When I hear a game is free to play I think “yeah, but….” The “yeah, but…” being me wondering is it going to be worth trying? Will I have a fun experience, or will I run into a pay wall straight away? Will I enjoy the aesthetics of the art and the game design, or will it feel like some first year programming student’s final project? Warframe alleviated all of these fears for me in its case.
Warframe is one of developer Digital Extreme’s latest games. It is a multiplayer, third-person, co-op, shooter set in the distant future of our solar system where, apparently, space ninjas are our only hope. While it has been in open beta since March of last year, it has the look and feel of a very polished game at this point.
The visual style of the game and and the procedurally generated levels look and feel complete. The levels for the different factions feel very organic to their respective cultures and immerse you quite easily into the universe of Warframe. The Grineer and Corpus – two of the enemy factions in the game – have, stylistically, different building and material design for their respective levels. The Grineer areas have a more grubby and used feel, whereas the Corpus levels are more high tech and polished looking.
The game play is incredibly fun, fast paced, and addictive. I don’t know if Digital Extremes looked to Star Wars as a cue for the feel of the battles in the game, but it sometimes feels that way in a very positive fashion. I once had a Han Solo moment where I chased a couple of Grineer into another room and found myself facing at least ten more of them. At which point I promptly turned tail and fled the way I had come using every movement trick I knew with the lot of them hot on my tail. Moments like that are pure gold as far as I’m concerned.
Speaking of movement, Warframe uses a Parkour style movement to get around the levels quickly. Unfortunately, using the system is not an option. You need to be able to use it proficiently to get out of harm’s way fast a lot of the time or to get to an area in a mission that has no other way to get to it. The reason I say unfortunately is because in panic moments when you are mashing buttons to get away the Parkour system can do things like throw you across a map, back flip you back the way you came, or somersault you into the loving embrace of an enemy. That being said, it’s hardly a game breaker and can lead to some pretty funny moments.
While a shooter can and usually does become repetitive, Warframe strives to get around this by offering several different mission types. These include extermination, defense, capture, rescue, and survival to name just a few. The other way Digital Extremes chose to combat inherent repetitiveness is a robust experience and modification mechanic.
All of your major gear can be leveled up through experience and modified by mods that drop randomly during missions. These mods have the appearance of a trading card and can be traded which brings a pseudo deck building feel to the game. This allows for the same weapon to operate somewhat differently from person to person and encourages varied play styles and experimentation. Add to this the sheer number of Warframes, weapons, and mods and you have enough content to keep you busy for months, if not years.
So what’s the catch? I don’t think there is one. Yes, Warframe does have a currency (platinum) that can be purchased with real money and used to buy things in game, but it isn’t at all necessary to buy it. The only things you really need platinum to obtain in game are cosmetic. Color palettes, variants of Warframe visuals, and decorative armor plates. Sure, it can be used to buy other materials you need in game, but you don’t have to. Those items can be obtained just by running missions or using the other in game currency (credits) to buy blueprints. I really feel like Digital Extremes has handled the monetization of this game well. I’ve never felt like I’ve hit a pay wall to continue my enjoyment of Warframe. It doesn’t feel dirty or deceptive to me in the least, and that makes me want to support them.
I suggest giving Warframe a try. I’ve really enjoyed it so far and I very much believe fans of shooter and co-op games will too.