When I got my Playstation 4 at the end of 2013, I couldn’t wait to see what beautiful games we’d be playing for the next few years. Browsing the store on PSN, I found an intriguing free-to-play title about space ninjas. Downloading Warframe, I played for an hour or so but it felt a hollow experience. I (foolishly) wrote it off as a F2P game that would likely find a core audience but wouldn’t expand much from there. I was wrong. Following on from Danny O’Dwyer’s “NoClip” documentary on the game, I decided to jump back in.
Digital Extremes has taken a “corridor” action game, and built on it constantly over the last few years. Yes, Warframe is a free-to-play game and it employs grinding to reach the upper echelons of equipment, but all of this is achievable in game. Despite not costing you a penny to download, there’s little to nothing you can’t achieve just from playing the game – something a lot of AAA publishers would do well to look at! So, what is Warframe? A third person shooter/slasher set in a sci-fi universe, you play as a Tenno, a recently awoken warrior created to kill dozens of enemies per mission. You can run, jump, somersault, wall-run, shoot and slice your way through a level using some of the most fluid combat mechanics seen in any game, let alone one that doesn’t cost a penny.
It’s one thing to have to grind to reach the next milestone in a game, but when combat feels this good you’ll happily dig in. It’s all about subtlety – running on walls is easy, but transitioning into a somersault mid run, entering slow-motion and unloading on a couple of enemies never gets old, and this kind of combo will be nice and easy within a couple of hours of play. Better yet, all of this can be done in co-op. Stocking up on loot in each mission, you’ll fight your way around the solar system and begin building up your character (or “Warframe”), or acquiring a new one with alternate abilities. A whole community of the game is even dedicated to customising the appearance of their Warframe, such is the variety in their visual styles. Even your ship (which you can explore the interior of) can be constantly outfitted with new modules or decoration.
Constant updates have tuned and honed the combat, added new maps to explore, and filled the game in with extensive lore and story details in a way that Destiny can only dream of. In October 2017, the game received another free update titled “The Plains of Eidolon” – a huge landmass which comprises the game’s first open-world area. In fact, you’re able to complete side missions there, go fishing, and eventually earn an “Archwing”, a means of transport to cover ground more quickly. The area even features a day and night cycle which affects the difficulty level of the enemies found there.
There’s a remarkable amount of game here, and the development team’s constant addition of new content is almost as impressive as the time they take to discuss it with the community. Digital Extreme’s live shows centre on what players can expect with each patch. Since launch, almost every facet of the game has been tweaked and modified to ensure a smooth UI throughout, even with the amount of content in the game. New quest-lines have been added to keep high-level players entertained, while at the other end of the scale a full tutorial mission welcomes new recruits. It’s a AAA title in everything but cost. Warframe has grown so much in 5 years but it’s still growing even today. I’m intrigued to see where that promise takes it. For now, I’m off to go and slash some baddies and loot up. Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that Playstation Plus subscribers can currently get a “Booster” pack for the same price as the game itself – that’s right, free! See you on the battlefield, Tenno!