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Posted on Friday, May 10 2013 @ 17:18:20 PST

I'm not big on Free 2 Play games. The F2P content seems to suck the soul out of a game, in my opinion. I've tried dozens of F2P games and none of them have kept my interest for long. Usually the gameplay is lacking certain charm, or the story is lacking or worst of all, it's as repetitive as watching a boring soccer match. Players kick the ball back and forth for 90 minutes and in the end they settle with 0:0. Or if who wins is important enough, they settle it with penalties. A match that leaves your butt sore from sitting for all those 90 minutes and yet you hope it becomes exciting but it never does. 9 matches out of 10 are like that. But occasionally you see that 1 match that's different from the 9, one match where your home team is playing against it's nemesis and there are injuries, goals, tense moments, crowd going wild, a match so exciting and important for you that you stand and jump up and down for 90+ minutes, screaming at the top of your lungs and when it's finally over you walk home talking with everyone about the match and can't sleep for half the night because it was so god damn good that you can't stop thinking about it, reliving it in your mind.

Warframe, which is currently in open beta, suddenly came to Steam, it was the first time I saw it. I read "Free 2 Play" and was ready to ignore it, it was only a natural reaction. But the guy in promotional picture wearing a ultra futuristic suit in some kind of space ship caught my eye. I decided to give it a look, checked out few trailers featuring space ninjas running on walls, slashing space marines and using superpowers, and looked at few screenshots and finally decided to install it, coz, you know, space ninjas.

And a couple of weeks passed. I had forgotten I installed it, because I never tried it. But I needed a breather from Mass Effect, opened up my Steam and saw Warframe just sitting there. I thought "Ah, why the heck not, let's see what this F2P is about.", booted up the game, installed the updates, created an account and finally was in the game.

Game loaded up surprisingly quickly and uniquely, I was thrown right into the game. Game opened up with a cutscene of small spacecraft racing at a futuristic space station and upon arrival I found myself within white virtual space of sorts as a space ninja. It served as a introductory tutorial which teached me the basics of the basics, such as looking and moving around, shooting and swinging the space sword. When I gunned down the first virtual targeting practice dummy, the gun had surpisingly satisfying feeling to it, especially for a third person shooter. And the sword swinging which is mapped to a separate button and allows for a quick switch to melee felt great as well. I had not expected so refined combat from a F2P game and when the tutorial ended with a group of six active enemies being unleashed upon me, I quickly dispatched them all with a few quick shots and swings of my sword and was ready to take on the world. Or so I thought.

I was suddenly prompted with the option of choosing between 3 different space ninja suits or "warframes" as they are known within the game, and opted for the one which said "advanced players who like to control the battlefield" because I felt like I had owned the tutorial and I liked the horny look of it... no innuendo intended. And it was named "Loki" after the norse god, so I felt like it was made for me.  I then found me and my brand new warframe in a map room that overlooked our starsystem, and the NPC who had instructed me in the tutorial mentioned something about gaining a foothold at Venus so we could successfully start a invasion of our starsystem or something. Yay.

So Loki and I then took on our first mission, solo, and after another cutscene showing us boarding a space station of some kind, I started sneaking around, exploring the metallic spaceship interior. Tutorial hadn't mentioned sneaking with even half a word but I found out that you could, in fact, sneak up on ugly enemy space marines and shove a sword through their backs. One of the slippery bastards caught me stabbing his buddy and managed to hit the alarm switch. As couple of more angry marines popped out from cover I went into a sword swinging frenzy in which I cut both down was joined by a third opponent. As I angrily slashed away at that one, I thought I had found a bug as his health didn't seem to go down. And he was glowing. And in general looked entirely different than the rest of the grunts. It was then that i noticed that it was in fact not a grunt but another player in different warframe.  As I got over my confusion, I welcomed him and we proceeded to slaughter our away the enemy space station now together.

As I ran around, enemy numbers grew rapidly, but so did my skill. In fact i was discovering new things every minute, gameplay possibilities that weren't mentioned in the tutorial even slightest. I found that if you crouched while sprinting you sat down into a slide, effectively making yourself a smaller and lower target. While you can't change direction while sliding, you can fire in any direction. While not really serving any purpose other than looking and feeling awesome, I found myself using it increasingly more often. In fact, if you used your sword attack while sliding, you stopped sliding finishing it with a spinning sword attack. While your standard sword attacks hit only single target, this one hit everyone in the reach with double damage.

