like I'm scrabbling for every victory for these days, which itself has a certain kind of appeal. Besides, if I get really stuck, maybe I can revisit the Plains of Eidolon and see if the open-world thing is for me.
So, Europa. It's an inhospitable moon orbiting Jupiter - the smallest of the Galilean moons, in fact, which are the four big ones - and another blue Corpus destination. The ice actually has a deleterious effect here, rather than being mostly for the sake of a frosty aesthetic: while on the surface, and away from the frequent heat generators, you take steady damage. There's no Final Fantasy VII style thermometer to inform you how uncomfortably far below freezing it is, but the drain's not significant. Just significant enough to be a burden in a middle of a firefight when you're hiding behind a glacier and really need those shields to start recharging again.
Beyond that, the moon's fresh Hel (in the cold Norse sense) is in its ramped up difficulty. There isn't a single node that dips below a level 18 requirement here, and that's no bueno when you're starting out with a new 'frame looking to keep on trucking across the star map. I spoke (well, whinged might be the more accurate verb) about this particular level creep in June's "Mento's Month", where I discussed the longevity of this feature going forward. In short, Europa's going to be nothing compared to what comes next - Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and so on - and I'm going to be less and less likely to have the means to survive those worlds, especially if it there's a critical Defense node between me and the next junction (which, speaking of, those guardians are going to be a serious problem also). I'm tempted to say "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it", but the bridges in question are starting to resemble the one seen in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: death on one side, death on the other, and an even worse death waiting far beneath.
Doesn't help that some Europa missions seem to delight in giving me a hard time. In a Rescue mission the goal is to rescue a Tenno captive and then leave. The map can have any number of enemies in it, but the actual prison area has a stealth aspect to it: if you can successfully eliminate or elude all the warden enemies (which are too burly to snipe from a distance without a really powerful rifle, and will automatically set off alarms if they notice you) you'll won't trigger a death timer for the inmate and will have a much easier time escaping to the extraction zone. The prison area is therefore relatively sparse of enemies in order to let this stealth aspect shine; allowing you to focus your attention on the wardens and their patrols, moving quickly and quietly into stealth kill position or to where the prisoner is waiting. Instead, the first time I played this map there were about 30 enemies milling around this area, crowding the walkways to the extent that the AI was having trouble navigating them around the throng. I'm used to glitches in Warframe, especially in the less-stable console version I'm playing, but this almost seemed... vindictive.
The new warframe I've been using is Mag, whom I believe was originally if not still presently one of the three starter 'frames for new players. She's built for support rather than all-out offense or tanking, and has a handful of shield-related buffs as well as the ability to attach a magnetic field to an enemy so any stray bullets will hit it (good for bosses, presumably even better if you have multiple inaccurate teammates with you). She also has decent shields herself, even if health seems to suffer in turn, and they can be bolstered further with the right mods. She's not terrible, and yet I find myself in serious trouble whenever she gets surrounded. Certain enemy attacks seem to cut through shields so quick, if not render them inert instanter, and when that happens Mag has about two seconds to kiss the world goodbye unless she's holed up somewhere. There are just certain high-aggro nodes that are impossible to defeat with Mag alone, it feels like.
I might need more practice with her, but at this point she's getting close to max level and I'm eyeing Valkyr - who has a very survivable crowd control buff that I was unfortunate enough to see up close - as her replacement. I'm tempted to mark this one down as either me mistreating the poor girl with inefficient tactics undeserving of her build or it's because she's a starter that she simply doesn't have the legs for the mid-game onwards (where I am presumably at), but I can't also help but feel she probably would've been perfectly fine company in any of the previous worlds. It might just be that insurmountable challenge wall bearing down on me ready to crush any warframe I might bring along like the Death Star trash compactor.
For the record, Mag's attractive skillset include: Pull, which drags enemies in close for melee damage while damaging them, and can often pay for itself with a higher than usual chance at dropping energy refills - I use this a lot whenever there are crowds around that I can't stealth by easily, though it occasionally has the annoying effect of tossing an enemy behind me I think is dead, only for them to start blasting extra holes in my tuchas a second later; Magnetize, which temporarily makes an enemy a bullet sponge (save this for bosses and Eximus hardasses); Polarize, which blasts enemy shields while restoring your own (good for when you're really in trouble, provided I remember to use it and am not just panicking); and Crush, which seems powerful but the range is never far enough for my liking. A lot of these work best as close-range AoEs against large groups, and if you're in a position where there are multiple enemies crowding around Mag her odds of survival drop precipitously. She'd be incredible at support and offense alike if someone else could stand in front of her and soak up all those painful, painful bullets.
