So i dont review computer games, i write about lrp and mental health. That’s what i do, however yesterday was pretty heavy and with the gaming industry currently being kicked to death by EA, Activision Blizzard and Take Two etc, to find something that is actually ethical, fun and stupidly deep for free is a breath of fresh air.
I mean me and computer games, if add that i go full nerd.
Thing is me and Destiny have fallen out. I don’t think isn’t Destiny’s fault. Activision Blizzard and Bungie got in between us, Destiny has changed. We just aren’t the same anymore, either of us. Destiny has become a gold digger because of the publishers it’s hanging out with and I, well i am less naive. I can’t defend Destiny’s faults anymore. My friends warned me, they told me Destiny was no good for me, i didn’t listen when they said Destiny would break my heart.
Oh how i should have listened.
Oh how heartbroken i was.
But it’s okay i’m seeing Warframe now. Warframe knows who it is and won’t be swayed by baubles or bright engrams.
To be fair it’s actually worth looking at Digital Extremes, the people behind Warframe, their business practices and history. Activision Blizzard or EA they are not. Go look, its an interesting story.
So Warframe, why have i fallen in love with this game?
Well it’s been a complicated history, i actually played it for a few weeks back when it was new and shiny and i hated it. I loved the visuals, the art style and the cool ideas, but the game seemed a little on the sparse side. So i got bored and wandered off. Why did i come back? Well mainly because i wanted something simple to blat around with and it’s free. It’s also very much improved.
But before i get into this, this is not a game that holds your hand, it has Eve online learning curves and doesn’t really want to tell you anything. It is a game that rewards research and learning about it. What’s a Cephelon fragment and how do you scan it? Well Warframe sure as fuck won’t tell you, and neither will your stupid space cat. Thankfully the forums where players help other players out are awesome and obviously there is a pile of youtube videos, just be careful to not spoil the story. Because there is one in there and its excellent. If Warframe has a flaw is it could probably do with explaining itself a lot better, but we will get to that. I mean it’s not a major issue, i grew up with computer games in cassette cases with badly photocopied instructions.
So what is it? At its core it’s a fast moving run, gun and stab mmo game with parkour, stealth, resource management and space magic. But it is a lot more than that. Under the fast moving shooter is a complicated and deep system of modifications, damage types and learning how the various powers fit together and how they interact with the enemy.
A typical mission will have set objectives to fulfill which you complete before heading to an extraction point. From stealth and platform spy missions, fast moving capture missions to kill everything. The joy however is the movement, jumping and flipping from surfaces, flying through there air aiming shots at enemies, wall running, bullet jumping, beautiful ‘look this is how to do it Ass Creed’ movement. The movement is fast, fluid and most importantly intuitive.
Along with movement there is solid gunplay and melee mechanics backed up with the various warframes abilities that compliment or enhance various play styles. Want to play like metal gear solid meets the predator? There’s a warframe for that. Want to wade through the enemy not caring about damage? Meet Rhino. Are you an annoying prick who needs to burn in a dumpster fire? Why not play Limbo.
The third strand is collecting loot to build more warframes, weapons and other things. Its very easy to feel you have to buy components to build things with the real world currency, but this is not the kind of game EA or Activision Blizzard would release. If you stick with it resources start to pour in and you realise that the limited resources early on were to stop you building everything and becoming swamped. Now it would be easy to level a criticism of pay to win at it if it didn’t have the mastery system. As you gain power you access mastery challenges that test your skills and what you have learned. Equipment has a mastery rank and you cannot access it till you have completed the appropriate mastery rank. This stops you from buying the best weapons. And to be clear when you have a robot helper sweeping all your stuff up (fuck you space cat) grinding is actually back flipping through the air with a pair of machine pistols you can’t pronounce the name of gunning down an armoured giant with a minigun while on fire.
The game then has good mechanics, is fun to play, has a grind system that isn’t that grindy and wants you to support the game with cash, but doesn’t hide its prices in loot boxes and is proud to say ‘ninjas play free’ or rather if play the game you never have to pay for it, but you should….because people have made a thing you are using. From my point of view i have been more than willing to pay for some cosmetic skins that i can see the price of to support a game i have put 100 plus hours into to support a company that listens to its community and conducts its business without shady practices.
However there are other amazing threads to this game. Visuals, storytelling, depth of the mod system and the way it introduces mechanics.
From a storytelling point of view it is a gold mine. It is the very definition of show but don’t tell. From when you wake up with no memory to conversations with The Lotus and Ordis the world gets built around you as you experience it. Even things like interference in a picture can yield information about someone’s past. Slowly the your story unveils step by step without huge exposition dumps, but the use of cut scenes without dialogue, chatter between characters or sudden events in a mission. Even the murderous prick <redacted> serves a story point, rather than just being a random mission speed bump.
