Warframe (for PC) Review – PCMag

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Cyber ninjas in space
Warframe is a shockingly polished free-to-play action game that boasts great visuals, gameplay, and replay value. Unfortunately, grinding and odd design choices bog down the late-game experience.
Warframe is an addictive online game that combines melee action, snappy shooting, and outstanding character mobility with mission-based progression, exciting multiplayer battles, and excellent sci-fi visuals. The game isn’t new; Warframe has been around nearly seven years. As a result, newcomers will find Warframe a content-rich experience, despite its grind-heavy, free-to-play nature. If there’s a major Warframe gripe, it’s the late-game content that incorporates MMO-style activities like fishing, animal trapping, and mining—a complete departure from the game’s action-focused core. Still, Warframe is packed with thrilling moments, so if you’re looking for an action-packed PC game, don’t overlook this title.
You play as a Tenno, a person psychically linked to one of several bio-mechanical surrogate bodies known as Warframes. These enhanced bodies are capable of incredibly acrobatic feats and superhuman strength. So, in essence, you control a sci-fi ninja who hacks, slashes, and shoots the many looming threats that encroach upon the galaxy. The reward is the loot used to improve your arsenal, improve your Warframes, and of course, improve your look.
Warframe is a mission-based game, for the most part, that tasks you with visiting various planets to defeat genetically modified humanoid warmongers, giant robots, and other threats that present themselves as you make headway through the story. The missions include target assassinations, escorting or saving NPCs, collecting a key item, or fighting a major boss character. In nearly each mission, your Warframe slices, dices, and blasts any grunts that get between you and your target. There is a modicum of strategy to the carnage, though. Levels have a fantastic degree of verticality thanks, and even enclosed environments incorporate multi-level architecture and alternative paths, giving you a choice as to whether you want to rush in guns blazing or sneak through stages to avoid alarms and rack up stealth kills.
Warframe’s combat doesn’t resemble Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden’s juggle-based action, but there’s so much gameplay flourish that it could easily be lumped together with said titles. In many respects, the action carries a Platinum Games flair. As in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Warframe gives you a basic melee combo string, an auto-deflect tactic against ballistics that activates while running, and a shocking degree of mobility and speed. Warframes can seamlessly slide, dash, wall-jump, and double-jump, and they can go straight into an attack or shot at any point during these actions. It feels good.
In addition, each Warframe has four special attacks it can perform with the 1-4 keys. The actions are unique to each Warframe. These moves generally fall into the attack, buff/debuff, mobility, or distraction types. Some skills have your Warframe deliver a massive blow, others boost you and your allies’ strength, while others can confuse or blind your target. These are all generally useful move sets, and these kits define a Warframe (at least until the endgame, where you can swap abilities).
Once you tire of your Warframe, or want to try out a new one, you can opt to buy one from the cash shop. It’s a free-to-play PC game, after all. Warframes come in a variety of packs that cost anywhere from $15-40 bucks depending on the pack and included extras. Additionally, the game rewards you with nearly a dozen unique Warframes as you play through the various missions, and many more can be unlocked by grinding Warframe blueprints from special enemies and bosses.
But that’s not all. Warframe gets decidedly more complex as you make progress by introducing mods that radically enhance your offensive capabilities. Mods have a magnetic polarity. When you slot them into place, you must slot them above or below other mods of the same polarity. Doing so reduces the base cost of the mods, letting you socket more. Later on you can respec the polarity through a whole different system, so you can re-polarize mods you like so they better fit (and cost less) with the rest of your kit.
Beyond that, there are four elemental damage types in the game: cold, heat, electric, and toxin. These do more than mere damage; they synergize with one another to create six unique sub-elements with very specialized properties. Electric and cold types result in magnetic damage that deals bonus hurt to shield-toting enemies. It’s not crucial to remember this early on, but as you spend time with the game and begin to optimize your Warframes, knowing which elements to build goes a long way.
If all of this sounds like silly video game jargon, that is because it is: Warframe is packed with things to build and grind. You grind for the components used to make mods and weapons, as well as blueprints for new Warframes. You grind dailies for Standing, a reputation resource that grants access to new resources and goodies. The current endgame content has you grind even more to customize your favorite Warframe’s abilities. 
Warframe has curious gameplay systems that deviate from the core game’s mission-heavy structure. There are various open world areas to explore, with tougher mobs to challenge, bounty quests to undertake, and of course, resources to collect. The newest expansion offers Deimos, a fantastic alien landscape filled with corrupted beasties to hunt and farm. You’re encouraged to mine, fish, and fight across the zone to satisfy the wishes of the Entrati, the infested family that oversees the region.
Warframe has a bizarre crisis of identity when it comes to its endgame zones. They are radically unlike the vast majority of missions, and encourage players to grind MMO-like gameplay systems instead. I, for one, don’t like spearfishing or capturing wildlife for reputation, and would be happy just running through cool zones, hacking and slashing goons. It certainly makes for a change of pace, but it’s not quite my cup of tea.
Deimos in particular seems oddly empty. Sure it has many aggressive mobs and great graphics, but I was disappointed to learn that there are no large bosses to battle despite being an endgame area. You even get a cool mech to pilot Titanfall-style, and but there’s nothing to fight with it. The whole concept is oddly half-baked and out of place. 
On top of that, the newest expansion also opens up a resource-sink called the Helminth, a phallic creature that eats vast quantities of components, but lets you swap your Warframe’s abilities. The penis-worm lives on your ship once you unlock it, and you literally feed the creature through a menu to boost its fullness. That fullness is then spent on transferring abilities. 
As abilities are a Warframe’s defining feature, being able to swap and customize these around at the end of the game is a very big deal. Naturally, optimizing your Warframe to this degree doesn’t come cheap; the process eats up the vast resource quantities you’ve collected, and it takes at least a day for the Helminth to consume a Warframe for its ability. Of course, if you want to play the game casually and have no real desire to optimize your kit to this degree, then you can neglect the system as you see fit.
To play Warframe, your PC needs at least the 64-bit Windows 7 operating system, an Intel Core 2 Duo e6400 or AMD Athlon x64 4000+ CPU, any DirectX 10+ compliant graphics card, 4GB of RAM, and 35GB of storage. My desktop computer—a rig housing a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, and 16GB of RAM—smoothly runs Warframe at 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution.
In addition, Warframe incorporates Steam Trading Cards, Steam Achievements, and controller support. It is important to note that you must create a Warframe account on the game’s official site to connect to the servers. You must log in through the Warframe launcher whenever you start the game.
Warframe is an addictive time sink, one that boasts stylish action and terrific sci-fi visuals. You can jump in, put as much time as you like towards completing missions, and customize and develop your Warframes. Even better, you don’t need to spend money unless you have your heart set on a specific Warframe (or can’t be bothered grinding for cool gear). The strange gameplay shift in the final moments feels out of place amidst the space ninja action, but don’t let that deter you from carving up enemies on alien worlds.
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Warframe is a shockingly polished free-to-play action game that boasts great visuals, gameplay, and replay value. Unfortunately, grinding and odd design choices bog down the late-game experience.
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Gabriel Zamora has dabbled in a little bit of everything over the years, including contracting, construction, professional cooking, and podcasting. Yet, he keeps things geeky with more than a decade’s worth of gaming and electronics-related writing contributions. Gabriel now lends his eclectic insight to PCMag as an Analyst who covers the web hosting, streaming music, mobile apps, and gaming beats.
When Gabriel’s not juggling monitors, he’s hard at work in the kitchen perfecting new recipes, savoring new foods and brews across NYC, and improving his amateur art projects.
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