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 3: Warframe for the Stars, and Even If You Miss You'll Land on a Planet Full of Loot
Well, we're still on Venus, moving our way through the nodes. This process of playing through random missions and unlocking more planets is, I've been reliably informed, the best course of action for the early game. I've also learned that if you post anything about Warframe as a newcomer, a lot of friendly faces will pop out of the woodwork to tell you what you're doing wrong.
At first, I was a little resistant to this sort of advice as someone who wanted to craft a narrative of a neophyte learning the ropes of this game nigh-bereft of direction to see how accommodating Warframe truly was to outsiders after so many system iterations and content packs, but I've softened on that stance since. Truth is, the game is built to be a co-operative experience and is meant to be - to an extent - hostile to a player going it alone (much like real life, even). Thus, veterans of the game have long since been conditioned to regularly accept help and then dispense it in turn to those further behind the curve than themselves.
As someone who missed the first six years of Warframe's development, I've yet to determine if it's a failure on the part of the game designers to make their game so oblique that an external community of information gathering is necessary and assisting newbies is encouraged, or if the game simply evolved in this fashion in response to how its community preferred to devour and disseminate new updates and discoveries. Some real chicken or the egg business. But I'll have a lot more to say on failures in due time, because now it's time for...
Taxon My Patience
As you might recall from the previous update, I left my foundry cooking up a little friend that I could take into battle. Turns out the Taxon companion isn't really there to make the game easier, but instead serves to hypothetically demonstrate the possibilities of a companion that doesn't suck (specifically, the many you can buy with real money). The Taxon floats around targeting enemies that are close by and have detected you - so thankfully no startling oblivious foes before you're close enough for a stealth kill - with a slow-firing ice laser beam that can occasionally inflict them with a frosty status effect. However, it does so little damage to be as equivalent to a stiff breeze on a chilly winter's morn, and will quickly explode in terror if an enemy so much as looks at it funny.
Companions, like almost everything else in the game, will level up over time through gathering "affinity" (really just XP) and I'm hoping the Taxon will become halfway effective once it has a few more levels under its belt. I suspect, however, that the relative ease in which I acquired its blueprint and building materials means that it's really just here to fill an otherwise empty slot, like the lackluster "MK-1" weapon variants that a warframe starts with before they have the resources and mastery rank to acquire the real McCoys.
Mastery Even Faster(y)
I achieved Mastery Rank 2 shortly into this session, after another relatively simple "test" of my current martial abilities. The perks of MR2 include a new selection of weapons that can now be purchased - almost all of which available on the store are locked behind even higher ranks - as well as an additional loadout slot and the brand new privilege of being able to trade with other players.
Of course, to effectively trade with other players, I would need to A) know where to do that, B) have any idea which of my items are worth anything to anyone (rare mods seem to be recommended, but while I have a few of those I've no idea if any are actually rare or just branded that way by the game's arbitrary bronze/silver/gold rating system), and C) not be so socially anxious that the thought of joining strangers in any activity, let alone prompt a pointless transaction that may anger or annoy them, chills me to the core.
So instead, I'll just appreciate the fact that I could trade with other players at any point if I wanted to and keep on playing the game solo. It's not like I need any platinum for additional warframe slots if I'm still unable to build just one.
There's a sixth anniversary event going on right now! Apparently some no-good-niks have stolen Lotus's precious birthday gifts, and it's up to her favorite warframe-wielder (no, shut up, it's me) to recover them. These are all slightly tougher variants than I'm used to, including a few that seem impossible for my level and/or a single player - Defense, where you stand your ground against waves or enemies, or Interception, where you have to conquer and hold control points against a throng of respawning enemies. Still, I got a few free weapons out of the ones I could do, so I'd argue it was time well spent.
The event ends in nine days and I still can't access a couple of them - one's on Mars, the other's in "the Void" - but maybe if I keep completing nodes I can access Mars before the event ends. At the very least it means I can break up the game's grind of random node missions with... slightly tougher random node missions.
Spending Sprees (and Other Sprees of a More Murdery Nature)
Worth mentioning now that I've splurged in-game currency in the store and got myself a few other weapons to play with. I now have a set of Furis pistols (secondary weapon), the regular Braton rifle (primary weapon), an MK-1 Paris stealth bow (primary), and the special event Dex Furis pistols (same as the other Furis, though the game tracks their levels separately with regards to earning points towards mastery ranks) and Dex Darra twinblades (melee).