All of these things build towards giving you an opportunity to ease into the world without exposition dumps and learn skills slowly so you actually have a chance when you are firing yourself out of an ancient pipe organ shooting targets to open the next one to land in to carry on up a cathedral like edifice. Any more context to that is a spoiler, just really Warframe? Why do do you hate me so much?
And that’s the thing you don’t need to read a book to understand whats going on. The plot is simple with emotional depth and the world is simple to understand, but with lore that is not typical of a western or eastern sci fantasy.
And that brings us to the art style. It borrows from the west and east. There are influences from China, India, Japan, Brutalism, Italy, Cinema and Anime. Yet it has a coherent and theoretically grounded visual. The oddity of Corpus crew helmets to the Greneer cyberpunk Tetsuo vibe they are held together by colour palette and visual cues. And it is alien. The look of this world is not typical. It owes more to Heavy Metal, Mobius or David Lynch than it does to Star Wars or Akira. It truly is an alien world to look at where humanity has wiped out wildlife and its been restocked with things created with gene manipulation. Where a dead ruling eleite used to <redacted>. Even the ‘normal’ humans of Cetus do not look quite right. Where Mass Effect borrows from westerncentric 60s and 70s sci fi covers, Warframe seems to pull its influences from more subversive and fringe elements such as Yes album covers.
Oh and it’s not sexy….The characters are not over sexualised. Sure Saryn has an hourglass figure, but she also has horrific growths in her leg filled with diseases. And as you go through the game you realise that it really would not be appropriate to over sexualise anyone in it, i mean really inappropriate. The Lotus has a boob window, but trust me if you don’t think of it as something quite weird and creepy by Pluto you may need therapy.
And then the tile sets, until recently the game was set inside well designed tilesets that were made to jump bounce and run around. They are beautiful and serve as amazing playgrounds. And then Cetus happened….the outside. Kilometers of play area with a day night cycle, no loading of zones and that thing on the skybox you can see? Yeah you will be climbing that. The beautiful golden grass, industrial machines, lakes and streams full of fish. All serve a purpose. Yes i will be going fishing, mining and hunting giant monsters….bugger guess i won’t be getting the new Monster Hunter. AAA games please pay attention. If you are doing open world MMO light stuff, the standard for a play area has been set.
So what’s wrong with this game? Well…..it wont hold your hand, some of its systems are obtuse and if you don’t like grind and commitment this is not for you. The grind certainly isn’ version 1 WoW, but it is there. You will spend time going ‘i want to build x and Nitan only comes from alerts, fuck you warframe.’ You will feel resource starved at the start but as you progress ou pick a lot up and resources come quick and fast, don’t be tempted to spend real money.
Also it is a deep game. Knowing how to build a weapon to gain high status chance to fuel a condition overload mod at the same time as tailoring it for armoured enemies is not something intuitive. Knowing what a Zar is? How to make one? Thankfully the community is a lot less toxic than most and help (it makes the Lrp scene look like the inferno) and resources like Warframe Wiki are really really good along with Youtubers like Tactical Potato, the beginners guide on Playstation grenade and Readheadredemptions intro video.
So It looks pretty, has great depth in mechanics and background, has an ethical business model that is considered the most consumer friendly in the industry, is fast fluid fun when you actually want it. The thing is there is a lot here in a free game. If this was on a shelf to buy i’d buy it, it’s better quality than most AAA titles, that are now trying to manipulate money out of you, has more features and frankly better game play. Activision Blizzard and Bungie are strangling their game with greed and EA monitisation documents around Anthem are leaking. Between this and Senya’s Sacrafice the AAA industries cries of ‘its expensive, we need more money’ seem to smack of lies or poor business management.
And to be clear Digital Extremes are a company, they are not your mate. But they seem, unlike the above companies, want to engage with their community, do not roll out social issues as marketing tools and put their prices up front rather than trying to manipulate the vulnerable into spending money on glorified gambling.
And when a game like Warframe says this is how much a skin will cost and you can build everything else in game OR pay this fixed price for it kinda throws Overwatch’s business model for a full price game into EA territory. But then Diablo 3 market place……
Oh and if you really want to see the difference between this and Destiny 2? You can move the spaceship on the loading screen since 2015 in Warframe. Just that little detail speaks volumes to the differences in approach by the two companies.
I love Destiny, i love the universe, i loved the game, but the developers and publishers are strangling it. Plus now i have a space cat……stupid bloody thing.