Warframe is huge right now – and for good reason – after their latest big update, Plains of Eidolon, has come out. It is indeed a fantastic update to a fantastic game. If you are thinking about jumping in, here are 12 important things about Warframe you absolutely need to know before starting out.
1. Warframe is really, truly free
Warframe is free to play. Really! Make no mistake: If you want, you’ll never have to pay a single dime. It is common for the games press to make the mistake of thinking you have to pay in the game, because the marketplace is built that way – but apart from cosmetic items, you can truly get everything without paying – either by grinding for it, or trading for it.
Let it be known, however, that Warframe is a “patient gamers” (shoutout to /r/patientgamers/), a “gamedeals” type game for non-paying customers: It is a long-term investment, and requires you to be patient, and wait for things to come to you in waves. Some items are available only periodically, others come and go.
I repeat: You have to be willing to wait in Warframe – especially if you want to play for free. If you’re impatient, then Warframe is not the game for you.
2. Warframe runs on a potato
Warframe is one of the best-optimized games available today. It can almost be run on the oldest, most garbage entry-level laptop that you can imagine. Plains of Eidolon’s Cetus hub is currently a bit stuttery for everybody, but the actual gameplay content runs on pretty much everything.
3. Early choices mean everything
There are two newbie traps in the game:
You absolutely need to pick “Excalibur” as your starter frame. It is a powerful, damage-oriented frame that can be taken from the beginning to the very endgame. The other two frames are hot garbage for beginners. You’ll be able to acquire them later – Excalibur, conversely, is almost impossible to get right now.
You absolutely need to spend all your starter “platinum” in-game currency on a few Warframe and weapon “slots” at the beginning – in fact, for the foreseeable future! Otherwise you are pretty much screwed without a real cash infusion (or some help from a well-off Warframe friend). If you want to play for free, you should only invest your platinum into things other than slots only after you have levelled up most of the game’s weapons and frames.
If you want to progress faster, it may be sensible to buy a small amount (the smallest, for instance) to speed up the early portion – especially if you get an early platinum discount of 50 % of more as a login reward. Later, by accruing extra prime loot, rare mods, and trading them for platinum, you can become self-sustained, and even buy market-only cosmetic items.
4. Early part of the game is inventory management
Unless you make a real-world purchase, the early portion of the game is entirely about fully ranking up available weapons, and frames, only to discard those that are bad, keeping those that are fit for later use.
There is very little “balance” in Warframe: Some weapons and warframes are simply much, much more powerful than others, and although there are now end-game “Riven” mods that can be used to improve all weapons to an acceptable standard, not all weapons are made equal. Additionally, some weapons are used to craft other weapons.
If you have friends that play Warframe, you should consistently badger them about what to keep and what to discard. The whole point of the game is to learn what is good and what isn’t.
5. You need three friends and/or a clan
Warframe is a 4-player squad game. You can certainly solo everything, as difficulty is never a problem; gaining experience and loot is. Almost all of the harder-to-get loot is made easier to acquire simply by having friends. Additionally, the clan Dojo system provides access to half of the game’s items.
There are no alternatives: Either you join a clan, or form one with your mates. Even today, it’s perfectly possible to play catch-up with almost every clan item in existence – provided you have a group of four or more to do the damn thing.
Friends are key, because…
6. You do not level up without “levelling up”
Simply playing Warframe content will never get you anywhere. Period.
Many beginners wonder why their weapons and warframes do nothing. This is because Warframe is bad at explaining to you what “rank” and “level” mean. Progressing through the storyline content, by unlocking the planets, will never get you enough experience points or materials to do much in the game. Obviously, you need to unlock the star chart for yourself by doing junctions, but don’t expect to level up that way.
The experience economy is completely out of whack: playing ordinary missions nets you such negligible amounts of experience that it might as well mean nothing. This is where your friends come in: They will help you grind for experience; they will teach you to take advantage of specific missions, squad compositions, events, double affinity and resources weekends, and boosters that drop from rare caches. Rinse and repeat!
7. Warframe tells you almost nothing
The bad news is that Warframe is super bad about telling you what to do. The good news is that the learning curve is part of the charm!
The devs also host alternating weekly Twitch streams. Warframe is also big on Twitch, so you can pick up new skills there!
8. Warframe has a fantastic community
Warframe’s developers are accessible, responsive, and all-around hip and fun people. That alone is a good reason to take part in the community. Tech support isn’t always great, but not consistently bad either.
The game’s players, too, are extremely willing to help if you need any – just flat out ask if you don’t know how to proceed, if you feel stuck, or too powerless, or if you’re missing an important mod like Serration or Point Strike.
Just don’t be the guy or girl that brings the wrong type of Nova build into a mission, or leaves Frost snow globes in the wrong place without knowing how to pop them!
9. Make logging in your hobby
The daily login rewards are not very good, apart from platinum discounts, but there are veteran upgrades hidden behind the daily logins. These are all very good. Don’t make logging a stressful event for yourself – take it easy, if you don’t feel like playing, don’t. But do log in.
10. Percentage-based loot can be a cruel mistress
You can always end up in the unlucky 1 % in Warframe: Sometimes Lady Luck just don’t shine on you. Don’t get easily disheartened. Almost everything waits for you in Warframe. If you can’t get what you want, forget about it and try to get something else. Maybe you can trade for it, or even straight up buy it eventually!
11. Warframe is in perpetual beta
Warframe isn’t always a solid experience. It has an extremely polished gameplay loop, and the technology that powers it is fantastic, but there are always holes in games of its magnitude. Balancing can be off, way off sometimes. The game asks, even demands its players consistently look forwards rather than backwards. You have to be willing to adapt, to change, and to accept the fact that things are in a constant flux.
Don’t get discouraged when something you like gets shuffled around. Don’t invest yourself too heavily in any one single thing. Almost always, things will eventually get better if you are willing to be patient. Warframe has never taken a big step backwards. Remember that and you won’t get burned out when something goes awry!
12. Forget Plains of Eidolon!
Finally, if you are starting out, you should focus on the rest of the game first. Plains of Eidolon is a self-contained system within another system, together with its own progression, its own loot, and its own mechanics, none of which will help you proceed with the rest of the content on offer.
Once you are through with all of the storyline missions, and have installed a few “potatoes” and “cheese” – and know what they are – you can start thinking about jumping into the Plains. Even then, keep your friends close!