This futuristic free-to-play third-person shooter for PC may have as bland a name you’ll find, but it’s anything but typical. I sat down with Digital Extremes’ new game for a weekend in order to see how it fares in closed beta.
It starts with guns. Pistols, machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns – they all work for a singular purpose of gunning down whatever enemy stands in your way. Be it the infected hounds that run towards your feet at break neck speeds, oozing monstrosities that poison the air around them, cybernetic robots and soldiers that use technology against you, or the army of militarized humans that hunt down your kind, they all fall beneath your skill, your speed and your weapons. Weapons that level up and can be customized into high level tools of destruction, but it doesn’t stop there.
With each Warframe that you embody you have different skills at your disposal, like a stunning blast that leaves all foes vulnerable, or a quick slice that has you flying through the air with your blade gripped tightly in hand, cutting enemies in half like Raiden or Ninja Gaiden. Then there is the blade that can be a katana, an axe, or various other melee based weapons that each have their own strength and weaknesses.
All can be customized, even your suit, and leveled up. Each Warframe gives you different options and different builds, but they all lead to the same purpose: destroying enemies in various missions throughout a massive galaxy that can be explored alone or with three deadly friends at your side.
This massive galaxy isn’t massive in the ways you might think. This isn’t an open world game but instead a level based affair that has you conquering sectors, each of which is filled with numerous levels of varying difficulty, objectives and enemies. It is massive in the sense that there are a great many sectors and they are always branching off towards new areas.
The objectives you can get on any given mission can be something simple like ‘kill all enemies in this area’, or something far more interesting that has you hunting down a specific enemy, retrieving an artefact, fighting a boss or accessing a database. The venues of these objects are all fairly similar and it can taken place aboard a ship of several different themes, a mining outpost or a space station.
The first glint of repetition fatigue I got in Warframe came from a realization about the areas in which the missions take place. After around ten-or-so missions in, I had realized that I had been to many of the same areas several times already. The same levels are reused, and while I did bump into an entirely new one every so often, the old ones start to become unwelcome and less interesting before long, especially if you’re frequenting the same sections of that level over and over.
Thankfully, Digital Extremes dulls this repetition somewhat by making each level impressively large in size, so you can fight through one area five times without seeing all there is to see. It is also helpful that each faction, of which there are three, gives each level a unique quality based on their theme. For instance, if the enemies are of the infected sort then the ground can be covered with growth and the air is filled with spores.
Blasting through these objectives alone isn’t all that exciting, but it is possible and you are sure to find plenty of items, earn experience and rack up some credits. Unsurprisingly, it is far more interesting with one or two friends who are watching your back, helping you up when you are down and generally wrecking havoc.
In the beginning, having multiple players breeds competition for kills, even though experience and loot is shared, just for the sake of action, but later on you have to rely on each other for protection and strength in numbers. More than once I have saved my companions – or been saved by them – with a powerful special ability that cleared the area moments before they were overcome.
Warframe is a slick, fast and action based co-op game that deserves a place in the world. I’ve never played a co-op game before that has players running across walls, climbing through vents, sliding across zip lines and cutting enemies down with futuristic blades of destruction.
Despite the repetitive environments, I had a good time and the customization and leveling system (both of which left me impressed with the way you could create builds and swap between Warframes to bring about new tactics), new weapons and new skills.
However, the beta did have plenty of problems with lag, poor mini-map function, players getting lost because of a buggy objective marker and a currency system that left much to be desired, but in the end Warfame has become a game that I will keep my eyes on and if it comes out of beta with technical problems fixed, it’ll be an online shooter worth paying attention to.