Way back in 2013, I remember downloading a free-to-play game alongside two of my cousins so we could add it to our running list of multiplayer titles to play together.
Back then, Warframe was in open beta and the thought of a game that featured space ninjas and a mix of third-person shooting and melee was something I found quite intriguing. While the game’s concept was interesting, however, the actual gameplay felt a bit rough around the edges.
After playing it for a few months, my cousins and I quit Warframe and moved on to other games. We always thought about coming back but never really did. That is, until now. After hearing good things about the game and trying it out over the Christmas break, I was dumbfounded by what I saw. Today’s Warframe feels like a totally different game than the one I tried during the beta. It’s also much, much better.
Best described as a cross between Diablo and Destiny with some Borderlands thrown in between, Warframe is a loot-based, third-person action shooter that provides one of the more unique gaming experiences out there. Thanks to its mix of fast-paced movement, solid shooting, simple yet effective melee, and cool designs that meld Japanese anime with Western science fiction, Warframe boasts instant appeal to a certain slice of the gaming population. Add its addicting loot mechanic and you’ve got a game that can hook you before you know it. It’s that rare free-to-play game that feels like a bona fide AAA title.
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At the same time, the big changes that Warframe has gone through over the years can make it feel overwhelming to beginners. The game has a ton features, systems and mechanics — a good chunk of which isn’t explained clearly. Let’s just say it explains things just about as well as a guy who comes home late and gets caught by his wife with lipstick on his collar. There’s just so much here that you have to figure out yourself.
Which brings us to this guide. Even after pumping many, many hours in this game, I still feel like a beginner, to be honest, so I feel your pain. I mean, if the menus look complicated to you in the beginning, just wait till you unlock more things like your foundry, dojo, daily quests and relics. Worry not, though, it’ll all make sense the more you play. See, at the end of the day, you can boil down your main goals in Warframe to two things: dealing damage and avoiding damage (that’s quite similar to the Monster Hunter community’s mantra of “Hit it till it dies” and “Don’t get hit”). Well, that and looking cool. Everything else, including grinding for loot, ties into those goals and starts to make more sense when you think about it that way.
Whether you’re a newcomer or a player returning to the game after several years away, here’s a list of useful things to know that will hopefully make your start a lot smoother than mine was. This Warframe Beginner Guide will also be updated as new info comes out.
Picking a starting Warframe between Excalibur, Mag and Volt boils down to personal preference. I love using mage or caster-type characters, for example, so I ended up picking Mag when I first started playing Warframe eons ago. When I restarted on PlayStation 4, however, I ended up picking the more balanced Excalibur because I wanted to try something different.
If you’re worried about which Warframe is tougher to get, you can acquire Mag and Volt earlier in the game prior to Excalibur. You won’t be able to farm Excalibur, for example, until you reach the Ambulas boss in Pluto, which is toward the end of the star chart. In contrast, Mag can be farmed from the Sergeant boss in Phobos, which you can get to after Mars. Volt components, meanwhile, can be acquired by being part of a Clan and accessing its Tenno Lab. You can even start your own clan, which is easy to do, but you’ll need to have a lot of resources as well as Forma, which can be a bit tougher to acquire earlier in the game unless you just buy it with Platinum.
As far as ease of use, Excalibur is easily the easier to master (pun so totally intended). His abilities are pretty simple to understand and he’s a pretty solid all-rounder — he’s got a move that blinds and stuns for crowd control, an AOE attack for damaging enemies that are surrounding him plus a melee-focused ultimate that lets you string together multiple sword slashes while keeping your mobility. Thanks to his more straightforward kit, Excalibur lets you spend less time figuring out how to use your Warframe optimally in combat and focus more on learning the game’s many other nuances or how the various weapons work. His aforementioned Radial Blind is also great at taking out junction bosses quickly and even dealing with those annoying Sentients that adapt to your attacks. Lastly, Excalibur boasts better survivability, which is great to have when you’re still learning the game. Although Mag and Volt stack up fine with Excalibur as far as Health and Shields, for example, both have far lower Armor, so they can go down pretty quickly. About the biggest issue with Excalibur is that he’s just like vanilla: easy on the palate but potentially boring after a while.
