Do you remember what it was like being not quite new to the game and then realizing that you knew less than you did when you started?
I started playing Warframe about a month and a half ago and wrote about my new player experience here. Some people were wondering in the comments how my impression of the game would change as I got out of the “new player mode” and started acclimatizing myself to the game.
At this point, I’m around 80 hours in and I’ve got access to all of the star chart areas except for Eris. I’ve also done some of the major quests as well. As mentioned in the previous post, I play almost exclusively with my partner. Though I’m part of a clan with some friends, they stopped logging in (tragically, a family member of one passed away from COVID-19).
If I could summarize the intermediate game of Warframe, I’d summarize it as: “A lot of fun, too bad we didn’t see this sooner”. If I could summarize the beginning of the end game, I admit that it’s actually rather frustrating and it’s STILL overwhelming.
Before I begin, I’d also like to send a shout-out to people who were really welcoming and friendly. One person was really generous and sent me a bunch of stuff, but since that point I haven’t really been able to catch him online or even write an offline letter to thank him for welcoming me to the game. So: if Man in White is listening, thanks a bunch for your generosity!
Just a note: there are spoilers in this but I’ll do my best to mark them with the spoiler tags. When I played, I didn’t get spoiled at all, so I hope to not do the same for others.
Last time, on “Warframe: Gotta Catch ‘em All”…
I was just starting to build my first Warframe from scratch. I received Mag as my starter and Ember as a Twitch Prime freebie, and I had just started building Rhino and my friends in my clan had helped me farm Nova. Nova is great and her explodey power basically managed to hold my interest for hours on end. I bought her Nova Atomica skin and am really happy with it.
For a while, my partner and I basically went on a “What Warframe do you want to get now?” spree. Since Nova, I’ve also build Rhino (which I find boring), Limbo (whom I don’t really understand), and Mirage (who feels very useless compared to Nova, but I haven’t really leveled her yet). I think I like caster blasty Warframes.
I think it’s a huge benefit to the game for players to figure out as quickly as possible that they can easily get blueprints and craft Warframes since it’ll be what keeps people playing for a while. I mentioned this last post (where the main problem was that it’s too boring to essentially use the starter frame for four planets until you get to Phobos). After actually getting some new frames, it vastly increases the player’s interest.
The story. It’s actually really good
I mentioned in my last post that it was really easy to lose track of the main quest. We did eventually pick it back up.
The main story quest, of course, that everyone talks about, is Second Dream. Activating the quest is totally unintuitive (we had to watch a video for how to scan the Sentient drones AND for where to find the hidden caches in the sabotage mission) but the planet wasn’t super difficult so we were able to hang in there.
I actually had no idea what this quest was going to be about. I just heard that “Warframe has a surprisingly interesting story” from my friends. They were right – this story was all amounts of intense and really brought up Warframe from “just a game” to an actual experience that I’d recommend to people. I thought that it was fantastic – the moment that you stop and open the pod, the dramatic moment when your frame draws the sword out of her body and strikes down the stalker, and how the Lotus herself comes over to put you back in your pod. I’m sure that everyone has their own “how I felt” moment.
There were some hiccups though in this quest. We had killed Alad V one planet ago at the end of Saturn, so having him come back and help you out was really confusing and we just kind of rolled with it. We managed to bug out the Security Eye and had to restart that mission. In the scene where the Stalker was keeping you away from your Transference pod in the Orbiter, my partner didn’t realize that she had to shoot the Stalker and move forward since when you first try it, the narrative claims that it’s not effective. Then, during character customization, she pressed the wrong button and ended up being a dude talking to the Lotus, which really stressed her out. Fortunately, you can change that right after for no cost, but it really took her out of the scene. In these situations, a confirmation dialog would be a good idea.