The New Strange, a.k.a. The New Roadblock
This mission continues an arc started a while back while searching the Void for the Orokin, and promises even more revelations about our absent friends. Unfortunately, while I progressed fairly far into this questline - the Cephalon Simaris is helping out while also trying to poach my own ship's cephalon AI, Ordis - I hit a sudden stop with a Europan-bound Defense node, which is five rounds of protecting a very fragile gizmo followed by a fight with a feral warframe, Chroma. I couldn't survive a single round - or to be more precise, the piece of high-tech crap I was trying to guard didn't survive.
As I explain below, there are certain node types that are simply unfeasible for the single-player experience because of the immense number of foes to deal with. In fact, it's not even the struggle of taking on so many enemies at once - the Void Fissure missions are similar, but eminently more survivable because you fight them on your own terms, retreating when necessary to lick your wounds before jumping back into the fray and making a break for it when you've earned enough Void Reactants to unlock the Relic's treasure and can quickly complete the mission and get out of there. In Defense, and others like it, your options for tactical retreats and cover are severely limited not only by the fact that you have to remain in one area that is beset from all sides, but that any attempt to lose aggro on yourself is then immediately applied to the squishy item you're guarding. Sometimes it can take the extra punishment if you need to chill for five seconds, but often it'll go down extremely quick if you're not there soaking up most of the enemy's attention and firepower. Some warframes are simply not built for that kind of assault, especially ol' Tissue-Paper Tammy (my Mag nickname that won't be catching on), and it seems irksome to keep dropping nodes like this to trip up anyone choosing to play anything other than a heavy-hitter DPS or proverbial brick shithouse tank.
But hey, the game has certain expectations of you at this point. For instance, it probably (and reasonably so) expects that you have enough warframes and warframe slots to have a max-level killing machine for every occasion, and to be fair I could probably try that mission again with my maxed out Rhino or Excalibur and be just fine. It feels counterproductive to do so when there's nothing to be gained XP-wise is all. It might be better for my sanity if I power through these heavy-aggro missions with as much strength as I can muster so I can get them out of the way and appreciate the fun missions, like Exterminate or Spy, that allow me to go at my own cautious pace with warframes that work best from the shadows.
Bonus: Aggroing Pains
Partly because I've been curious about the survivability of certain mission types, and because this will help in my own risk assessments, I've thrown together a little table here of mission types and the amount of aggro you can expect. In most missions you can sneak around and take down enemies, making sure to quickly gun down enemies heading to the nearest alarm console if they spot you. Some, high aggro is inescapable, and it's more a test of your endurance and crowd control. Below are all the mission types I've encountered so far (not an exhaustive list quite yet) with a brief enough summary of how those missions tend to play out, all ranked by the relative amount of enemy resistance you can expect to encounter.
|Name||Basic Description||Aggro Rating|
|Spy||Find three secure areas, hack the computer there without being detected, get out. Spy mission areas are almost completely free of enemies, besides cameras and the occasional security drone. Everywhere outside of these areas have normal aggro rules.||Low|
|Rescue||Find an imprisoned NPC, bust them out of pokey in stealth-focused prison areas, get out. Again, mostly normal areas followed by one relatively quiet area.||Low|
|Exterminate||Kill a certain number of enemies. Despite the high kill count, you could theoretically complete an entire Exterminate mission without anyone knowing you were there.||Mid|
|Sabotage||Hack a system to destroy a facility via its power source. You'll probably set off alarms once the place starts falling apart, but by that point you're already heading to the exit.||Mid|
|Capture||Find an enemy NPC and gun them down, and then capture them. While chasing these guys through multiple rooms you'll probably invite a lot of aggro from other enemies, but it's usually over quickly and then it's back to business as usual.||Mid|
|Assassination||Find an enemy boss and destroy them. Not only are boss fights tricky, but it's hard to avoid a lot of small fry butting in during the battle. That said, the fight itself is simply the capper to a mission with an otherwise normal amount of aggro.||Mid|
|Interception||This is the "capture the point" mode, where you and a bunch of aggro enemies try to hold onto captured zones. Very tough to succeed on solo, but the enemies are often too busy capturing other points to shoot at you so even as a perma-aggro mission type it's less dangerous than others.||High|
