Digital Extremes reimagines the original 2005 Dark Sector Tech Demo as a Free-to-Play Cooperative Third Person Shooter. Does Warframe beat the status quo to a pulp, or does it refine the idea for the more Hardcore gamers?
Article Written for FirstDropShow.com
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Digital Extremes
Release Date: 03/25/2013
Free-to-Play had become taboo amongst gamers. For some, to no fault of their own. Many fell into the IAP/Pay-to-Win trap, others just got boring after two minutes and most are just clones of one really annoying game. Warframe isn’t any of those. The game doesn’t offset the status quo but it does make for a good overall game. At the time of this review, the game was still in Open Beta. Many elements are subject to change, but you can definitely get the gist of it by reading on.
Warframe is a free-to-player cooperative Third Person Shooter developed by well-known studio, Digital Extremes. Some gamers may know them as co-creators of the Unreal Series, others for developing ‘the Darkness II’, stand-alone game to the film, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Dark Sector’. As a matter of fact, this game share’s many similarities with Dark Sector. If you remember back in 2005, Digital Extremes had shown off a great looking tech demo at E3. Turns out, Warframe is the spiritual revival of that game. It may not be a frantic story-driven gritty space opera, but it doesn’t bring some of the cooler elements from the Demo to life. The game is a class-based objective driven gameplay with the usual IAP’s to help improve if not ‘artificially’ speed up your character’s progress. What is there to lose?
The game takes place after the awakening of an old warrior race known as the Tenno, who were masters of this unique super-powered biomechanical suits known as the Warframe. After the great old war, the remaining Tenno were left to slumber. Until a visage known as Lotus awakens the remaining Tenno to help fight off the Grineer from taking over the galaxy. The game’s progression spans across our own solar system, starting at Mercury. The story doesn’t really share in the worth of this game, no more than Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead. This could be disappointing for those that enjoyed the Dark Sector 2005 tech demo. That’s fine though, the story just dabbles a bit in the setting and offers a suitable way to understanding your environment and gameplay. You are a kick-ass biomechanical soldier out to take out a benevolent enemy all while farming for experience with your friends. Simple as that, nothing mind blowing, yet not all that terrible. Who knows, by the time of the official release, we may have full cutscenes, actual characters to care about or something that adds a bit of personal flair to the game. Fingers crossed.
The graphics in this game is something else. I had never given the game a chance as I wouldn’t have thought I would get the best out of its visual acuity. Boy was I ever so wrong. I ran this game at a minimum of 20-30 fps at full settings…on a six year old gaming laptop that struggles to play even the first Crysis on Med-High. So what punch does this game offer? The game looks and feels like the Samaritan and Infiltrator tech demos for the Unreal Engine 4, except that it can run on older systems without DirectX 11 without sacrificing key graphical elements. The game offers full real-time billboard reflections, bokeh depth of field, per-pixel motion blur all on top of crisp high resolution textures without demanding high end hardware specs. To my surprise, this free-to-play game was EXTREMELY optimized.
So where does that leave the game in the aesthetics deparment? This game feels like a mix of the more totalitarian aspects of Final Fantasy XIII and E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy. Everything feels so extravagant, while feeling organic and ever so imposing. From the characters designs to the Particle Driven atmospherics, the game feels like something out of the darker corners of space. Warframe offers up a satisfying direction with sharp details, dirty lens effects, J.J. Abrams lens flares, particle swarms and much more.
Sadly, the graphics only go so far as the level designs remain repititive and uninspired. I noticed this a lot more while playing Solo, where the levels stretch on for more than 30 or so minutes. The game recycles endless corridors, large storage rooms, and some other variations without thinking twice about the overall variety. Hopefully, by the time the game launches sometime in the future, the developers will try to add more personality to these ghostly environments.
Controls in this game are pretty solid. Aside from the traditional Third Person/Over-the-Shoulder controls schemes, the game offers some pretty smooth character controls allowing players to easily run and slide while ending in a swift radial slice into enemies. All accompanied with some sweet animations blending seamlessly with your actions.
So how does this all translate to gameplay? Its all pretty straight forward. You will be fighting through levels, buying & unlocking Warframes and purchasing new weapons.