Mag’s kit, in comparison, is a bit more technical and requires more thought to use. At the same time, it can be a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. For starters, her abilities feature great synergy with each other, revolving around her ability to magnetize opponents. This includes healing allies’ shields or, conversely, stripping away the shields of your foes. Her Magnetize ability, meanwhile, improves the performance of her other abilities like Pull, Polarize and Crush when applied first. One potential issue with Mag is that while she’s great with crowd control, you might find her damage a bit lacking, especially if you’re still getting the hang of the upgrade system and don’t have good Mods yet. Her Crush Ultimate has a long cast time that can get her killed if you time it wrong as well.
The remaining starter, Volt, is also more technical than Excalibur and relies on using electricity for attacks, crowd control, defense and even increasing his own movement speed and that of his allies. This movement speed is especially important for Volt as his passive ability lets him build static energy that increases the damage of his next attack depending on how far he’s traveled. The caveat is that he’s encouraged to walk, run or slide as opposed to bullet jumping because his feet need to touch the ground in order to build that energy. Also, if you thought Mag’s base armor rating of 65 is low, Volt’s is even lower at 15 (Excalibur, meanwhile, has a base armor of 225). All that being said, I’m one of those guys who started playing Monster Hunter as a Gunner with less health. Just pick the one that you think suits your playstyle as you can eventually build the other two as you progress in the game. Regardless of whom you pick, they’ll be able to tide you over until you acquire a frame like Rhino, which I highly recommend for beginners (more on that frame later).
When you start the game, you’ll be given a small amount of platinum — a bit more if you download something like the one-time free platinum from the PlayStation store if you’re on PS4 or get a free Platinum reward on Xbox One. Don’t spend it. At least not right away before you know what you’re doing. Platinum is the premium currency in Warframe. It’s one of those things that you can’t farm in-game and either have to buy with real cash from the store or earn by trading items with other players. This makes it a precious commodity that you should not waste.
The general consensus is that you should use it to expand your maximum number of slots for Warframes or weapons, which start out being quite piddly (I believe you start out with space for just two Warframes, for example, which is laughably low if you’ve got that Pokemon-style, gotta-catch-em-all collector’s mentality). The exception, of course, is if money is no object to you. That or time is something you consider a precious commodity and you want to reduce Warframe’s really, really, really, long grind. Then by all means, buy a bazillion platinum and spend it however you wish. If you do plan on buying platinum regularly, at least wait for the 50 percent or even 75 percent sales as it can get pretty pricey. Just because you have money to spend doesn’t mean you should waste it.
For folks who want to play the game normally, you’ll want to start building up your number of credits as well as an energy resource known as Endo right away as they will allow you to start crafting, buy gear or blueprints, and also power up your character via mod upgrades (more on this later). You can earn credits and Endo via missions, which brings us to our next tip.
OK, you’ve picked your starting Warframe. Now what? Your first thought is that you probably want to unlock more Warframes and weapons. I know I did. Before you get to doing that, though, you’ll want to start unlocking areas and planets on your star chart.
In addition to opening up more places for you to play, unlocking areas, nodes and planets will also allow you farm a greater variety of items, resources and blueprints, which you will need to craft those Warframes and weapons that you desire. Having more areas and planets unlocked will also allow you to participate in more special missions, such as daily alerts (accessible via the upper right portion of your menu when you’re kneeling in front of the mission or star chart terminal on your ship’s bridge). These alerts not only drop credits but can also reward you with Endo, weapons, blueprints for Warframe components (e.g. Vauban) and cosmetics, or resources both common and rare.
At the very least, you will want to at least unlock the nodes on each planet that connect to the junctions that give access to other planets.
It’s also a good idea to do the different story quests because they progress the narrative, teach you the game’s basics and can also net you some nice rewards that would otherwise require a major grind or purchase via Platinum. Some story missions are also required to unlock junctions to other planets. You can check these story missions by looking at your Codex (it’s the terminal on the left of your ship’s bridge).
