Hey all. I’m back with a review for one of the first live-service games to ever be released, which happened all the way back in 2013. So, why are we looking at it today, in 2023? Because the game I am referring to is called Warframe, and its developers, Digital Extremes, could offer a master class on how they keep their content fresh and constantly updated.
It’s safe to say that Warframe is just as popular today as when it launched. In fact, it’s likely much more popular today. For one, it is now available on every single console platform and the PC, including being a hit on popular PC gaming platforms like Steam. And it’s free to play, so anyone can hop into it right away. Finally, Warframe is so popular that Digital Extremes even hosts an annual convention called TennoCon, which is attended by thousands of fans every year.
In addition to keeping the core game updated for free with things like new graphical patches, levels, and character abilities, there are also quite a few paid DLCs available for Warframe. Most of these are made up of cosmetic items and gear, although some DLC packs also do things like offer codes to temporarily boost performance or experience gains.
This approach makes sense because the developers need to be able to make money on their free-to-play title, but probably don’t want to go the way of an obvious pay-to-win mechanic that most people dislike. This way players who really enjoy Warframe can spend real money to make their characters look good or to boost their performance for a bit, without unfairly penalizing those who don’t want to spend the money or can’t afford it.
For this review, I checked in on Warframe using a Nintendo Switch, which is one of the consoles that it eventually got ported over to. As you know, the Switch is not the most powerful hardware compared with something like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, but I was surprised to find that it ran pretty well there, which is critical for a multiplayer shooter that heavily emphasizes high mobility and quick reactions.
So, let’s see what Warframe has to offer gamers in 2023. And spoiler alert, it’s quite a lot, especially for a free-to-play multiplayer shooter.
Plot: The plot of Warframe deals with some really crazy and disturbing subjects which I won’t spoil here since that would rob players of their chance to discover them slowly like I did when I first set foot in Warframe’s world a few years ago. The one thing to note is that while there are numerous end-game level storylines and exciting plot elements that players will experience, it kind of starts off slowly.
Gameplay: Warframe at its core is a third person shooter with an emphasis on high mobility and parkouring around the environment while mastering crazy weapons alongside the titular warframes, which are kind of like personal mechs for players. And the weapons are really unique. For example, one of my favorite Warframe weapons is the Kuva Bramma, an endgame bow that shoots explosive projectiles that can utterly wreck enemies in an instant.
The warframes themselves are incredibly varied, each with four signature abilities. There are over 40 warframes available at the moment, with new ones releasing roughly every six months or so, another way that Digital Extremes keeps their content fresh even years after the initial release of their title. One of my favorite warframes is a unique one called a Zephyr Prime. The Prime version of each warframe is the top version that everyone should aim for regardless of which warframe they normally use, and I was really happy to earn mine. If you are able to get a Prime, then you have truly mastered Warframe.
Frankly I could delve into all the various activities, modes, and the numerous content that a new player can experience in Warframe, but at its core, this is a title about grinding for experience, and everything eventually comes down to that single goal.
Also, new players should know that most of Warframe’s content is locked behind something called Mastery Rank. To increase one’s Mastery Rank, a player must level up their equipment to the max level of 30, including the warframes, the guns, and even some vehicles that players can unlock later on. The problem is that you are limited by the number of slots where you can store your equipment, and you can only increase said slots by progressing in Mastery Rank, participating in various events, or buying it for Platinum, the premium trading currency in Warframe. Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to gain this currency without spending any real money because you can sell nearly any item, via their blueprints and/or parts, to other Warframe players in order to gain Platinum, although with the advent of cross platform play being enabled at the end of last year, it has caused the player markets to go through some upheaval that makes them less reliable sources of income.
Art: The art is pretty great, although not as detailed looking on the Switch due to hardware constraints there. Warframe doesn’t look completely terrible even with the expected downsides when playing it in portable mode on a Switch, but it definitely looks better on every other platform.
Music: The music of Warframe is fairly solid, and while not as memorable as say Final Fantasy XIV’s amazing soundtrack, it does a fairly good job at grabbing a player’s attention and holding it. And the few voiced songs that a player can experience in certain areas like Fortuna really make the soundtrack shine.
Overall: If you don’t mind the fact that Warframe ultimately revolves around grinding for everything, then you won’t be disappointed playing this. It has a decade’s worth of content and is still frequently updated with the tenth anniversary content drop that happened only recently in addition to the annual convention that occurred about a month ago. It’s a safe bet that Warframe will keep its well-deserved popularity over the next ten years, just like it did over the previous decade.