I have been playing the game for 150 days now, which I know is next to nothing compared to people who have been playing it for years and for thousands of hours. Still, I have reached the main milestone I had set for myself – to get a version of each of the 45 warframes released until now – and so I would like to share some impressions about the game:
1. Warframe has a strong “Pay to Win” component, in the meaning that we can spend real money in order to get more power. We can buy more powerful warframes and weapons (prime access), buy items that increase mod capacity and thus massively increase power, and so on.
Here, someone could shout the usual excuses: “but there’s no Pay to Win in a PvE game”, which of course isn’t true – you can still buy power to become more powerful than you were, and thus skew balance for yourself and for other players. Or “you can trade Platinum with other players so you don’t have to spend real money”, which also creates the opposite effect – since Platinum is the main currency between players, trading creates one more reason to spend real money in order to get the more powerful items in the game.
2. Clearly a lot of thought went into major updates to monetize them, which can be seen in a lot of the game’s aspects: Necramechs are sold for Platinum and have new skins in the Market, Octavia has multiple instruments available for sale, *spoiler* mode has multiple cosmetics being sold on the Market, and so on. It’s clear that “how can we monetize this” is a very clear concern when designing game updates.
3. And yet, the business model is incredibly fair. It’s not a matter of “we don’t have to pay money to progress” – I have never liked this claim; first it’s hard to talk about “need” in something completely optional like a game; second, progress in what? The main storyline? The Steel Path?
No, it’s something much deeper. It’s not that we don’t have to pay; rather, that paying for power actually makes the game worse. I could have paid to instantly get all the warframes I collected, but that would only have made the game worse for me – a lot of my enjoyment came from learning how to get something new, getting it, and using it in order to get the next new thing. Paying to get the same result would have felt like using a cheat in order to skip levels in an old game – it’s just purposely avoiding the content that’s there.
Likewise, Prime Access allows us to buy Prime items, but they’re also available in game; multiple free to play games use this as an excuse (make things available in game but only through an impossible grind, in order to push people to just pay for them). But Warframe has created an entire activity around earning Prime items in game, in such a way that it feels like Void Fissures are the right way to get them. Just paying with real money feels, again, like a cheat code in order to avoid actually playing the game.
Warframe also does not have loot boxes. This may sound like faint praise, but having a free to play game this big, in 2020, without loot boxes, is almost a miracle. It would have been easy to replace Prime Access with “Prime Boxes” or whatever, in which people would buy Void Relics and open them for a chance to get the Prime items they want. Instead, there’s no gambling at all – what you pay for is what you get.
Monetization is also subtle when compared to other games. There’s no “click here to buy Platinum” sign always blinking on our screens; nothing aggressively pushing micro-transactions on players’ faces. It’s a somewhat sad sign that what ultimately boils down to “don’t be an ass to your players” is actually something praiseworthy, but it’s rare to see a free to play game like this.
Really, Warframe feels like a very honest game. No ridiculous, predatory scheme to get money from players; what we see is what we get, and we are free to skip the game as much as we want.
4. The game is great. It’s still rough around the edges – I can only imagine how the game must have felt years ago – and I keep finding small bugs here and there, but gameplay itself is great, the game is beautiful, the story is nice, and the voice acting is amazing. I’m really happy to see a game in which we have multiple options, all of which viable in the main game (multiple warframes, hundreds of different weapons, and so on).
5. The lack of randomization in stats is amazing. All warframes of a given type have the same stats. There’s no need to be concerned if we got a “bad roll” or a “good roll”. When crafting a weapon, we know exactly what we are going to get – no chance to just lose our materials, or to get a “bad” version of whatever we’re crafting. The only stats randomization in the game are the Riven mods, and those are such a small part of the game that it doesn’t bother me. Coming from Path of Exile, or any action RPG, this was a very refreshing change.
6. The only thing that bothers me is the community, in that it feels like many players don’t actually want to play the game. Often it feels like the entire community is made of speed runners; I have lost count of how many Wukong players I have seen who move as little as possible while their Celestial Twins kill stuff for them, and then proceed to spam Cloud Walker so they get first to the extraction point (and then keep spamming waypoints there). I’m sure someone would reply talking about how this is the most “efficient” way to play the game, but really – if someone is just trying to skip content as fast as possible instead of enjoying it, wouldn’t it be simpler to just not play the game?
My suggestion to other new players is: enjoy the game! Don’t pay in order to skip content; don’t play with random people unless you have to. Take your time, don’t focus only on the destination, and enjoy the journey. There’s a great game waiting to be explored.
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