Warframe is an impressive and overwhelming game. Play as a space ninja with sick moves and gear, who’s mission is to grind out even sweeter gear in an online, shared game world? Count me in.
Amazingly enough, Warframe made its way to the Nintendo Switch, and after 13+ months and 530 hours, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about the game.
The problem with Warframe (well, one of them, I mean the game isn’t perfect) is that it does a poor job of explaining its many systems and avenues to Gearvana (yes I just made that up).
And there are quite a number of them. Also, while just about everything in Warframe can be obtained in-game without having to drop any real money, the blunt truth is there will be times you may need to put in some cash to makes things more convenient. Not “pay to win” convenient, but more like “Oh God I’m out of slots for weapons / Warframes and I don’t want to start deleting stuff” convenient. And that’s okay. Because the devs do deserve to be compensated for their hard work, frequent content drops and having one of the better free-to-play systems out there.
But damn, Warframe makes it hard to love it.
Choose Excalibur as your starter Warframe
When you begin Warframe, you will be given the option of choosing one of three starting ‘Frames. Excalibur should be the one you pick.
It’s more than just that Excalibur is an all-around solid Warframe. If you commit to the game, you’ll find that the gameplay loop involves leveling up something called Mastery Ranks (MR). Doing so unlocks higher tiers of weapons. You gain MR by leveling Warframes, weapons, and companions (floating robot sentinels at first, or animals later on).
Remember how I wrote that just about everything in Warframe can be obtained by playing the game? You can craft Warframes and weapons by going to different locations on planets and praying to RNGesus that you get the appropriate schematic for a specific piece of the gear. Once you obtain the schematics, you can see what the cost is for crafting it (farmable in-game resources and credits, usually).
Crafting a piece of gear can take 12-72 hours in real time (depending on the type of item), unless you want to speed it up using Platinum, the in-game currency you can purchase for real world money. I do not recommend doing this; platinum should be reserved for other things (see below).
The thing about Excalibur is that he’s a bit of a pain to farm in the game, and the other two starter options will be relatively easier to get later. Plus, Excalibur really is a great Warframe to learn the game mechanics with.
Affinity = XP… kind of
The game will show how much Affinity you gain after missions. Affinity is essentially the experience points for leveling up gear and your Mastery Rank. Cool, right? Except there’s some weird gotchas with Affinity:
- Affinity is spread out across all of your gear. In Warframe, you can have a Primary, Secondary and Melee weapon equipped, as well as a Companion. In addition to your Warframe, all of these can gain Affinity to level up (each piece of gear goes up to level 30). But you need to know how the Affinity is applied to gear. If you gain 5 Affinity, it’s not as though each piece of gear gains 5. That number is divided across the number of items you have equipped, and that number is applied to each. So if you have 4 pieces of gear and are still leveling your Warframe, and gain 5 Affinity for killing an enemy, then each piece of gear (including your Warframe) gains 1 Affinity. It does take longer to level up gear, but you’re typically fighting so many enemies in Warframe that it can offset that pace.
- Even if your gear is at max level, it still “absorbs” Affinity. Say you leveled up your Excalibur Warframe to level 30. Great! You stuck with the game that long. And let’s say your Primary weapon is at max but you’re now leveling up new Secondary and Melee weapons. Keep in mind how Affinity is applied to gear from the previous bullet point. If your gear is at max, it is still taken into account when divvying up Affinity. So it still receives its share of the Affinity, even if it is at max level, so that Affinity is essentially wasted. In fact, you will level up gear faster if you remove a weapon or companion that are at max level that isn’t needed, because now there is less gear to split the Affinity with and the remaining pieces get more of the share. It’s something to keep in mind when playing Warframe.
- You can reset gear to level 1 for various gameplay reasons, but when leveling up an item again, the Affinity does not count towards MR. Only the first time you level a piece of gear does the Affinity count towards your Mastery Rank. Which means you gotta keep grinding for more fresh gear to raise that MR.
Mods, Mods, Mods
Unlike most RPG-like systems, leveling up gear doesn’t make it any stronger, per se. Your gun at level 1 will cause the same damage at level 30. In Warframe, leveling up gear expands its amount of “capacity” (by default, maxed out gear has 30 capacity). Each mod – which can improve things like damage, speed, defense and other attributes on gear – has a cost associated with it. So a mod might have a capacity cost of 8 will leave 22 capacity on a maxed piece of gear for adding other mods.
Part of Warframe‘s gameplay loop includes obtaining and optimizing mods on your gear. The further you get into the game and come across harder enemies, you may find your weapons not doing as much damage. You must use mods to enhance your damage and survival. Mods drop from most enemies in the game and from some breakable items / lockers / chests.
You can double the capacity of a piece of gear (from 30 to 60) by using something called an Orokin Catalyst (for weapons) or Orokin Reactor (for Warframes). These are called “potatoes” by the community for… reasons.
Remember earlier how I mentioned that it was possible to reset your max gear (including Warframes, weapons and companions) back to level 1? You would do this to change the polarity of a Mod slot.
Each Mod has a polarity. Each polarity, denoted by a unique symbol in the top-left, represents a designation. If a Mod with a specific polarity is placed in a mod slot with a matching polarity, then the cost of equipping that mod goes down by roughly half. Likewise, mis-matching polarities will slightly increase the cost of using that mod (a mod slot without any polarity simply costs whatever the mod capacity is).
Part of creating builds around your Warframes will involving setting polarity slots for mods you use the most, so that you can equip powerful mod combinations in the limited amount of space available. If you enjoy theorycrafting, this will be right up your alley.
Let’s Talk About Platinum
Not the game company, but the in-game currency. You can purchase platinum to perform a number of actions within the game: purchasing Warframes and weapons, hurrying up crafting, currency when trading mods with other players, and more. While you can purchase platinum with real world money, you can also earn it by farming certain schematics for “Prime” weapons or Warframes (shinier versions of normal gear with slightly improved stats) and trading them to other players.
In general, you’ll want to reserve using platinum for purchasing Warframe and weapon slots. You start the game with a small amount of both, and you’ll need additional slots as you gain gear. Spending platinum on purchasing gear is not advisable, since it’s overpriced compared to just grinding for it in-game. Sure, it saves time, but part of the appeal of a game like Warframe is the loot grind.
Every day that you log into the game, you’ll gain a reward. Rarely, you’ll receive 25%/50%/75% off coupons to the in-game store. If you’re dead set on purchasing a Warframe, wait until you get a 75% off coupon and purchase one of the harder ones to grind.
If you get into Warframe, you’ll do well to use:
- The Warframe Wiki
- Warframe Reddit
- Warframe Forums
- Warframe Runway subreddit (because fashion is the real endgame)
It’s Okay to Take Breaks
Warframe is a rabbit hole of gaming joy and frustration if you wind up becoming a fan. It’s okay to take breaks if you feel burnt out. There’s a lot of resources in the game to farm (too many, frankly) and systems to learn. Sometimes, it just stops being fun. Step away! Take a break! It can be for days or months. Sometimes, coming back and trying a new Warframe or build can be the answer. But don’t stress about the game. Don’t let it stop being fun.
What are some of your recommended Warframe tips?