And not only could you slide on the ground, you could hit the crouch button while jumping from a sprint and what you suddenly had in your hands was in fact a... flying kick. Anyone who got in the path of your flying kick got knocked on their arse giving you a opportunity to perform a finisher.  And if you simply used melee attack while jumping you perform a devastating ground slam, having the same effect as flying kick only with added damage. If used your melee attack while performing the flying kick, you did an aerial spin attack. And you could immediately follow up the aerial spin attack with ground spin attack making it a double.

And that was not all. Like in the trailer, you could run on walls and shoot at enemies during it. Or run up the walls and jump off with a backflip. Or perform a leaping sword attack while wallrunning. Or climb ledges. Or perform a frontflip from a slide. Or block even ranged attacks with your sword.

I could now run on the wall while deflecting bullets with my sword, leaping off the wall into a flying kick into an enemy's face dropping onto the floor into sliding on my arse while emptying my dual wield revolvers into an enemy who's off your sliding path, leaping into the air from sliding into somersault over an obstacle right into a group of enemies while doing a midair spinning sword attack landing on the floor and doing an sliding spinning sword attack finisher and then watching the satisfying sight of your opponents splitting in half. Yes, you can dismember anyone. Limbs are flying everywhere.

And every warframe has it's own four abilities. I rapidly unlocked them all for my Loki and as it's namesake, Loki is a real trickster. With Loki you can drop a decoy in middle of enemies, causing confusion and giving you breathing space. Or turn invisible, doubling your melee attacks. Or switch places with anyone, even your allies and decoy with a switch teleport ability. Or disarm every opponent in an area of effect.

Every warframe has drastically different special abilities. One has purely melee oriented abilities, another can turn enemies against each other, third one can freeze them, fourth can set them on fire, fifth can turn them into bullet magnets... there are 12 in total so far and every one has drastically unique looks and abilities. But the basics are the same for everyone. They all can do all the feats I mentioned above, only their ability to soak bullets or running speed is what's different from warframe to warframe aside from special abilities and looks.

You can get new warframes, weapons and weapon types through crafting system, though you have to find the blueprints and materials for them in the world. It requires a bit farming but isn't anything drastic, you don't have to pour dozens of hours into gathering the necessary materials or blueprints. By the time i needed a new weapon, I already had materials to make two. And if you feel like not wasting time, you can buy them ready made for real cash. Some are even available for in game credits that you pick up during missions. Weapons and warframes gather experience as you use them and every new level opens up new mod slots which you can use to add new abilities and features to them. Mods drop often enough that you are likely to have more mods than available slots on your stuff. You can even combine identical mods to create even more powerful ones that enhance you even further. Combine two 20% shield boost mods and you have one 40% shield mod.

While there aren't many different environments, every map is randomly generated. Though it does mean you do run through exactly the same room often enough to notice. Sometimes twice in the row. As the game is still in open beta and developers listen to player feedback, with every larger update the variation grows. When game went open beta it added a frosty planet environment to the game. And enemy variation is quite noticable too. There are three different enemy factions in total, plus the player faction called Tenno, and all three factions have over a dozen different types of troops each. All feature some ranged and melee units, many with special abilities like rolling bombs, stomps, teleportation and even more. If you are not careful and run too far ahead from the rest of your team, you can easily get swarmed and can kiss your ninja ass goodbye unless you have godly combat prowess and a bit of luck on your side.

All in all, while not comparable to that one exciting soccer match because Warframe can get repetitive, the gameplay is slick, smooth, varied and awesome enough to at least keep my interest. But it doesn't keep me up at nights. But as I build more warframes, the gameplay expands even more, further keeping it from going entirely stale. Even new weapons have their own animations and attack patterns adding to the formula.

The developer Digital Extremes has entirely devoted itself to creating the best cooperative shooter possible. Every bigger update adds new warframes, weapons, environments and gameplay imrovements. Remember I mentioned earlier that stealth wasn't mentioned within the tutorial. Well, that's because it was only implemented in latest large update. And it needs work. A lot of things still need work. DE listens to player feedback intensely and then makes improvements as per suggestions and requests. Perhaps over time they can even entirely iron out the repetitiveness of the game.

Before I close this blog post, I have to mention Dark Sector. perhaps you can remember this multiplatform 3rd person shooter with few unique elements from 2008? Well, Dark Sector was also creation of Digital Extremes. Initially Dark Sector was going to be a heavily sci-fi game very similar to Warframe but publisher intervention forced to change the setting to a more modern one because of market trends (cough cough, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, cough cough). For Warframe, Digital Extremes dusted off the original Dark Sector concept and is putting all of the love initally intended for Dark Sector into Warframe. I believe they can achieve something great with Warframe.

At least it's the only F2P game that has held my interest.

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