|Excavation||Find machines that dig for useful items, protecting them while finding new power sources to keep them going. The fact that you often have to be running around for power sources means the enemies aggro you less often than the machines, and the downtime between each of these sequences is usually chill enough.||High|
|Mobile Defense||Hack into multiple consoles with a handheld device, guarding them until the hack is complete. Like Excavation, there are points of high-aggro and points where it calms down again.||High|
|Hijack||Push a big rolly thing down a track while enemies keep showing up to shoot at it (and you). Most of the mission is spent pushing the thing here, which means you rarely have a moment to breathe.||Overwhelming|
|Survival||Keep resupplying oxygen as you see how long you can last in a perma-aggro level. Talking about not having a moment to breathe, Survival missions can be very rough if you aren't constantly moving to the next canister. That said, you can outpace the enemies and sprint to the exit after five minutes if need be.||Overwhelming|
|Defection||These are Infection-specific missions where the goal is to rescue other NPCs and bring them to an evacuation point, while dealing with perma-aggro Infestation enemies. Tough to survive but the melee-focused Infestation can at least be outrun.||Overwhelming|
|Defense||Guard a thing for several waves. Absolute nightmares if you're on your own, as neither you or the guarded object will be able to survive getting shot from every direction for too long.||Overwhelming|
|*Crossfire||Less a mission type, more a modifier. Crossfire missions have two enemy types that will aggro each other, reducing the amount you have to deal with.||Less Than Usual|
|*Void Fissure||Less a mission type, more a modifier. Void Fissure missions keep teleporting in instantly-aggro'ed tough enemies from a bunch of different factions.||More Than Usual|
One Hek of a Gun
If Mag took some time to warm up to, my new weapon loadout was love at first sight in comparison. I've got very little to say about my Lato pistol secondary - it seems fairly weak, so I'm only really using it for stealth or blowing up traps and other barriers - but the Hek shotgun has paid for itself many times over. The way shotguns seem to work in Warframe, or maybe this one in particular, is that is has a very persnickety hitscan where you can aim just to the side of an enemy and miss completely, but hit them anywhere on their body to have all the gun's "spread" hit them square on, doing more damage the closer they are. I suspect having to calculate the trajectory of every shard of a shotgun blast might be a little much for the Warframe CPU to do on the fly with everything else going on, so it makes sense for the game to instead check if you hit first before applying damage based on distance.
It didn't take long before the Hek could one-shot almost every enemy, and even with the level 20+ enemies on Europa it's rare it takes more than two whole blasts at short range. Mag's Pull ability makes it trivial to get enemies into maximum damage range quickly, provided they survive the Pull itself, so there's a certain amount of synergy at work here that's made the Hek a very efficient death-dealer. Really, the only issue is that it's levelling up so fast I'm already just about done with it.
On the melee front it didn't take long to max out the Amphis staff - moderate damage, high range - and I've now switched to the Galantine sword: an enormous two-hander that, like the Fragor hammer, is slow but gets the job done. The downside is that I can't resist saying "Happy Galentine's Day!" every time I chop someone down with it. Melee weapons receive the most experience because they get all that juicy stealth kill bonus XP, which can be several multiples higher than what you might receive from those enemies normally. If I can sneak up on a high-level Eximus enemy and take them down, that could be around 5000 affinity in just one blow: with most of the alert fodder enemies you're looking around 100-200 at best. It's why the melee weapon mastery list on the table below keeps growing and growing while the other columns - especially secondaries, which can rarely kill anything - are a lot smaller.
The Warframe Progress-o-meter
(Italics indicate a weapon/warframe that I've mastered, or a planet I've fully explored. I'll probably sell anything I've mastered first if I need to make space.)
|Warframe||Lvl||Primary Weapon||Lvl||Secondary Weapon||Lvl||Melee Weapon||Lvl||Planets Visited|
|Excalibur||30||Braton (rifle)||30||MK1-Kunai (thrown)||30||Skana (sword)||30||Earth|
|Rhino||30||Boltor (rifle)||30||Dex Furis (SMGs)||30||Dex Dakra (daggers)||30||Venus|
|Oberon||30||Hek (shotgun)||29||Lato (handgun)||13||Cronus (sword)||30||Mercury|
|Mag||25||Karak (rifle)||0||Furis (SMG)||0||Fragor (hammer)||30||Mars|
|Vauban||0||MK-1 Braton (rifle)||14||Bronco (shotgun)||0||Amphis (staff)||30||Phobos|
|MK-1 Paris (bow)||0||Galantine (2H sword)||7||Ceres|
|Vulkar (sniper)||0||Pangolin (sword)||0||Jupiter|
On the next episode of Seeking Warframe & Fortune: I'm going to see how much further I can squirm across Europa, and maybe convince a certain insane Norse-themed warframe to pinch-hit.