The thing with this game's weapon upgrade system is that all weapons start at level one and are fairly weak because you can't effectively mod them with damage boosts and the like. That means it seems inadvisable to change my entire gear loadout at the same time, especially as I've been meaning to hit the max rank with what I have before moving on. I replaced the old and busted MK-1 Braton with the new standard Braton, because it's a straight up promotion in every sense, but I might dither on trying the bow, the other secondary weapons, or the new melee weapon until I've mastered what I'm using in those slots currently.
At the same time, I'm also tempted to keep switching around just to see what these new weapon types are like. I think I'll take advantage of the game's alternative loadouts and base my weapon selection on the mission type from here on out: for example, the stealthier bow for missions like Spy and Extermination where I can afford to be more quiet, and the faster Braton for ones like Defense and Excavation where the enemy's always alerted to my presence and I need to mow down fools quickly. Maybe that'll alleviate some of the repetition-based boredom already setting in.
Welcome to Nightwave
I was advised to check in with the Nightwave event, which seems to be far more long-term (if not permanent) in comparison with the Lotus gifts thing above, because you can complete its various daily and weekly targets and earn points towards rewards without even realising it. The Nightwave event has a brief story about some insane escaped convicts of the Grineer, including their boss The Wolf, and players are advised to work towards unlocking various reward tiers by rounding up criminals - who are these overpowered jerks who just wander into random missions, usually when you're too busy to deal with them - and completing randomized milestones like number of stealth kills, power usage, using waypoints to mark valuable minerals, and so on.
I don't think I was in much danger of hitting a reward tier without realising it: the basic goals, which one might feasibly stumble into, only give 1000 points when you need 10,000 to unlock a single reward. It's more the case that you have to go out of your way to earn anything of higher value, including taking on multiple specific mission types - sabotage, assassination (i.e. bosses), spy, etc. - or selecting harder difficulties. Still, it never hurts to have more options to choose between, and the buttery-smooth voice of Nora "radio lady" Night praising you after completing one of these objectives is the sort of positive reinforcement that can go a long way.
Slay of the Jackal
Like Earth, Venus had its own boss fight also, though it didn't have the accompanying quest chain that lead up to it. Rather, I was just thrown into an arena with an enormous quadruped robot called the Jackal. The Corpus faction are these astronaut-looking dudes surrounded by mechs that either look like drones or gun turrets with digitigrade legs, so a mech boss was germane enough. What I didn't like so much is that it took a lot of gunfire just to knock it down for a brief period of vulnerability, all the while more drones would show up dropping mines around the arena while I was trying to focus on the spider robot trying to turn me into Swiss cheese. It was an unpleasant fight, all told, though I can't help but feel like I was let down by my own gear to some extent. Maybe I'll try again when I have some more levels or punchier weapons.
But hey, at least I earned a part for the Rhino warframe, as promised. Most of the components I need to make it I have on-hand already, thanks to spending a lot of time robbing resource crates across Earth and Venus. To construct the part I just found - its "systems" - I need credits (check), salvage (check), a single control module and morphics (check and check, but no idea where I found them), and... 600 plastids? Wait, what are plastids? I better check the Warframe wikia...
..."Mostly found on Saturn and Uranus"?!
Hey Warframe, You Know What Else You Can Find In Uranus?
I really don't know, you guys. My goal was to keep playing this game until I procured at least one other warframe, but I'm having a hard time imagining when that will ever happen. I've played this game for about 10-15 hours now and crossed the circumferences of two whole planets, but it's going to take that amount of time again to complete Mercury and Mars, after which I might be in visual range of the materials I need. It's not that I have anything against my old buddy Excalibur, but he's almost at max rank and I anticipated a replacement would be on the cards by now. Instead, playing this game like a cheapskate is like refusing to pay for a train ticket: hope you like spending a week walking to the same destination instead, bucko.
Fortunately, for as much as I don't care to play Warframe right now, things might change by this time next week. The shooting and movement is still a lot of fun, even if I happen to be fighting the same enemies with the same abilities over and over, instead of something more entertaining like that puddle guy or the walking synthesizer. Maybe next Monday I'll stumble onto another event where they're just giving warframes away, or maybe I'll find other pieces that are within my means to construct, or maybe I'll just find a batch of plastids as a void fissure reward, or maybe I'll stop dithering on every level looking for loot and instead run directly to the mission objective to move this whole shebang along faster. The game's unpredictability is one of its strengths, after all, and Mercury appears to have a lot going on despite its size.
On the next episode of Seeking Warframe & Fortune: Or I could just try to figure out DOTA 2 instead...