Warframe is a free to play SciFi co-op third person combat online game, developed and published by Digital Extremes and ported over to the Nintendo Switch by Panic Button (who also ported Rocket league, Doom and Wolfenstein 2).
Warframe’s story takes place in a far off future, where your race (The Tenno) awakens from a deep stasis to fight off warring factions that are trying to control the solar system. You must journey across vast planets and ships in the solar system, perfecting your skills, laying waste to your enemies, trying to unite the factions, all while trying to figure out the mysteries of the past and current state of things. The game is continuously adding new updates which expand on the story and the mythos in the Warframe universe.
Visuals & Audio
The graphics are among the best of any game on the Switch, bar none. Very few games come close, if at all. It runs at a reasonable 30 frames per second most of the time but will dip as low as 20+ frames when you enter the massive open world environments with lots of particle effects. The frame rate dips at times are understandable; the Switch is not a massive power house. The game does have very rich graphical options, very similar to what you would see on a PC, so you can always tweak those to your liking.
The graphics are not like your typical first-party Nintendo game like Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey (which are amazing by the way) and that’s perfectly fine. It’s a nice change of pace to get a more “mature?” looking kind of game on the Switch. Audio is also very good. Crisp, always in sync and definitely adds to the dark atmosphere of the game very well. There isn’t a ton of different kind of music in the game and that’s a good thing. This is definitely the kind of game that does better without music hanging over the combat.
Gameplay & Controls
It can feel intimidating at first, very intimidating. The game has a very serious tone to it that many Nintendo games do not have, such as the typically friendly, happy-go-lucky vibes. Warframe will not provide such a vibe. It is VERY fast-paced with all kinds of projectiles, melee weapons and abilities. You zip around maps, rooms and open worlds in your Warframe (robot ninja armor suit thing) at lightning speeds, destroying your enemies while fulfilling any other mission objectives you have. Most missions can be done co-op with up to 4 people. While Warframe is also available on PC, Xbox One and PS4 for free as well, there is unfortunately no cross platform play (as of yet).
There are scores of different Warframes and weapons to collect and build, each being very unique and fully customizable with tons of different unlockable color pallets and armor flairs. That’s a big part of the game: collecting the Warframes, weapons, pets and decorations for your ship; a bit reminiscent of Animal Crossing in that regard. You level up these items that you collect and craft which in turn levels up your account itself (called a mastery rank). Though the gameplay is very fast-paced, it is actually a very relaxing, chill and laid-back kind of game in the same breath. It sounds paradoxical but that’s how it is. Warframe can be played as an intense and upfront adrenaline spiking game or buried back in the couch while also watching your dog chase its tail.
Playing on the big screen is a pleasure: vivid, beautiful and clean. The Switch does get hot, more so than with any other game. This is likely due to the game pushing the limits of the hardware. If you are playing docked in a generally warm environment, it would not hurt to get something like a little USB fan to assist with cooling (granted, it is recommended when playing any game docked).
Playing handheld at first yielded pretty low resolution and frame rate hiccups at launch but a few weeks later this was all fixed with an update and is now a crisp 720 while handheld. Expect to get about 2 hours of playtime on a full charge. Since Warframe is an online game, it needs an internet connection to play. This is easily remedied if you have a phone with a data connection and a hotspot handy. You can expect to use about 65MB of data per hour on average.
When it comes to using the JoyCons or a Pro Controller, and as with most games, the Pro Controller is the way to go if you can manage it. The longer analog sticks on the Pro Controller gives better shooting accuracy and is generally more comfortable to hold over long periods of time. The motion controls on the JoyCon & wrist straps are pretty fun to play with though, so definitely try those out too.
Warframe is definitely not a game for everyone. Admittedly, it can be somewhat daunting once you get a few hours into it, there is little to no hand holding or explaining done to help the player with the intricacies of the game. The usual route for learning the ropes is via various sources around the internet but there is always plain old in-game global chat with other players. The Warframe community is legendary in the interwebs for how helpful it is.
You will enjoy doing missions on different planets when starting out, collecting loot to craft new Warframes and weapons. In due time feeling out the game you will learn about clans and the open world missions, the rest of the storyline, trading and all that jazz. It’s understandable that if you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes; playing will feel a bit aimless and that’s fair. The initial learning curve can be a tad steep, so hopefully the developers will make things a bit more accessible for newer players. For what it’s worth, overall it is very accommodating to many different player skill levels, as long as you take the time to learn the ins and outs.
Is Warframe ‘Pay to Win’?
The fact that this game is free is mind boggling. This is easily a quality $60 AAA game. There are micro transactions in the form of a premium currency, similar to many online games like MMORPG’s BUT purchases are not necessary at all! The premium currency (platinum) can be bought, sold and traded between players just like the regular in-game currency, no limitations at all. Such a system is unheard of in online microtransaction games.
Kudos to the makers of this game for doing this, not luring players into the game due it being free and putting content behind a paywall when you become invested. It’s great to having everything open and accessible, leaving you with full freedom to buy something if/whenever you choose.
From its launch in 2013, the game has been slowly growing its playerbase and popularity out of the love and passion of a few developers who had a dream of making their own game their own way, without the overhead and limitations of a big company telling them what to do. It constantly receives new content and bug fixes where players can also give their feedback as to what they think, would like to add or even improve upon.
Some players have put in over 1,000 hours into the game and still have many items to unlock, upgrade and master. Panic Button (who ported the game from PC to Switch) has a long-term contract with the developers to ensure the game stays in tip top shape. With a current playerbase of 26 million across all the different platforms, Digital Extremes has noted that they hope to maintain and keep working on Warframe for at least the next 6 years.
It is so surprising that a game of this kind would appeal to both the hardcore and casual gamer alike. Nothing is perfect, but this is not very far off from being perfect. The expansiveness, gameplay, beauty and overall fun factor of this game arguably rivals first party games like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Make your way through the first few hours and you will see there is something amazing to be had. With a promising past, loyal and dedicated teams behind this game, the future looks very bright. How this game manages to be so fun, look so amazing AND IS FREE is beyond comprehension.
Warframe for the Nintendo Switch gets a solid 9/10.