God knows where the other half of this corpse has landed.
Imagine Dead Space meets Ninja Gaiden. You’ve got all the over-the-shoulder, dark science-fiction-y goodness of hunting monsters in space, combined with roided out, speed-goring alien assassins. The end product: a lovely little recipe for bloody galactic genocide. Players assume the role of a Tenno, an ancient alien species awoken from Cryosleep and tasked with purging our failing solar system. The game is currently in open-beta, so the story is far from polished. In fact, some might speculate that it’s really more of an afterthought, secondary to the action. The game’s lore and history remain either undeveloped or unreleased, which is certainly acceptable in beta mode.
Running and gunning is the name of the game. After a brief tutorial (admittedly too brief), you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by enemies – and this is where the fun starts. Tenno are masters of acrobatics and destruction. This game is fast. Stunts and maneuvers never get old, as you and up to three allies sprint from chamber to chamber slide gunning down hallways, flipping off walls, dive shooting off platforms, and chopping space marines into minced meat. Enemies will work to surround and swarm you, and a little fancy footwork is essential to keep from getting cornered.
Warframe emphasizes cooperative play, so while a one-man killing approach might maximize return on your spoils-of-war, you’ll get more bang for your buck with a full party. You’ll particularly need to coordinate with a team to take down boss monsters and in certain horde-mode defense missions, because each “Warframe” has its own individual strengths and abilities. Tactical play is available, and some Tenno specialize in stealth, but it’s often not as efficient as four Tenno death machines whirling down a corridor.
Fire and Blood, bitches!
In whatever age of the future we’re in, the game’s planets are largely uninhabitable, so you’ll mostly be battling on satellite space stations. There are some opportunities to venture into caverns or outside areas, but the majority of environments are randomly generated. The game pieces together pre-designed rooms to create the mission; you can play the same mission one time after another where doors that were previously unlocked are locked, and you’ll trek in an entirely different direction. While this encourages replayability, the generic design will occasionally leave you lost with a vague waypoint or sprinting through empty corridors searching for the extraction point. It can be confusing and mildly annoying at times, but it’s somewhat reminiscent of a time when games weren’t so point A to point B– just because you’re lost doesn’t mean you won’t find some hidden goodies.
For a good video introduction:
Warframe: The MMO
As you may expect, all account information is stored on the servers of developer Digital Extremes, so the game is online accessible only. Teams complete a variety of objective missions from sabotage to hostage rescue, VIP escort and so on. Unlocking mission after mission without any discernible story elements, you might be asking yourself… why am I doing all this again?
Loot, usually. Every mission allows you to farm for craftable materials, game currency, experience, item mods, etc., and since level layouts are randomly generated, there’s no reason not to play the same mission on Mercury again and again and again and again while you hunt for more Rubedo or Ferrite. You’ll need to really grind to collect blueprints and minerals and earn new Warframes and weapons – a process which can, of course, be bypassed for a small fee.
Mo’ money, mo’ awesome!
Leveling up will be your primary objective, though it does leave one curious as to DE’s plan for end-game content. After players complete the solar system, they unlock the ability to further “master-level” their gear, basically doubling their power over time as they continue to play. It’s an extension of the problem: there still exists a final completion point for players – and a main reason behind why community members believe a PvP system is lurking in the back of the developer’s minds.
As a free to play game, premium items integrate well. The wealthy and impatient minority will find all the item supplies, gear, and aesthetic customizations they could want, some of which are pay exclusive. Because the game is built around PvE (player vs. environment), there’s no balancing or pay-to-win aspect to fret over… yet. The biggest gripes from free users seem to be that there is limited inventory space for Warframes, weapons, and items (expandable only with $$$). So as you continue to invest more time and energy, you run out of room to put things, and the choice comes down to deleting the old in favor of the new… or pay. It’s a decision players don’t like to face, but it doesn’t actually deter from any elements of actual gameplay.
Game dollars always seem cheaper than real dollars.
