Warframe is an... odd game. The free-to-play PC/PS4 title mixes elements of loot hoarding games like Diablo with strategic combat aspects of MMO's and builds them into a four player, third person co-operative shooter. It's hardly perfect, it can be a little glitchy and rough-around-the-edges, but if you like a deep co-op experience (and it's honestly the only one available for PS4 players right now) there's plenty here to like. The developers plan to make the game cross-platform sometime in the next few months, so the merging of both communities will allow for even greater potential.
That said, Warframe is not a game that eases you into the experience. Playing Warframe for the first time is not unlike renting a game in the olden days that didn't come with an instruction booklet. There's a brief combat tutorial and then you're thrown into the game to learn either by trial-and-error or the copious use of online FAQ's. For those reasons, the game is not for everyone. Even at the low, low price of free, a lot of players will be turned off by either the F2P nature or the lack of hand-holding. Hopefully, that's where I'll come in.
I'm going to give you a brief rundown of some very important information you'll need to know to get through your first ten or twenty hours of the game and on your way to shooting jerks in the face with confidence.
Free Crap: North American PS Plus members will immediately want to download the booster pack provided to them, free of charge. It contains 100 Platinum, the game's real money currency, 50,000 Credits, the game's in-game currency, 5 Mods for upgrading weapons and Warframes, and 3 Day XP and Credit boosters which doubles what you earn.
Warframes: There are, at this writing, 15 different Warframes to choose from. After the game's combat tutorial, you get a choice of three basic Warframes. Choose wisely because the level cap is 30 and if you play regularly during while your XP booster is active, you'll level up very fast. The other initial Warframes are available to buy in the Market at a discounted price of 75 Platinum. Otherwise, you'll be paying 225 or 325 for a new Warframe.
Over the course of the game, you can find parts and blueprints that will allow you to create more Warframes using resources and Credits, but they are very rare drops and random to boot. I've logged about fifty hours into the game and I've found maybe ten or twelve parts to different Warframes so far. Not enough to craft a new one. (Farming bosses seems to be the best way to get more, something I haven't done overly much.)
Each Warframe has a unique set of skills for different play styles. Melee, support, ranged, stealth or a variety of different powers. However you like to play, there's a Warframe for you. You might just have to cough up some dough to play it.
Movement: Very important. There are light platforming elements in some stages and I don't recall the game every prompting me how to do these so I'll highlight them for you here:
Wall Running: By holding in the run button and the jump button at walls and ledges, you can run vertically to areas above you or horizontally across chasms. Sometimes you may find a secret area or sometimes it's simply how you progress through the stage.
Sliding: The L1 button defaults as a dodge roll but if you click while you're in a run, you'll go into a John Woo-style slide that's good mostly for a stylistic flourish. You can't run and shoot so going into a slide allows you to continue firing while moving at a rate similar to running. The drawback is that isn't not a controlled slide, you simply keep going forward. The other is that you finish the slide in a crouch and you have to click the L3 to stand again. Stopping to shoot is a more effective option.
Missions: Mission objectives come in several flavors, some self-evident, some not:
Sabotage: Destroy a set number of enemy devices or destroy a reactor and escape to the extraction point.
Exterminate: Kill all enemies in a single level.
Rescue: Find a jailed NPC, open his cell by completing a Cipher (a simple timed puzzle that has you moving hexagons to form a shape) and escape to the extraction point without letting the NPC die. The NPC's are fairly hardy so while this is an escort mission, you don't have to worry about guarding him too closely.
Capture: Find a specific enemy, kill him, and press the O button over his corpse to absorb his data and escape to the extraction point. (The game doesn't prompt you to kill him so the term "capture" can be misleading.)
Assassination: A boss fight. Find him, kill him, leave.
Defense/Mobile Defense: Find and guard a specific object for a set time period. This can be frustrating if you have a crew of lone wolves as people have a tendency to leave the spot in search of action. A Warframe with a defensive ability (like Loki's defensive bubble) can be a godsend here.
Deception: This type involves one character taking a datamass "payload" which they carry in one hand (reducing them to using only their secondary weapon or melee while holding it) and taking to a designated spot before exiting the mission.
Spy: Locate and hack four terminals and take the datamass objects back to extraction. Like Deception missions, carrying a datamass will reduce you to using a secondary or melee weapon while you carry it. Luckily, one member can carry all four devices leaving the others free to fight.
Conclave: A PvP arena.
Survival: Survival comes in a few different flavors. They're procedurally generated so you can never be sure which kind of mission you're getting or what the level will look like. If you want a lot of items, credits and resources in a short amount of time, this is your best bet.
Survival missions are wave-based Horde Mode types. Sometimes it's simply surviving increasingly difficult waves, sometimes you have to defend an object while the number of rounds you have to survive ticks down.
A Warframe with defensive abilities (like Loki) or a support Warframe with healing/invulnerability abilities (like Trinity) are pretty much mandatory. Health orb drops are not a sure thing and when you have twenty or more enemies charging your position, your shields and health disappear fast. Having support is the difference between tons of loot and pure frustration.
