Developer: Digital Extremes / Panic Button Games
Publisher: Digital Extremes
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Action, Multiplayer & Role-Playing
Release Date: November 20, 2018 (EU & NA) / November 21, 2018 (JP)
Warframe finally takes the leap to the Switch, but is the grind worth your time?
Thanks to Panic Buttons Games, the gods behind making Wolfenstein, DOOM and Rocket League all work on Switch, comes another offering that is absolutely worth downloading. Ladies, gentleman and gamers, Warframe has arrived!
Being a free-to-play third-person loot-and-shoot co-op game, Warframe follows a similar layout of already previously released games such as Destiny, Monster Hunter and Borderlands 2; the mash-up of gameplay options and the inspired nature of the game is such a perfect fit onto the Switch that I found myself being sucked right into the game, from its movement to its combat and even its story.
Warframe is one of those games with a fairly simple story if you want to gloss over it, but extremely deep if looked into enough. Although the story is quite deep, I never found myself being too overly attached to any characters or being too interested, however, the quests, missions and other in-game activities that involved story were still a nice addition, and if you’re someone who actively seeks to learn everything about the lore of a game, then Warframe has that option and everything is laid out pretty well and is fairly easy-to-access for those players.
Primarily a co-op third-person-shooter, Warframe will have you fight hordes of enemies in search for the highest rarity of loot. Playing as one of around 60 ‘Frames’ (the game’s playable characters – including Prime variants) that each has their own special abilities and playstyles, you’ll pair up with other players online to work together to complete different missions and objectives in a PvE setting.
With the rewards you earn from completing these missions, you’ll gain a wide variety of loot, from components for crafting, blueprints for new Frames and Weapons and relics/quest rewards, there’s always a reason to play a mission, and a satisfying reward waiting for you at the end. It’s the massive grind that Warframe offers that can be the deciding factor of whether or not this type of game is for you.
If you enjoy repeating missions to level up, become stronger and gain better loot in a Monster Hunter-esque style, then this game is for you, however if you want shorter, casual style gameplay that gives you all of its content from the get-go, then unfortunately this is a game you’ll want to steer away from.
Warframe is possibly one of the most content-ridden games I have ever played. The sheer amount of missions, gameplay options and just general content is insane and is on a scale that is too far to measure. With hundreds of hours of ‘early-to-mid-game’ and even hundreds more in its endgame and beyond, it’s surprising how much support and sheer amount of stuff there is to do in this game.
One of Warframe’s most unique and influential mechanics is the variety and importance of movement. Rather than being limited to a run and jump like a lot of third-person-shooters, Warframe’s movement system has a skill curve and a deep system of importance that turns simple movements into a literal thing of the past, and makes movement not only a measure of getting around but also part of your arsenal.
From sliding, to bullet jumping, to floating, getting from Point A to Point B in a mission has never been more fun, and from playing the game for well over a hundred hours, it never got boring or repetitive – I genuinely had an absolute blast demolishing enemies in a fast and fluent way.
Over the course of Warframe, you will visit 16 different Planets, Moons and other locations; as well as two other areas that require keys – the Clan Dojo and Orokin Derelict. Each place on the Star Chart has a variety of missions, and after fulfilling certain conditions, you can fight an opponent Warframe at that planet’s junction to progress to the next location. Missions are the main type of playable content in the game, and a squad of up to four can join and play missions cooperatively.
All missions are PvE and depending on the planet will have different types/factions of enemies ranging from Corpus, Grineer and Infested – all of which feature different enemies with alternate weaknesses. Most of the time, Warframe’s enemy design is top-notch. All of the different species and factions differ in gameplay style quite a bit, and when fighting against them, you’ll have to alter how you play or set up your build in order to have the best chance of winning the mission.
