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.
Intro: A Peculiar Warframe of Mind
I'm not quite sure what possessed me to try Warframe, Digital Extremes's 2013 F2P third-person shooter that has - after years of incremental tweaks and content additions - become one of the hottest properties in both the "games as a service" and "shlooter" phenomena, years before either were a thing. GameSpot's Mike Mahardy and his spirited defense for a time-parasite that has taken over a considerable chunk of his life on a recent Giant Bomb East PlayDate was possibly the spark that ignited this sudden curiosity, but it's been simmering under the surface ever since a streamer I'm into started getting really seriously into it. Plus, not a news cycle goes by without Warframe introducing some crazy new concept that I've always lacked the context to understand but nonetheless found fascinating. It's sort of like when you used to hear about some enormous global fracas occurring in the EVE Online universe, albeit through the opaque filter of its esoteric brand of sci-fi nonsense.
I might live to regret this, but since Warframe is free to play and I'm not necessarily opposed to grindy shlooters ("Grindy Shlooters" was even my stripper name back during that difficult time when I was raising money for college), I figured I'd give it a shot and journalize my slow naturalization process into its universe of Tenno, Grineer, Corpus, Infested, Orokin, and the Force only knows what for anyone else who might still be sitting on the fence. It's one small step for Mento, one giant double-jump into a ninja death dive for Bombkind.
Hour 1: Wha?-frame
The game quickly establishes some lore:
- Captain Vor = Bad guy.
- Twin Queens = Bad guy leaders.
- Grineer = Bad guy faction the above belong to.
- Tenno = Good guys. I am one!
- Lotus = Good talky lady with headset.
Warframes are like heroes in Apex or Overwatch, each with their own powers and strengths/weaknesses and a whole lot of customization options, from tweaking their loadouts down to changing their color palettes. There's no doubt a lot of synergistic concerns regarding multiplayer roles that have gone into the designs for their abilities, especially if they're more of a support type. Starters available include sword guy (Excalibur), shocky guy (Volt), and magnet lady (Mag). I went with Excalibur, because the game told me I should. The goal here is to be as un-lost as possible early on.
"I can't afford to lose another Tenno" says Lotus. How many concurrent players does Warframe presently have, again? Maybe it won't be too catastrophic if I break this one.
The tutorial mission teaches...
- Combat! Primary weapon (gun/bow), secondary (pistol/knives), melee. The Excalibur warframe's various powers focus on melee, worth noting. Stealth kills available, though not always? Some parts of level felt like I was spotted instantly. Headshots and mad slashes do the trick even if I can't stealth 'em.
- Traversal! Wall-runs, double-jumps, and wall-climbs. Been a while since I've played a straight FPS/TPS, but these all appear to be fairly common to the genre after Titanfall and recent CODs. Still, I suppose Warframe pre-empted most of those. I appreciate how zippy this game is, even if it makes certain careful stuff like stealth attacks a bit trickier. Fortunately, the detection cones for most enemies are terrible.
- Resources! Lots of items to find, beyond the usual ammo, health, and shield drops. Seems to be a wide assortment of crafting materials - different for every planet? - and a universal "credits" currency. There's some other F2P currency too: "platinum". I started with 50 of those but am unlikely to find more anytime soon, so I'll hang onto them.
UI's pretty good about indicating objects you can open/destroy for resources with a white flashing effect. What's less good is how often textures just vanish while moving around, making you think there's a giant hole you're about to fall through before the ground suddenly appears. I'm playing on PS4 where I imagine there's some standardization in effect, so I'm not sure if this is a common glitch for everyone or what. I'm half expecting there to be some in-joke with the Warframe crowd about vanishing floors: "Oh sure, that's the Dimensional Illusory Ailment of the Star Matriarchs. All starting Warframe players suffer from it until they can defeat the boss on Venus." "I can't tell if you're joking." "No, I'm deadly serious *stifles a laugh*"
The Hubship! Most of its consoles are offline right now; the game's going to slowly acclimatize me to all its functions as I keep completing main quests. Fair enough. I also finally figured out how to minimize the gigantic chat window in the hubship: Just don't press L2. Ever.
Second mission (though I guess the first real one) starts all the achievement trackers, making it a little busier in terms of UI updates and the like. Stealth is a preferred option here, especially as the last part requires infiltrating a vault with an alarm system to recover a piece of your ship tech - the one that opens communications and the marketplace, which is very important. We've also been introduced to the common flow of a mission: complete the objective, return to the start or a second location to be extracted, don't expect the journey out to be easier than the journey in.
