Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
A shining light amidst the current ugliness of microtransactions and loot boxes, Warframe is, and always has been, one of the best examples of free-to-play done right. In fact, today, I’d comfortably say it’s the best of the bunch, bar none.
Warframe has been growing and evolving constantly over four years, and while it started out with middling to poor reviews, the developer, Digital Extremes, has put in a mammoth amount of time, effort, and love into the game’s development. This has taken Warframe from an ‘okay’ third person shooter, to a downright stupendous example of not only free to play gaming, but gaming in general. Considered by many to be better than most ‘triple A’ releases, Warframe now has so much content and so many complex in game systems, it’s hard to fully explain to a new player just why it’s so good. And it really is an excellent game.
Simply put, it you took Destiny and added in approximately 100x more content; actual, real customisation; a developer who actually cares about its fans and puts in effort to create new, regular content; and a business model that isn’t fuelled by grotesque corporate greed; you’re part way to understanding what Warframe is. Oh, and did I mention Warframe is free? And by free, is mean, REALLY free. While you can buy premium currency with real money, and the game does use some mobile-style mechanics, such as paying to rush the building of new gear, or paying for weapons and items outright; almost everything in the game, even premium currency, can be acquired for free. You can play the entire game, and every single bit of content released without paying a single cent.
This extra content is more than a couple of meagre missions or paper masks too (yes, I’m looking at you, Destiny), and we’ve had entire expansions, a multitude of new game systems, massive changes to the entire experience, and, of course, all sorts of new Warframes, weapons and companions added. The latest such update is the Plains of Eidolon, another evolution of the game that takes Warframe into the open world sphere of gaming.
Adding an entire new location to the game, which is a large, open world area on Earth, Plains of Eidolon does much more than simply give players a wide open space to run around in. It adds a new bounty system, new story missions, multiple new crafting and RPG systems, a couple of new syndicate factions, the massive Eidolon enemies, and a plethora of new mods, items, and more. There’s also a day and night cycle, which turns the plains into a much more dangerous place at night that contains powerful foes, but also some otherwise unavailable rewards and materials.
The move from traditionally corridor-based shooting to an open world has worked very well in PoE, and it has a big effect on how you’ll use your Warframes. Some frames that may have been strong previously need to change up play styles in this new, open world, and other frames you may not have used as much now get a chance to shine.
Take Zephyr, for example. Always a decent frame, but one not used by many as her abilities didn’t quite fit with enclosed spaces. In PoE, though, this air-based frame really comes into her own, allowing players to glide and shoot with ease, and being able to really make use of her special abilities.
This also includes weapons, some of which now find themselves with far more use. Sniper rifles, for example, are a weapon type I barely used before, as the majority of encounters in the game didn’t really need such a long distance weapon. In PoE, however, with it’s wide open landscape, snipers are now far more useful.
The actual missions in the plains are also well handed, with random grouping of various mission types strung together in a mini-story or sorts. One mission may begin with a base liberation, followed by a capture, and finally a supply drop sabotage, and another may have three totally different missions, or a different order. It keeps things changed up, much like the randomly generated maps in the rest of the game. There are also varying difficulty tiers of missions that rewards different items for completion, and Warframe’s RNG and grind are still very much present.
As always, though, Warframe’s grind is of the enjoyable type, and it’s always fun. That said, the new Warframe, Gara, has a ridiculously low drop rate of parts, and the grind is borderline broken at the moment. I do believe the PC update following PoE remedied this, so I’m hoping this is addressed on PS4 too.
The new systems added to the game are extensive, and fun. The new fishing minigame is great, and surprisingly satisfying. And, unlike other games, where fishing isn’t always that useful, here every fish you catch can be traded for faction standing, or butchered for materials for crafting.
Similarly, mining is another good minigame, with equal potential of acquiring standing or materials, and there’s now even a weapon crafting feature that allows you to build, customise and name you own weapons.
PoE has also beefed up the Tenno themselves, and now when you leave your Warframe to fight in your true Tenno form, you do so with a customisable ‘Amp’, which is a powerful void weapon. Tenno are more powerful in battle, and the focus system has now been overhauled to accommodate this.
All of this makes for one hell of an expansion, one that doesn’t just add new content, but also radically changes the whole game, and once again evolves Warframe, keeping it current and relevant.
There are some problems to be ironed out. The Archwing system, that allows you to fly around the plains, needs some balancing as it’s far too easy to be shot down, wasting Archwing beacons, and the controls are awkward and clunky, especially when you’re trying to fight and avoid being shot own.
The new focus system is, in my opinion, just downright confusing, especially for those used to the previous system. I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting my previous focus school where I wanted it, only to have it all taken away and replaced with a totally different setup, one that doesn’t function anywhere near the same way as before. That’s a lot of time and effort down the drain.
Taken as a whole, though, Plains of Eidolon is a superb expansion to an already enormous game, and one that continues to elevate Warframe above the competition.