Speaking of missions, I do recommend skipping most of the Plains of Eidolon content at first with the exception of the initial Saya’s Vigil quest, which is required to progress through the star chart. I’d focus on unlocking most of the planets first and earning their various resources for crafting. Once you’re further along the galaxy, have ample resources collected from other planets, and have an Archwing and its Launcher Segment unlocked for sky travel (the latter can be bought in the market with platinum or researched in a clan dojo’s Tenno Lab), then feel free to get deeper into the weeds, er, plains of Eidolon.
I also recommend doing the initial nodes with public matchmaking off and going solo instead so you can get a feel for the game. If you play those first maps with a group, chances are, they will get finished before you even know what’s going on and you’ll end up learning nothing. You should at least try each mission type solo (such as Spy, Capture or Rescue) so you learn how they work. The only exception would be Defense missions as those are pretty tough to do solo, especially when you’re just starting.
One of the best ways to learn is to do the Vor’s Prize story mission solo up to the last boss fight as you will get an introduction to the various mission types. Once you reach the Vor boss fight, I think it’s OK to do that with other players as it can be challenging to do it solo when you’re just starting out and only have damaged mods equipped without any serious grinding. Speaking of mods…
Yes, you can level up your Warframe and weapons independently by going through missions. Once you hit the Level 30 cap, however, you’ve pretty much hit the wall and can’t improve your frame and weapons the “normal” way anymore. I experienced this personally after hitting Jupiter with my maxed out gear and getting unceremoniously destroyed by enemies.
That’s because true power in this game is unlocked via boosts known as modules or “mods,” which you install in your frame and weapon. When I started the game, I was obsessed with obtaining new Warframes and enlarging my collection of space ninjas. By the time I was halfway through the solar system, my interest started switching to mods. In fact, I actually felt happier after acquiring a new rare mod recently than I was after getting my last Warframe blueprint. Mods are that important.
The mods you can install depend on how much capacity your Warframe or weapon has. This capacity can typically be increased to about 30 by maxing out your Warframe or weapon level. You can further increase that by equipping what’s known as Aura mods or installing an Orokin Reactor or Catalyst.
Some mod slots come with a symbol sometimes. If you put a mod with a matching symbol in that slot, it will cut the required capacity points in half. That means a mod that once required 8 points will now only require 4 points, allowing you to fit in even more stuff.
Admittedly, this can all be confusing when you first start out so just use the auto mod picker at first. Eventually, though, you’ll definitely want to start slotting your mods manually once your frame is sufficiently leveled up and you have acquired enough mods to toy around with. Early on, you should concentrate on easy-to-acquire mods that increase survivability like Vitality, Redirection and Steel Fiber. As enemies start hitting harder and eat through your upgraded defenses, you’ll want to start focusing on energy and ability improvements, as well as increased damage so you can crowd control foes better and kill them before they kill you. This includes using elements (electric, Ice, Fire, Toxin, etc.) to take advantage of your foes’ weaknesses since each enemy is weak to certain attacks and elements, whether it be the Grineer, Corpus or Infected. You can even install different elements together to create new effects (e.g. using an Electric mod and a Toxin mod will add the Corrosive effect to your weapon, which is one of the best element combinations in the game).
Also note that you can do several other actions in the mod window, such as selling duplicates for credits or Endo as well as fusing them for a chance at a random card.
For the longest time while playing Warframe, I didn’t care much about typing advantages and weaknesses when gearing up. For the most part, I just equipped what I liked and went to town, so to speak. Later on, however, I started noticing that weapons that did well against certain enemies would do poorly against others. This becomes even more obvious as you go up against stronger enemies. Just like Pokemon, you’ll want to note the kinds of enemies you’ll be running into during a mission and arm yourself accordingly to make your life easier.
Warframe has several factions, with the Grineer, Corpus and Infested being the main ones you run into. Each comes with its various fighter types but typically have some universal preferences. The Grineer, for example, like to use armor and are typically weak against Puncture, Corrosive, Viral or Radiation damage. The Corpus, meanwhile, heavily rely on shields and are susceptible to Magnetic, Impact, Cold, Toxin or Viral damage. Infested are weak against Slash, Heat, Gas, Corrosive or Blast attacks.