Honestly, the game's doing a fine job easing me into its strange universe and layering in its features incrementally. Just one glance at the marketplace and all its many skins, equipment choices, and paid DLC packs is enough of a glimpse into the madness to come however. Turns out if I want new equipment or warframes, I either spend the fee-2-pay platinum cost or I drop many thousands of in-game credits on a "blueprint", which I imagine means also burning through a whole lot of resources to create them. For now, I'm happy with all my defaults, at least until I'm done with this introductory campaign (something suggests I won't be allowed to switch anyway; this warframe has some weird orange robo-tracker thing that Vor stuck on it that I'm working to remove).
Hour 2: Getting My Ship Together
The next few missions juggle the progression of the current story - the aforementioned orange robo-tracker thing and its removal - with new additions to the hubship's toolset. The second mission was a stealth prison break that I screwed up because I didn't account for the prison warden having too much HP to take out with a distant knife throw to the head, but even though I had to fight my way in and out I was ultimately successful - the enemies ain't shit yet, which I appreciate as someone still adjusting - and was given a blueprint for my troubles that should create the item I need to take these orange price tags off my mint condition warframe.
The second mission also awarded me a console where I could attach new mods. Or rather, it was a console that told me what mods were and allowed me to combine or disassemble them, and it was actually my central arsenal console that allowed me to attach them to my gear. I learned pretty quick that there was separate mods for the warframe and for each weapon, and how they all have a point value that limits how many mods can be used at once. They confer some pretty big bonuses, so I might want to keep an eye out for better ones (so far I think I've only earned them as mission rewards; I'm hoping enemies or chests will start dropping them eventually). To create the item from this blueprint, however, we'll need another console operational: the foundry. That's what we're looking to recover in mission 3. And for mission 4, the job is to find resources to put into said foundry. That meant being introduced to the Corpus: the machine faction, which has more in the way of sentries and cameras and drones in the way. I noticed that everything - including the item chests and explosive barrels - had a different look to it, which is some nice attention to detail when there's multiple enemy factions to contend with.
Hour 3: Vor Revoir
The final missions of this arc involved my malefactor, Vor, whose tracking device had been neutered after I crafted the blueprint gadget in my foundry but was now threatening to explode inside my head. This meant two missions - one to find out where he was by stealing some nav data from a passing Grineer ship, and one to go to where he was and throw dozens of knives into his head - both of which were aboard Grineer ships. The game definitely has something of the prefab kit/snapmap phenomenon, where each mission area is comprised of multiple rooms each of which could be found in any other map in any other order. This would also explain why previous mission nodes on the map are repopulating with new quest objectives: this being a grind-heavy game, with every warframe and piece of equipment having its own level progression, I imagine there's never any shortage of missions to take on with the type of player-level requirements and enemies you're looking for.
Something I discovered which I perhaps should've left buried in the game's many menus is a codex scanner. This gizmo works the same way as Samus's scanner in the Metroid Prime series, where you point it at something red and hold the button down until it changes color and you have more info on that target. Except, for whatever reason, everything in this game requires dozens of scans before it's properly logged. I'm not sure what I can glean from 25 chests that I couldn't from just one, but whenever an opportunity for lore gathering presents itself I find it impossible to resist. Then again, given the size and scope of what Warframe is right now, maybe I could do without giving myself extra busywork to do. I'm not even sure if I'm in this for the long haul yet: PlayStationTrophies.org has the platinum trophy at something like 150+ hours, and that's on top of the already-very-long Nioh playthrough I'm midway through. But hey, you give me a scanner and expect me not to scan things? More fool you, I say.
After defeating Vor and hitting the extraction point for the last time in this little tutorial arc, I'm suddenly now free to explore the rest of the Solar System and start working towards some goals of my own devising. To leave Earth I will need to pass a few qualifications to open the bordering Venus Relay: most of these I've already accomplished, with some minor mod retooling being the only requirement left. There's also a few nodes on Earth I've yet to try out too, so now I'm torn between staying on Terra firma and doing everything here or moving ever outward to see what else is out there waiting for me. For now, though, I think I've seen plenty of Warframe for the time being though with the full knowledge that there's plenty more to see. No dragons, krakens, or vocaloids in the near future quite yet, though Excalibur and his propensity for chopping things in half has served me well enough for now. Maybe I can try one of those zappy magic guys next?
On the next episode of Seeking Warframe & Fortune: I blinked and the game is suddenly Monster Hunter?