Warframe may compete with AAA retail titles available off the shelf with its superior graphics and fun, addictive gameplay. In the age of technological convergence, a player can hook up a wired Xbox controller as a gamepad and play through the Steam Big Picture dashboard the same way a console PS3 user might boot up Defiance. System requirements are absurdly low, making the game accessible to an enormous range of modern PC users with broadband internet (the speed of your internet will probably be your biggest roadblock). It’s surprising how a game this impressive and this fast can be playable on a bootcamped Macbook Pro, and while obviously higher specs will reward, the net DE has cast manages to encompass even the most casual of PC gamers.
You’re not beating TF2 until you provide my Tenno with achievement hats!
Warframe’s developer Digital Extremes is its own publisher. With the increasing popularity and business feasibility of digital distribution, the company has no reason to contract (and cut revenue) with a publisher. By employing their own in-house production team, DE markets and manages the game from a single cohesive headquarters in Montreal, optimizing productivity, emergency response, game updates, etc.
Having focused on cementing the elements of fun, addictive gameplay, a “build it and they will come” approach seems to be fueling the game’s current promotion (official trailer below). Gamers are pouring into the community in droves as social media marketing runs its natural course. Today’s publishers are always trying to incentivize users (especially free users) to “publish this story to Facebook to reach the next level! Or Pay $1!” or alternatively “invite you friends to earn more [substitute x]”. It’s a tactic that says to players, “market or pay, either way we’ll get some use out of you.” These things are shallow and cut out intrinsic motivation. Create a solid foundation, support it, don’t give your players a reason to not like you, and you’ll have an altruistic community that actually works to recommend your product. Hence the 50,000 Likes on Facebook and the likelihood you’ve never heard of Warframe.
Digital Extremes recognizes the importance of players in their game and player feedback, and they’ve embraced the idea that the community knows what the community wants. In an attempt to further tailor Warframe to the players, the Founder System allows members of the game’s aristocracy to invest in Warframe prior to launch. While expensive, these identifiable users earn a bevy of perks, the most important of which is closed-community forum access with attention priority. Here, fat cat Founders can talk directly with the game’s creators to advocate for developments over the life-cycle of the game. The threat of these users lobbying for more paid advantages seems likely, so we’ll have to trust Digital Extremes to continue to act in the best interest of the larger community while noting commentary from the game’s elite. And since DE is still patrolling the regular forum, this kind of tiered feedback system encourages donations and will hopefully help to offset certain underhanded “money-milking” tactics which too often come bundled in with a F2P business model.
The Warframe Market (cash shop) is as fair and honest as you could ask for. If you want the good stuff, you have to pay or you have to work for it – that’s just capitalism. As noted earlier, power advantages work in a cooperative game, and the time leap is very sizable. Hunting for materials and blueprints will take weeks if you hold down a full time job, especially with build timers ranging from 12–72 hours. The amount of instant revives is limited to 4 a day-– you can still play, but if you go down and you aren’t healed in time by a teammate, you’re out for the count and you’ll fail the mission while they frolic on. Basically, premium users get a boost in bad-assery and convenience. Nobody is ever forced to pay, but you’ll want to, and that’s the point.
Rich people love Free to Play games.
Warframe’s official launch time is unannounced and uncertain, but if you don’t mind working through a couple of game bugs and you’re into senseless killing (come on, who isn’t?), you’re going to enjoy Warframe. It’s a fast action shooter that’s sure to satisfy your inner-adolescent blood frenzy, and as part of a four man wrecking squad cleaning up the galaxy, you get to do a quarter of that dirty work with your own hands! The game holds all the right elements to keep players engaged past the first few planets, but be wary, because it’s easy to find yourself hurting for platinum and digging in your wallet if you invest too much of yourself too quickly.
Furthermore, the game blends a console shooter experience with a F2P business model and a variety of ways to play using your PC. Bottom line? It’s going to appeal to a wide variety of gamers, and it’s free.
About The Author
Vance works in international game publishing as a production coordinator. His occupational research focuses primarily on MMOs and emerging business models, but in his spare time he enjoys a variety of bro-worthy console titles.