For a more detailed list, check this Warframe Damage 2.0 primer.
For a shooter, Warframe features a lot of mobility. You’ll notice this the first time you play with other players and they start blazing through maps seemingly at mach speed while dashing, jumping and wall latching. Don’t worry, you’ll be doing that in no time, as well.
The key is knowing that you can chain together your dashes, jumps and hovers, allowing you to not only cover great distances quickly but also jump over chasms to reach other places. A basic movement combo, for example, is to do a slide dash then jump. This makes your Warfame do a forward bullet jump that covers a great distance. From there you could do a second jump that gives you just that extra bit of distance or allows you to change directions after the first jump. But wait, there’s more. By pressing your aim-down sight (left trigger for gamepad) after a jump, you can hover, allowing you to go even further. You can also press the slide dash button again after a jump to do a downward dash if you want to land faster.
Seriously, pick up everything you see if possible. It’s easy to pass by stuff when you’re lazy or playing with folks who are just blazing through the map and bullet jumping toward the objective or extraction point. Warframe, however, is a resource-intensive grindfest and you’re going to thank yourself later on for taking the time to pick up all those extra Rubedos, Nanospores, Plasmids or Neurodes when you’re crafting an item that requires them.
Thanks to its heavy use of corridors and even secret pipes, it can be easy to get lost in Warframe’s stages. There’s a special place in you-know-where, for example, for whoever designed the game’s ice maps with those ruined facilities or those stages with underwater segments. Goosefraba…
The on-screen marker definitely helps but there will eventually be a time when you’re following the destination cursor and find yourself staring at a dead end. When this happens, look up or down. Warframe areas can have plenty of verticality and passages can be tucked just above or underneath you (the game lets you wall jump infinitely on climbable spots, provided there’s nothing that hits your head).
Folks who use a gamepad can also press up on the D-pad to bring out a transparent onscreen map that can let you see any connecting passages you might have missed. This can also be helpful during Spy missions where you have to get through a data room without triggering a bazillion security lasers (note that if you do trigger an alarm, you can still head straight to the terminal you need to hack and not worry about tripping lasers anymore. As long as you get to it fast enough, you can retrieve the data before the timer runs out).
Pressing left on the D-pad controller also lets you mark that part of the map. This can be used to help guide lost teammates or let them know if you found something like a scannable planet fragment or the entrance to a challenge room.
Later on in the game, you’ll need to be able to equip stuff like scanners to, well, scan things on the field. I racked my brains trying to figure this one out until I finally opened my equipment tab (also accessible by walking to your Armory inside the ship and opening it) and saw the Gear tab in the bottom. From here, you can program gear into your gear wheel, which can be brought up in the field. For controllers, for example, you can press down on the D-pad to bring your gear wheel up. I don’t use keyboard, unfortunately, so I don’t know the exact buttons, but I believe the gear wheel can be brought out with “Y” and the gear can also be hotkeyed to your number keys
Everybody likes free stuff. It won’t take long, however, before all those starter weapons you acquire get long in the tooth. Once you’ve maxed out that Skana or any of the starter Mk-1 gear, I recommend buying one of those weapons that can be purchased with regular credits (not Platinum, unless you’re Daddy Warbucks and can spare the coin). These typically cost 25,000 credits and can last you through a good part of the campaign as long as you’re keeping up to date with their mods.
My personal favorite is the Strun shotgun, which I used to one-shot foes through several planets after my Mk-1 Paris bow started to fall off in performance. Otherwise, you can get the Braton rifle, which is an upgrade over the starter Mk-1 Braton and should last you until you’re able to afford or craft better options. Also, keep your eyes peeled for daily alerts that reward you with weapon blueprints for finishing certain missions.
Unless you’re swimming in Platinum, you’ll notice that you don’t have many options for buying equipment. That’s because a big part of the Warframe experience is crafting the stuff you want. Once you’ve bought those initial weapons with credits, you’ll have to either buy blueprints for other weapons from the market or find the blueprints via mission drops or rewards. Then you’ll head off to your Foundry, which you can unlock early on in the game. Oh yeah, a lot of the stuff you build in this game will take 12 hours or even three days (with a few exceptions) unless you use platinum to rush it, which is something I normally do not recommend.