For the infinite wave type, after a set number of waves the game will give you an opportunity to take an upgrade and quit or continue fighting. It's a majority rules vote. The longer you last, the more items you pick up off of dead enemies and the stronger the item the game offers you when you quit.
Be aware, though, that between the tons of enemies, and four Warframes using flashy abilities, the frame rate can and will take a major dump if you're all clumped up together.
Another Survival type involves fighting while a life support bar slowly ticks down. After a set amount of time passes, a life support module will be sent into the battlefield where you might fight through a never ending army of baddies in order to turn it on to boost your life support meter. The catch is that every time you turn on a new life support module, the enemies increase in difficulty. After turning on a number of modules, your contact will alert you that they've found credits or an upgrade. Once the life support bar hits zero, your health and armor deteriorate quickly until only one hit will kill you. The longer you hold out, the more you get. Only one survivor needs to reach the exfiltration point to succeed.
Getting the most out of this mission type requires teamwork. The magic number you're looking for before turning on the next life support module is about 55%. You're going to have to move as a group to get to the next designated area or else people will get overwhelmed and left behind. Sticking together is key.
Upgrading: Every facet of your weapons and Warframe can be upgraded, which is great, but it can also be a little daunting.
Upgrades are random pick-ups that take the form of a card, which looks not unlike something out of Magic: The Gathering. There is a name, a picture, a description, a number, a type, and a symbol. There's also it's commonality rating and some irrelevant fine print.
The number is the upgrade cost. Your weapons and Warframes max out at level 30, which gives you 30 total points to distribute to the various slots on your item at maximum. The symbols denote a specialty. If you match the symbol on the upgrade card with a slot bearing the same one, you can install that upgrade for half price.
The number of times a card can be upgraded is listed as a blank slot on the left center of the card. When you upgrade it, they slots will fill up with white marks.
You can further upgrade your loadout by using Fusion Core cards. These are random drops you find of differing rarities as you play. They can also be bought in packs via the Market. To place a Fusion Core, you can either click R3 in the weapon's menu or go your Arsenal screen and click on Mods and then Fusion.
The more rare the Fusion Core, the more oomph you get out of using it. You can use as many Cores as you like but you can't go past the max level of points you have available. There's also a negligible credit cost to apply your Cores.
If you find a Warframe or weapon you'd like to specialize in, you can buy an Orokin Reactor or Orokin Catalyst to super-charge them. This double the amount of points you can spend to a maximum of 60.
On top of that, you can buy a Forma, which allows you to either stamp a slot with any symbol you like or change one symbol to another at the cost of going back down to level zero. Presumably, this allows more advanced players to customize their Warframe with the abilities of any other Warframe, though I haven't been able to test that theory yet.
So while a maximum of level 30 seems really low, the number of things you can do are actually pretty robust.
Ranking: The cumulative levels you gain in Warframes and weapons adds to a meter at the top of the main menu screen. When that meter is full you will get an option to take a brief test which, when you succeed, will raise your rank. Certain weapons and Warframes are XP locked and can only be accessed by raising your rank.
These tests aren't particularly difficult but you still want to take your best weapons into battle just to be safe. And rather than spending more and more money on new weapons and Warframes, you can simply buy a Forma for cheap, lower your weapon or frame back to Unranked and start all over again.
Sentinels: Sentinels are optional armed, floating companions who accompany you on missions with a variety of different abilities. Like everything else, they are upgradable. Depending on your style of play, there's a Sentinel that should fit it. For combat specialist, there's the Dethcube Sentinel armed with a assault rifle, for stealthier Warframes, there's a Shade which will make you invisible to approaching enemies. I use the Carrier which comes with a shotgun and vacuums up item drops for me, so that I don't have to worry about missing an item in a rush.
They're cheap to purchase outright (75 Platinum) and easy to assemble by buying a blueprint, so there's no reason not to pick one up. Every bit of extra firepower will help on the more advanced stages.
Obviously there are a lot of gamers who will balk at the very idea of a free-to-play game and that's fair enough. It's also a very grind heavy game, which might be another sticking point. Warframe is certainly playable without any money but you will hit a ceiling very fast and your only option will be lots and lots of grinding. I've currently spent about sixty dollars on the game, the same amount as I would any new release game and, given the amount of time I've sunk into it, it seems like a fair trade.
It's a solid shooter with some quirky lore and plenty of replayability that I can go into in another post down the line. It has it's issues, the same as any other game, but if you bought a PS4 at launch, there's no reason not to at least give it a shot.
I've started a Destructoid clan so feel free to let me know in the comments if you want to join. I'm still working out how running a clan works on the PS4 vs. the PC but the hope is to allow people to rock the Destructoid logo on their shoulders as they play. Cross-platform play is scheduled to go into effect during the "launch window" so PC players can join the fun as well.