It may be 2017, and games like League of Legends and Dota 2 may continue to dominate the free-to-play market, but free-to-play space ninja game Warframe has yet to begin its descent into obscurity. As I write this in the middle of Thursday, over 18,000 players are logged into the game on Steam, while four months ago the game achieved an all-time peak of 68,816 players (based on SteamDB). Last November, PlayStation Lifestyle reported that the game had set a new record for the number of monthly active users it had on console, and that there were over one million unique players across all three platforms (PC, PS4 and Xbox One).
Basically, Warframe is still pretty popular even after four years, and continues to receive a steady flow of updates. But is popularity a good enough reason for you to jump in if you haven’t yet? Maybe not, which is why I’ve come up with this list. If your gaming personality fits either one of the three listed below, then chances are that Warframe is meant for you. Provided you like space ninjas, of course.
Warframe is pretty packed with content, and a lot of that content consists of weapons and modifications to acquire and further empower your already badass avatar. In addition to that, there’re also cosmetic equipment like armour pieces and syndanas (really fancy capes), companions that are either made of metal or flesh and special modifications and fancy-looking and stonger Prime versions of Warframes. Once you get to the space-set Archwing missions, you might become interested in improving your archwing with is own mods too.
Getting these naturally takes time, and with Warframe, you can expect to lose many, many hours grinding for the resources needed to craft something, reaching the Mastery Rank that’s required for a weapon or battling your way to the planet where you’ll have to battle its boss a few times to collect the blueprints required to build the components of a Warframe. Then there’s the matter of levelling up Warframes, weapons and companions, upgrading modifications, increasing the mod capacity for either one of those three and further increasing said capacity by inserting an item that resets the level of the respective object.
For those who are always interested in getting something new and have the patience or the eagerness to embrace the long journey ahead of them, this aspect of Warframe will prove to be a delight. Unless you’re a collector as well, the appeal of getting new items might wear off once you’ve reached the higher echelons of the game’s content and player ranks, but you’ll probably have put in hundreds if not thousands of hours by then.
For a game with heaps of content to grind for, Warframe works quite well as a quick distraction or as something that one can cram into a lunch time break. While some players are happy to sink over an hour into an endless mission (typically Survival), there’s nothing to stop you from playing and enjoying a couple of Extermination or Capture runs or bailing out after five or ten waves of a Defense mission (except a lust for more power).
I don’t recall Warframe ever showing the completion time of a mission in the post-mission screen, but generally speaking most missions don’t seem to drag on for longer than ten minutes. There are several variables here though, including the performance of you and your teammates’ equipment and the enemies’ levels. It’s not uncommon to have at least one guy on the team who slaughters every enemy in the immediate vicinity in the blink of an eye, which makes games even shorter and more unfulfilling for the ones who end up playing catch-up instead of participating in the slaughter.
That said, it’s not impossible to have a game that doesn’t take up too much time yet doesn’t get blitzed through thanks to the power of a single player. And while the occurence may become more common when it comes to the limited-time Alert missions, the survival and defense missions you’ll find among them provide sufficient enemies to satisfy everyone while ditching the endless nature of their normal brethren. They’re my favourite missions to do when I’ve got no particular goal to strive for, especially when they’re conveniently listed in the star map screen.
Warframe offers a pretty unique experience that you won’t find in any other game, free-to-play or otherwise (Destiny comes close, but it doesn’t have space ninjas). Luckily, that experience isn’t just unique but plays (and looks) well too, especially since melee and parkour were reworked. Instead of just shooting from cover, you’ll be spinning through the air, slicing enemies into half and headshotting other foes with your firearm. Hours later, you might be sending enemies flying with a hammer instead, or annihilating waves of enemies with a grenade launcher. Fast forward even further and perhaps you’ll be taking joy in wielding a whip and a shotgun.
The randomly-generated levels don’t have a long-lasting appeal, but the combination of satisfying gameplay and progression creates a compulsion loop that’ll lead you across the solar system. There’s some PvP modes for those who want them, but Clans will likely prove to be more compelling, especially when a number of weapons require research in clan structures, but there’s also potential joy to be found in contributing to the growth and construction of your clan Dojo.
Oh, and the warframe abilities. Can’t believe I forgot about that. If being a badass space ninja wasn’t badass enough, what about having special powers like invisibility or summoning an energy sword as well? Or what about freezing enemies around you and shattering them or turning into an invulnerable melee berserker? I’m not a fan of the way warframe customization is done, and what I’ve read seems to indicate that many players focus on improving one or two abilities and ignoring the others, but nevertheless the abilities contribute to the satisfaction of the gameplay and are far from a simple gimmick that can be easily forgotten, even if guns and swords are usually your main killing tools.
And the cherry on top of this cake, is the free-to-play business model.