The bosses in Warframe are fairly fun to fight, with the exception of some especially annoying ones. Every planet usually holds a major boss fight, which you can then do repeatedly for a chance of getting the Warframe blueprint you want. The grind is very fun and very akin to Borderlands grind for legendary weapons – it doesn’t feel too tedious or boring, and I tended to get the drops I wanted before the fights started to become mindlessly boring.
Warframe’s combat system was fun, fluid and intuitive and throughout my playthrough, I found myself looking at the combat as being the most enjoyable experience of the game. With a mix of different primary, secondary and melee weapons, building, grinding and mastering a weapon felt not overly forced or boring, but more fun and challenging.
Not all weapons are the same, and some were definitely better than others, but changing things up and trying all-new types of weapons allowed me to experience many different styles of play, and matched with the abilities and gameplay twists that the Frame you choose offers; I found myself joyfully experimenting with what weapon build was right for me.
Progression in Warframe is some of the best in an MMORPG like this. Everything you make or use has a level, and as you level your weapons, companions and Warframe up, you gain Mastery XP. Once you have filled your Mastery XP bar, you can take a Mastery test to find out if you can progress to the next level.
These mastery tests are easy at first, but they do spike in difficulty and become quite stressful. While the penalties for losing your Mastery test is quite small (you can’t retake it for 24 hours) – I felt the test mechanic was something fresh and innovative, and actually made me feel like I earned myself a spot in the next rank. As you rank up, you’ll have access to more weapon blueprints, as well as the ability to craft certain items, such as Prime variants.
Prime variants are slightly different versions of Warframes, mods or abilities that are overall rarer, harder to obtain but in the end, slightly more powerful and rewarding. Prime items are hard to get, and are usually considered mid-end-game items.
You can get Prime blueprints rarely from opening blueprints or trading with other players – and they usually cannot be crafted until you have reached a certain Mastery Rank. In my hundred hours of playing, and my countless hours of Relic grinding/opening, I only managed to obtain the materials to craft two Prime variants, and even though the grind was a bit tedious or slow, the reward was worth it.
Relics are Warframe’s form of F2P loot box. They’re entirely free to obtain in the game, and hold many types of rewards with different tiers of rarity – Bronze, Silver and Gold. You obtain relics rarely by completing objectives, surviving long enough in Survival, or holding the objective long enough in Defense.
Once obtained, you’ll need to enter Void Fissure missions, where you can collect reactants from enemies to open the relic at the end. If all four players in a mission choose to open a relic, you may choose anyone’s reward at the end – which is great, if someone gets a much rarer reward than you do. Once completing fissures and collecting reactants, you’ll receive Void Traces, which you can use to refine your relics in hopes of better rewards.
One of my least favourite things in Warframe is the Archwing. The Archwing is an item you obtain early in the game to allow access into Archwing missions. Archwing missions are essentially space shooters, in a similar style to something like Star Fox. While the Archwing’s premise is okay, the clunky execution and awkward feeling controls found me heavily disliking the missions featuring it.
Sometimes these missions are easily avoidable and not mandatory, but if you’re a completionist like me, and want to complete most of the missions on a planet, it is kind of unavoidable.
Another gripe is that when you enter water, you start using your Archwing – which is extremely annoying during a normal mission when your movement flow is completely interrupted by touching water. The Archwing is definitely a downside, rather than an upside and just didn’t entirely feel needed, as it just doesn’t fit well with the flow of the game.
Throughout the game, you are able to give aid to many different factions and groups to gain standing. The mechanic is fairly fun and can give you many benefits, depending on the factions you choose to aid. To help specific factions, you buy and wear their sigil on their Warframe.
Doing so will reward you with Standing that will allow you to rank up within that faction reward tier. In later tiers you can gain access to Warframes, Guns and special augment mods that allow you to change the versatility and use of some of the Frames’ abilities.
Customisation is a large feature in Warframe. Whether it’s just appearance or upgrades, tailoring to your playstyle is a huge part of the game and something that you’ll want to work towards frequently. Warframes, weapons and companions can change appearance with different colours, skins and accessories. While these don’t affect the game at all, they’re still fun to mess around with, especially with the integrated photo mode within the game to set up intense and fun shots.