Missions are all accessible in the game’s world map. Each type of mission offers up either a variation of one another or a completely unique mechanic. Some mission types vary in small ways, likeDeception requires the squad to collect a Datamass, whereas Spyrequires you to hack multiple terminals to get a stack of Datamass units. Other types can be quite different like Defense, pitting your squad against waves of enemies. Sadly, the variations between types aren’t all that exciting. Get a datamass, kill a VIP, rescue a hostage, and more tend to feel a little more of the same. Hopefully by the time the game makes it final release, it will have a bit more variety in its game types.
Level design varies in size, with novice levels taking place on a small ship lasting at most 10 minutes to more advanced missions that spans across a giant ship or even on a planet which last longer than 30+ minutes. You will face opposition against either patrolling guards in most rooms ranging a small squad to a horde of patrolling soldiers. Alternatively if alarms are raised additional waves of enemies are sent your way. The AI is on par with most Third Person Shooters and don’t provide anything new. You have your soldier/human enemies that duck, cover, fire and you have your horde enemies that rely on melee and rushing. Horde enemies are quite easy to fight off as players can just climb a box and stand up high firing down below without getting hurt.
Next are the suits aka Warframes. These are unique biomechanical suits that offer unique abilities and fighting mechanics. At the start of the game, the player has the choice between three Warframes; Excalibur, Loki and Mag. The Excalibur is mainly recommended for novice users, with a balance between mobility and offense. If you just want to have fun shooting and slicing things up, this is the Warframe to choose. Loki is the trickster, master of manipulation, offering methods of deceit and manipulation. He can deflect weapons fire, sneak around stealthily and unleash some rather devastating special attacks. Mag on the other hand is a master at manipulating magnetic fields. Well you can guess how cool that can be, but generally is recommended for advanced users.
If the player is up to switch between suits, they can purchase other Warframes from the game’s Market with real-world currency. Alternatively they can also purchase their blueprint counterparts using in-game currency, which the player in turn can build in the ‘Foundry’ with proper components. So far there are a total of thirteen suits available at the time of this review.
Upgrading or improving your Warframe and equipment have changed since its initial Beta release. Instead of upgrading through a skill tree, equipment are upgraded through the use of ‘Mods’. These are collectible cards found within levels or purchased in a bundle on the market. Mods are specific and are restricted based on their equipment type. For example you might find a Mod for a shotgun with a 5% improvement on Critical Damage or the addition of range attacks to your Sentinel pal; it all can be added and removed at will depending on what you want out of your equipment. Mod cards can also be fused together and made into more powerful cards.
So how are the In-App Purchases for this game? They are pretty solid. They offer a way to get items without putting out the work. Is this a problem? Absolutely not, as you can get those same items by purchasing blueprints from the store with in-game currency and building them with the required components in the ‘Foundry’. It’s the easier option, the way cheating is an option. It’s there for those specific people that need them. I admit though, when I first jumped in an online game in the first couple of levels, it was unfair to play with a superior player with all the expensive gizmos, preventing me from getting a shot in. I’m not going to deny it, you will meet people with spectacular suits and one hit kills, but you’ll get over them. As the game goes on, the battlefield becomes more frantic, and you’ll appreciate having these folks on your squad.
– Beautifully optimized graphics
– Stunning/crisp aesthetics
– Frantic and addicting gameplay
– Doesn’t connect well on a personal level
-Levels become repetitive
-Solo gaming can be a bore
-Still in beta
Blade-Wielding, Biomechanical Suit wearing soldiers that leave blood and guts in their wake. Where could you go wrong? This game offers up a solid free-to-play experience that doesn’t REQUIRE you to invest thousands of dollars just to enjoy the game. Warframe has a solid backstory with Beautifully Optimized visuals, fast-paced cooperative gameplay and lots of content to explore. It may not be for the run of the mill Facebook gamers or the ‘Press 1 to Win’ MMORPGers, but it does offer up a compelling environment which many gamers can appreciate. Hey, maybe we’ll see Blizzard bring back Starcraft Ghost as a Free-to-Play MMO? Nah, I hope not. Please don’t. Still, check out this beautiful piece of free-to-play work. The public beta is available now for all to play. Also, don’t forget to add me in the game! My username is sbnewsom. Lets kill some Grineer!