I’ve been playing a goodly amount of Warframe lately. I played it a bit very early on, while it was still kind of half-baked and just barely out the door, and I basically hated it. It had a neat concept — acrobatic ninjas in space — but I didn’t really feel like the levels made me feel like a ninja, the weaponry and starting “character” I got weren’t to my tastes at all, and I couldn’t really do any of the cool stuff I felt like I should be able to. I also found the visuals unappealing– gross organic green and brown, and I couldn’t do anything to change them. On top of all of that, everything on the store felt ludicrously overpriced– $30-40 for a new character to play, $15 for a new gun, etc. Without being able to try any of these, there was no way I was going to pay that kind of money.
I’ve been looking for a new cooperative game, though, one with some meat to it, and Warframe came up again. Ash really liked it, and wanted to play more of it, so he’s jumped in along with me. The very first thing I noticed is that the game actually has a tutorial now, one that sets up some basic motivations and grounds me in the world. It’s not any deeper than, say, Destiny, but it’s somewhat more coherent than Destiny was to start.
I’m going to refer to Destiny a lot in this post, because Warframe and Destiny share a lot of similarities. They both have a mission-based structure with lots of collection of materials used to create new weapons and armor. The biggest and most noticable difference is in the movement. Destiny has some incredibly tight controls, some of the best in video games, but its movement is pretty staid. You walk around on a surface, there’s not a ton of verticality (maybe two or three tiers of flat platforms), and you’re limited to a fairly low jump and whatever your class’ special movement power is, which is the most fun part of movement but tends to be somewhat limited. You also get a vehicle, a fairly cool looking jetbike that amounts to a big bonus movement speed buff, but doesn’t add any new options (and you can’t shoot while on it last time I played).
In Warframe, movement is incredible. It’s the difference between 3D Zelda games and Assassin’s Creed. The first is very servicable and very tight but not necessarily fascinating, the latter opens up an entirely new world of motion. Warframe, by default, gives you a broader set of movement options that nearly any other game I’ve played, and THEN you can adapt those and unlock more. You have double and sometimes triple jump as a default, you can wall-run, wall climb a la Mega Man X, dodge roll, slide tackle, and at least one that I’m probably forgetting and Ash will mention to me later. There are also combinations of these– you can slam the ground while jumping, slide into an incredibly satisfying forward dive, propel yourself off walls to attack enemies, and so on and so forth. To add to this, the levels are designed to make this not only feasible, but fun, with tightropes for you to ninja-run across and plenty of walls and gaps for you to essentially fly past.
Movement is so much fun that I do more melee in the game than almost anything else, despite my penchant for playing a sniper-type character that the game hugely supports. Despite having INCREDIBLY satisfying sniper gameplay, I’m still closing to melee and skirmishing, something that I pretty much never do in this kind of game. Opting for melee means that I can dive and jump across the battlefield to my targets, which is an absolute joy.
The two games that Warframe reminds me of are Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer (which I love), and Destiny (which I didn’t, but I understand has improved dramatically). Neither of them have movement as fun as Warframe, and that movement makes all the difference. It’s an extra verb other than “fight” that the game has made fun and compelling, and I would play an enemy-free level that was a ninja footrace through a crashing spaceship or something, just because that would be incredibly fun. As I research the game while writing this, I’ve found that this actually exists as part of the Clan system, their equivalent of guilds, so I’m going to wrap this up and go look into that.
Adding more verbs to games really makes the experience richer and a lot more interesting. Warframe has a very competent combat engine, but its movement is what really sets it apart. I’m really interested in seeing what kinds of verbs we see in games, and which ones get added. Warframe’s “vehicle” mode is a flight game in full 3D, which I’m very interested in checking out. Part of why I like stealth games is because they add another interesting verb — “hide” — to the usual mix, and often have fairly interesting movement to boot.