Aside from physical changes, you can upgrade your Warframes, weapons and companions with Mods. Mods are items you receive from missions and alerts and are the main way to make your character stronger. Different mods will apply different modifiers, whether it be improved weapon damage, improved energy or health boosts – mods can be built and upgraded in what seems to be infinitely different combinations and are fun to mess around with.
Creating a good build that suits your Frame felt a lot like Monster Hunter’s skill system, as it was hard to understand at first, but once you get past the initial learning curve, the possibilities felt endless.
While Warframe is free, the biggest question to ask is ‘is the game Pay-To-Win’? The answer is definitely not. Warframe’s ‘premium’ currency is Platinum. Platinum allows you to purchase Frames, Cosmetics, Weapons and Companions instantly, as well as purchase Inventory Capacity and Rush Crafting, however, Platinum can still be obtained for free as long as you know where to look.
Often, you can sell Prime parts to other players for Platinum, and you also start out with 50 base Platinum. While you may only trade Platinum you’ve purchased, most players have transferred their PC account, which means a large portion of the player base already has Platinum they’re willing to spend, it’s just about if you want to spend the time to grind and trade the right items. Even so, in the end, Platinum is not needed and doesn’t really hinder the game in any way, it’s more of a choice than a necessity.
Now, while Panic Button’s job on porting Warframe to Switch, is quite possibly the best work I’ve seen from a port so far – it still does have its problems. Whether the bugs and glitches I encountered were part of the game or part of the port, there’s no denying that sometimes this behemoth of a game can have some issues.
There are many minor bugs and glitches, where characters would get stuck or doors would fail to open – but luckily most of the time this can be solved by typing /unstuck in the chat. In terms of optimisation, the Switch runs Warframe fairly smoothly, with not that many noticeable frame drops.
The only place that had my Switch obviously struggle was the open world. With the amount of entities being rendered and the particles, the Switch would often take a turn for the worse in these missions, it’s not a massive part of the game, but it’s definitely something that could use a bit more optimisation work.
One of the best parts of Warframe is the graphics and graphical settings. It’s rare to see a console game offer such vast graphical settings, but tweaking with the settings such as Bloom, FOV and Motion Blur really made my experience that tad bit better and is something I was glad they included.
The overall art-style and visual nature of Warframe is great, it fits its Sci-Fi theme perfectly and often made me gasp in awe of how much power the Switch secretly has hidden in its little plastic shell. Warframe doesn’t skimp on its graphics, and never becomes an eyesore at all while playing, especially with its extreme amount of variety in terms of settings and locales.
Warframe’s soundtrack fits the ambience of the game perfectly and all of the gun, enemy and other various sound effects were really well done and made the game feel even more spectacular than it already is. The dialogue is well-executed (though sometimes cringe at times) and made me feel much more immersed into the story than any written lore would (looking at you, Destiny).
Warframe offers full support with its companion app with phones, which can be a blessing. Using the app you can configure load-outs, craft and redeem weapons and frames, as well as allow the app to send a notification whenever a special event you seek becomes available. Its integration felt seamless and intuitive and is now a staple app on my phone for my extra Warframe needs.
All in all, Warframe is 100% worth a download. It’s a fast, fun and fluid shooter that not only satisfies that Destiny-shaped hole in my Switch-filled heart, but adds more to the table – way more. The amount of content and play-time here for a fully free-to-play co-op game is just mind-boggling and in the short one hundred I’ve experienced it, Warframe has quickly become my favourite multiplayer game on Switch. Aside from its Archwing missions and sometimes lacklustre optimisation, the game is perfect for grind-hungry gamers. Just don’t get lost in orbit, Nintenno.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Review Key Provided by Digital Extremes
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This post was written by Ruairi O'Brien (Lucariocios)