The War Within was similarly dramatic, though not as awesome as The Second Dream. We only saw Teshin during the Second Dream, so the emotional effect of him betraying you wasn’t very strong. With respect to the quest itself, I had a hard time with the Golden Maw until my partner told me that Shift allowed you to “sprint”. The game didn’t give that hint initially. Stealing the scepter from the Queens was also mechanically challenging for some unknown reason but I somehow managed to do it.
I think if there’s any problem with the story, it’s that this depth of storytelling isn’t introduced sooner. You hear about the queens most clearly from Vor’s Prize, so reintroducing them between the beginning and now would have been a good reminder. As I mentioned before, neither Teshin nor Alad V are really introduced, so a quest that has some strong content with those characters would have been nice too. While the concepts are great, Warframe kind of amps it up from 0 to 100 with the intensity and that’s a little unexpected from a video game.
Overall though, these quests were really great and made us really want to see more. Unfortunately…
The difficulty curve really ramps up, and it’s getting frustrating
The game felt like it had a difficulty spike as you get to Pluto and Sedna. The game up until this point isn’t generally that hard. We were using normal Warframes, with normal weapons and mods that you mostly get normally up until that point.
We started feeling some pressure in Uranus but Neptune is where we were like “we should only bring our best Warframes”. We still used leveling weapons for the most part though. By the time we got to Sedna and the Void, we were basically trying not level weapons. There’s a little bit of a tension between levelling and MR. You can’t get more MR without leveling weapons but you can’t really do high-end content if you’re using your max rank equipment.
We felt the crunch most when doing a main story quest. In one, you need to capture a thing. Once you capture it, you need to dump a huge amount of damage into it and then you repeat two more times My partner and I are stuck because haven’t been able to do this quest; our weapons don’t seem to do enough damage. We were discouraged. It was around here the cracks started to show.
With the mission being unattainable, we defaulted back to our other favorite activity: farming more Warframes. I wanted Saryn, so we started heading to Cedna but then we realized that we needed the arena points to do the boss. Then, during the actual boss fight, we couldn’t beat her. Since we needed to farm more arena points to repeat the fight, we were discouraged and stopped.
Since Saryn seemed out of reach at the moment, my partner asked if we could get Trinity. So we started going through Pluto, but then that ALSO required keys. We haven’t tried the boss yet at this point. My partner’s interest has dropped off quite a bit at this point.
It’s not that surprising that the game is getting difficult, but I think there’s a lack of clarity on how to actually get strong in an effective manner. YouTube videos and Google searches on Wiki have helped a bit, but they’re awfully technical and there’s a lot of presumptions that those videos tend to have that make them difficult to follow.
Have we been playing the game wrong this whole time?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve done some solo play. Some missions are really hard solo. I was unable to do a Level 11 Interception mission (the tower control) and failed twice. I had a hard time with a defense mission on Pluto solo. Eventually, I decided that doing Cetus was a good way to do “sidegrade” content to farm Gara, but then I had a really hard time with the 3rd level bounties. I turned “Friends Only” off and braved fighting with my Tenno colleagues.
I realized that a lot of players with similar MR as me (I got 8 yesterday) had way way more primes. An MR7 had Mag Prime and some weapons. An MR8 had Wukong Prime. A lot of them were doing way more damage than me. On an Oxium farming run on Io, I was doing total damage in the single digits. I did Cetus bounties and got carried until I got Gara Neuroptics (it was REALLY hard keeping up with people who had Archwing launchers).
I’ve been credits-starved ever since we crafted our first Warframe. During a Seimini run, one person suggested doing the Index for cash. I was short crafting my Archwing Launcher segment, so I ponied up 30000 credits, got placed solo, and died almost right away. It’s kind of odd because I was flush with cash around Ceres, but after that it seemed to disappear into a void.
Some players have been giving me suggestions overall on how to get stronger, but I still need time to process the advice. Here’s a few things that I’ve noticed when guides and videos give advice:
- Most suggest that a mission be done with a specific Warframe, which seems to assume that most people have most of the frames constructed. The reality is that I find it difficult still to get all of the frames (and even if it’s not actually that hard, it still takes a lot of time since you need the 12 hours + 72 hours to build it). It’s easier for me to understand advice when it’s expressed in general strategies (ex: instead of saying, “Bring Rhino” you can say “Bring a sturdy frame that absorbs damage.”