Admittedly, it can be intimidating crafting your initial weapons early on in the game when you’re basically still young, dumb and broke. When resources are scarce, you don’t want to waste them on a bad weapon. The good news is that just about any weapon works well when you’re early in the game. Warframe sort of guides you to what weapons to craft as they’re usually capped by your master rank so you can initially only craft the ones suitable for your level.
Even “bad” weapons are actually not a waste as you can earn mastery points for each unique weapon once by maxing out. This brings us to…
As you gain knowledge in the game, you’ll sometimes notice players who obviously have been playing a long time but are using non-endgame or less powerful weapons. What’s up with that? Well, chances are, they are leveling it up for mastery points.
See, every weapon can be leveled up to earn points that can be used to increase your overall mastery rank. This will then allow you to take a test so you can get promoted to the next rank. Ranking up is important as it allows you to take part in mastery rank-capped missions, use higher-rank weapons, earn extra capacity for gear or raise the limit for how much standing you can earn in one day from the game’s various Syndicates.
Note that the mastery test can be taken only once per day and you’ll have to wait till the next day in case you flunk it. The good news is that the first few are easy and only require you to kill three waves of enemies using your various weapon types. By the time you have to do harder ones, like the Mastery 5 or Mastery 6 tests, you should already have access to Cephalon Cimaris’ room, which lets you practice each test. By the way, in case you’re worried about failing the last part of the Mastery 5 terminal hacking test, make sure you bring an item known as a cipher. Just save it for the last terminal (which is the toughest one) and enable it if you find yourself running out of time. Doing so will make it auto hack for you.
One common experience in Warframe involves acquiring a blueprint, excitedly heading to your foundry to build it, then realizing you’re missing an item or two (or three) to make it.
What the Hek?
In fact, a big part of Warframe is finding the stuff you need to make that new frame or weapon. The stronger your weapons, the more likely, too, that it will need materials that don’t become plentiful until later in the star chart. You’ll be swimming in stuff like Rubedo early on but stuff like Plastids can be rare at first. Get deeper into the star chart, however, and you’ll be tripping on Plastids all over the place. It’s one more reason why I recommend unlocking the planets as soon as you can.
The good news is that there are a lot of resources online to get information on this stuff. The Warframe wiki, for example, is one such resource.
Here’s a sampling of some of the less common resources I found myself constantly searching for and the more common ways to find them (not the only way, mind you). Daily alerts can also have these occasionally as rewards.
Wondering what that floating machine is next to players that shoots ice beams or other projectiles? That’s a Sentinel, one of several Companion options you can use in the game. You actually get rewarded one of them, the X-shaped Taxon, after you finish the Venus junction. The Taxon comes with the Artax attachment, which fires the aforementioned ice beam that slows opponents so you can dispose of them more easily (or buy time to line up that perfect headshot). Other Sentinels come with different abilities like stealth, for example.
These Sentinels, by the way, act like weapons and can be equipped with mods as well. Later on, you will also unlock a mission that lets you acquire an animal-type companion known as a Kubrow. Note that these are more high-maintenance than Sentinels and require upkeep that’s fairly expensive when you’re just starting out. Oh yeah, animals can also die if you neglect them because Ordis hates pets and won’t take care of them.
Sentinels, on the other hand, do not die permanently and don’t require upkeep so use them to your heart’s content.
True confession — I did not start using my Warframe’s special abilities until I reached Mars. The lesson, as always, is: I’m an idiot. Don’t be an idiot like me.
Part of it was that I did not know how to use them. On PS4, for example, you can swipe left, right, up or down on the touchpad or press and hold R1 then press the corresponding button to use one of four abilities. PS4 players should note that once you finish The Second Dream, swiping on the touchpad will trigger your Transcendence ability instead if your gauge is full. As such, I recommend getting used to the button press input instead.
