I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sold on Warframe at first glance. It was yet one more free to play FPS in a veritable sea of titles plagued by pay-walls, poor gameplay, terrible graphics and unscrupulous developers. In short, I wasn’t really all that interested in checking it out. I’m willing to own up to my mistakes.

A week or two ago, I noticed one of my Steam friends playing the title – and that they’d been playing it fairly frequently for some time. I decided it couldn’t hurt to drop them a line – to ask them what they thought of the game. They sung the game’s praises quite highly, and I figured I might as well give it a fair shake. After all, it was free. What did I possibly have to lose?

Only several hours of time where I could have been doing something productive, but instead wound up shooting down angry mutant space marines and robots. So…yeah. It’s pretty damned fun.

The basic story of Warframe isn’t really anything special; basic, standard space opera fare:

You are an ancient warrior equipped with a powerful and ancient suit of armor -a titular Warframe – and preserved for centuries in cryogenic sleep. You’ve recently been awakened to a solar system completely unfamiliar to you, in which a terrible war is being waged. The brutish clone armies of the Grineer, suffering from centuries of genetic degeneration, try to exert their will over the galaxy, vast armies of monstrosities infected by the Technocyte plague consume everything in their path, and the merchant cabals of the Corprus remain indifferent to pretty much the whole conflict, so long as they can make a profit.

As one of the Tenno – the faction to which all players belong – your job is to wipe out the lot of ’em, restoring peace to the galaxy (presumably).

After a brief tutorial, you’ll dive headlong into your first mission; destroying the power generator on a Grineer ship. Here’s where the MMO component of Warframe comes in: missions are designed primarily around four-played co-op, and if you simply hop into a mission and start playing, there’s a good chance at least a few people might actually join your game. Of course, there’s also a good chance they won’t, and you’ll be in for a thoroughly frustrating experience trying to force your way through a mission designed for multiple people. There’s also a marketplace, clan system, and friends list, as well; though curiously enough, although I installed the game through Steam, the list is entirely independent of the client.

The multiplayer component is actually where Warframe encounters the most trouble – odd, for a game designed around four-player co-operative play. Level ranges of planets in the solar system aren’t shown, so finding somewhere appropriate to your level involves a lot of guesswork; there aren’t any latency indicators, either. What’s more, games in progress don’t show the relative level of players. I actually wound up with a player more than ten levels higher than me on an assassination mission (basically, a boss fight). To my knowledge, bosses scale with level.

That was a fun fight.

Matchmaking quirks and minor bugs aside, though, there’s an extremely solid game here. Combat is incredibly fun and fast-paced; you actually feel like some sort of space Ninja as you jump and run off walls, slash through hordes of enemies with your blade and gun down even more from a distance. Though it’s somewhat curious that there aren’t really any grenades (or explosives), that’s sort of offset by the fact that each Warframe has its own unique abilities. I went with Loki, a frame which is all about stealth. Other Warframes include Excalibur (specialized for sword combat), Nyx (who messes enemies up with psychic powers) and Volt (one word: zap).

All of this is underscored by an intense customization system, which allows you to equip your Warframe and weapons with augments that serve a wide array of different purposes such as granting special abilities, adding bonus damage or increasing your health/shields. You can also hop into the foundry and use your accumulated resources, drops, and credits to build powerful equipment from blueprints both found in missions and bought in the marketplace.

Of course, like any free to play, there’s a cash store. While there are a few benefits that definitely smack of pay to win (Sentinels, for example, are incredibly powerful), most of what’s is either stuff that can be unlocked by grinding or boosts that make it easier to grind.

Warframe is a well-made, entertaining MMOFPS which definitely has some decent chops even though it’s still in open beta. Even in spite of the other faults, the combat here really shines through. Give Warframe a try, if for nothing other than that.

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