- It’s difficult to remember what mods do what. There seems to be some kind of magic. To be fair, a lot of guides do tend to mention what effects are needed for a frame to be effective (ex: “increase ability duration”. I guess over time you learn.
- Acquiring mods. A similar problem here is that there are a LOT of mods that I’ve never seen or heard of and the instructions for how to get them is pretty unclear. For example,
Fleeting Expertise comes from the Orokin Vault. I click on it and then there’s an entire second article describing the vault, the keys that I need, and I’m like “What is all of this stuff?” The problem is that a lot of “farm guides” seem to be really geared toward a player who seems to have been playing for a year or two and has most of this stuff. There isn’t a lot of material for someone who’s been playing for a couple of months and works within their framework.
Another thing that I realized is that I might not be a very adventurous player, or at the very least, it’s unclear what a player needs to do to really prepare for the late intermediate stage. I thought I was a noob when I first started Vor’s Prize. I had NO IDEA.
My understanding for improving is this:
- I really should be upgrading more mods. Some people warned me about this in my first post: “Wait until you start modding”. I think I’m at that point now. I mostly do “automod” because I actually don’t know much about how the various mods effect abilities (especially on Warframes). For weapons, most people recommend “multi-shot” mods (which I am unclear on what they do exactly, but I do have one of them for a shotgun). Most have suggested that straight up damage mods are going to help – luckily, “auto-mod” tends to optimize for damage so it gives you an idea of what to start with.
- One problem with upgrading is that Orokin reactors and Orokin catalysts are rather difficult to come by, and because of that, you need to REALLY like a weapon to mod it. But there’s so many weapons (and so many that are strictly better than what you had before – namely, prime weapons) that it can feel wasteful to mod a weapon that can be replaced. Maybe I need to get over this.
- Speaking of primes, apparently we need to be doing Void fissures. Usually, I do these with my partner. Apparently, to improve our odds of getting gear, we should be running more fissures. This introduces a number of economics questions though like, “Should we be maxing out relics with Void traces? What about party members who are farming, would they get angry if we don’t have maxed relics? What if we’re low on traces? Is it okay to basically be farming for traces?” They kind of feel like a waste of time since after a few dozen runs I don’t think I can craft anything besides Forma.
- Speaking of Forma, I still don’t know how to polarize and only heard about it from friends.
- I didn’t really realize how prime vaults work until a few days ago. Apparently, if I want Saryn (and don’t want to farm her from Sedna) I’ll need to trade with players for her since she’s vaulted, which I think is a fancy way to say, “the parts don’t drop”.
I think I’m learning the “way forward” so to speak but the game overall is still incredibly confusing. I have a mental model of how the game overall works, but I don’t have almost any idea of how to “properly” gear and how to “efficiently” get things that actually make me stronger. There are also mechanics that I am STILL discovering even now (I only constructed my first Ayatan sculpture yesterday soon before MR8).
What’s all this mean to me, anyway?
I guess if there’s anything to take away from this post, it’s that:
- Being an intermediate player is rather awkward and there isn’t a lot of guidance because most guides are for people who are very new, or very advanced.
- Warframe still feels like a mini research project. This might appeal to some players, but I only sort of like having to alt-tab out of the game to look everything up
- Not that anyone’s been impolite to me, but understand that I still don’t know much about the game even though I’ve been playing for a while, so be gentle!
Overall though the community here has been great and has helped explain me many things (even if I don’t understand them) and I’m sure that there’s going to be a few dozen people who are going to explain exactly how to mod weapons and explain exactly why corrosive is better than toxic except for XYZ situations. Hats off to you, your words will eventually sink in and make me better.
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