Abilities are game changers and some can turn the tide of battle so make sure you use them. Excalibur’s Radial Blind, for example, makes killing junction wraiths laughably easy or buy you time when you’re swarmed. Rhino’s Iron Skin, meanwhile, makes you laugh off damage, including during Nightmare missions where your shields get deactivated. Speaking of Rhino…
Seriously, get this Warframe.
Rhino is one of the first Warframes you can farm and I can’t think of a better frame for beginners, especially those who don’t want to spend platinum. That’s because Rhino’s tankiness via Iron Skin will make your life so much easier and even allow you to take part in higher-level missions where you’d otherwise be crushed when using a starter Warframe with the same beginner mods. Iron Skin is also the perfect partner for learning the nuances of your various weapons without having to worry about being one-shot or two-shot by an enemy. As an added bonus for Gundam fans, you can change his look with the free starter color palette and make him look like a freaking Sinanju.
You can buy Rhino’s blueprint for 35,000 credits at the store and farm his chassis, neuroptics and systems parts by beating the Jackal boss in Venus, making it one of the earliest frames you can farm.
As you get further in the game, you’ll notice that your once beastly Warframe and weapons aren’t quite cutting it anymore despite having them at max level and filled with all the mods you can squeeze in. This is especially true for your starter Warframes, which can start feeling lackluster by the time you reach Jupiter.
Don’t worry, that’s normal. As enemies start hitting harder and take more and more attacks before they go down, it’s time to seriously consider installing “potatoes.” That would be Orokin Reactors for Warframes and Orokin Catalysts for weapons. These potato-looking items essentially double your capacity for mods, allowing you to install not just a greater variety of mods but also more maxed-out ones.
As someone who loved my starter Bow, for example, I felt bummed once it started to fall behind. Later on, I built a Dread Bow because I heard good things about it but it still felt a bit lacking even though I maxed it out. Then I installed an Orokin Catalyst in it and used the extra capacity to install leveled up corrosive and critical mods. My first shot against an infested mob yielded four-digit damage in bright yellow text signifying a critical hit. This was followed by more text in yellow, as well as orange and red. I specifically remember the orange and red crits dealing damage in the 5-digit range. Heaven knows how much more damage I’d be doing if I actually had better mods or more polarized slots in my weapon. Meanwhile, my Warframe with an Orokin Reactor was now shaking off damage and laughing it off (that is, until endgame where you can get unceremoniously one- or two-shot regardless).
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that unless you buy them with platinum, finding blueprints to make these as well as their materials can take some effort, especially if you’re not knee-deep in endgame content yet. As such, you usually want to think hard about installing the few that you do get at first to either a Warframe or weapon that you know you’ll be using for a long time or really, really like.
To install them, go to the upgrade menu of your Warframe or weapon, bring up the Actions menu and pick Install. Orokin Reactors and Catalysts also come pre-installed if you buy a Warframe or weapon with platinum from the market.
In addition to using Orokin items, one other way you can boost performance later in the game is by adding more polarized slots to your Warframe’s or gear’s Mod upgrade slots. This allows you to install even more mods for half the capacity cost, provided those mods match the polarity symbol you installed.
In order to install a new polarized slot, the Warframe or equipment must be at Level 30 and you will also need an item known as Forma, which can be a pain to get early in the game unless you straight up buy it. Oh yeah, adding a new polarized slot will also reset the level of that weapon so you’ll need to level it up again. The good news is that you don’t lose any previously installed Orokin Reactors or Catalysts so at least there’s that going for you.
Despite how long this article is, there’s still a lot of stuff I haven’t tackled such as Syndicates, Void Relics, Orokin Derelict missions, Principle Challenge Rooms, the Conclave and clan building. But those are topics for another time. (Heck, I might even add them to this “beginner” guide.)
In the meantime, all the information here should get you started on the right track for a big chunk of the game.
So blaze forth to the stars Tenno and keep your wits about you. Just be ready for a long, long, long never-ending grind.
Technobubble covers games, gadgets, technology and all things geek. Follow Technobubble poobah Jason Hidalgo’s shenanigans on Twitter @jasonhidalgo or his Tabiasobi Youtube channel.
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