Warframe is currently standing on some fascinating crossroads. A lot of people feel bored or furstrated about the game or annoyed at how others feel. I decided to make this post to bring back some hope as the game is approaching a very interesting changes even though it's currently dealing with a lot of issues as well.
Due to the powercreep overtaking warframe the nature of the game shifted a lot and the multitude of new systems and workarounds brought us to a situation where after years of providing solid content warframe earned the need to posses a beta title, which is quite surprising and somewhat worrying, but I think it's just a cocoon we're waiting to spawn our wings out of. What we need is to make the choice of a clear design direction.
Most of us slowly get sick of warframe because we honestly don't know what the game is anymore and we don't have any idea what it will become, even though there are only two options available: Either a very expensive step back to the squad-based action shooter that the game used to be, or an embracement of the hack and slash nature it currently has. At the moment warframe is still trying to do both and still failing at providing either in a satisfying manner. I want to break down these two options, theorize on what would need to be accomplished and what kind of hard work and expense would be required to get there. I hope this will spark more discussion and general awarness of why warframe is as it is and what is going to happen with it. I also hope we can get more voices heard so that DE will make their pick or just finally tell us what they decided on, to get rid of this mist of uncertianty that is plaguing the community for a long while now, but only became so ever more tangeable after the riven mods. And I can tell you that Riven mods are actually a good sign of progress contorary to my initial reaction to them, but to hear me talking about that you will have to get through the whole wall of text. I recommend taking it slowly as there will be a lot to talk about and a lot to comment on.
Option one: Going back to the roots.
Before warframe became a fast-food binge it used to be a nice and proper but still rad meal. The point wasn't to rush to the end and all fights did't involve instantly killing masses of oponents until a stray bullet kills you on the spot. A lot of old players are longing for that lost game and all the damage 3.0 outcrys are about bringing it back. At this point however it would mean re-desigining the whole game again, would take a lot of money and completely stop the production of new things until it is accomplished. I strongly believe that it's not going to happen, because I found out that it doesn't need to. But, if after all DE likes their initial vision more than the current form of their project, the following issues would need to be addressed with these potential solutions:
the balance is a very misunderstood issue in warframe. A lot of people think that the power of weapons and the meta game is a big problem right now and while it's true that more choice is always more fun, it's actually not a problem that some weapons are stronger. The problem is in how much stronger the player is from the enemy. Currently if you're not one hit killing most enemies, you're doing something wrong or just learning the game. There are a bunch of components to fixing this aside from brinigng all the numbers down:
- Step one, fix crit chance.
Crit damage is at the core of balance issues in warframe. It takes no skills and puts you at no risk to use 100%+ crti chance weapons and there's no reason to pick weapons that aren't crit due to it's power. Here I advise for replacing crit chance with weak points on enemies. This would encourage players to use their parkour skills, especially against bulletspongy enemies in the late game and it would make aiming a more important part of the challange. It would also make status effects like disarming, tripping down or stunning enemies actually matter for once. With a high enough crit damage modifier you can still one hit kill your opponents, but you need to play well to do that. If you aren't that great, you wouldn't build for crit and take your time slowly mowing through enemies at a less risky but more time consuming pace. We could even see inclusion of weakpoint-only enemies in the game for harder encounters, rather than just have bosses do that.
- Step two, fix elemental relations.
Currently nobody cares about elements. Again. They don't really matter and if they did then everyone would be annoyed, as whichever ones you bring with you depends on what faction you're fighting. This needs to be reworked from the ground up. All factions should have something to do with all elements, having different enemies and obstacles present on their maps. There should be a reason for players to create planned, mixed squads with everyone running different elemental weapons to make sure that the team always has proper tools available to them. It shouldn't just be about the type of damage. Having proper elemental cards should not be just a checkmark to get access to a mission. It should be a part of a strategy that reinforces teamplay. One controversial idea I've got on the subject is to get rid of mixed elements. Having too many of them only makes it harder to find purpose for them and makes it impossible to predict what the player will have.
- Step three, i-frames, fixed movement.
There's this idea in action games of invincibility frames. That is to say if you do a fast dodge you can't be damaged at the beginning of the animation and so on. Warframe would greatly benefit with that as well as with smaller movments. Rolls that take you a step or two back rather than to the nearest wall like most wild parkour movements currently do.
- Step three, fix melee
The melee right now is pretty pointless. The combo system is too stiff and the whole set-up is pretty much made for a hack and slash scenario. Untill you can have a satisfying melee duel with the Stalker, it's not good enough. The most badass swordsman in the game shouldn't be shooting with their sword, and shooting them back with a gun shouldn't be the only effective way of dealing with them. Counters, blocks, dodges and such would be needed to get far with this. It could be one of the most expensive reworks to be done out of all of these, given how many melee weapons there are and how many of them behave completely differently than the rest.
- Step four, fix bosses
The bosses in warframe don't work. That's not a mystery to anybody. But if we would look at warframe and at what it used to be, they really don't work. For one, waiting between boss phases should not be a thing in anything, yet most fights have up to three minutes of waiting for someone to say something or get out from a safe space. It's better when a boss is a bullet spoonge than when they just aren't there and you have to stop and get bored. Bossses also need more to be going on with them. It's one thing to shoot a guy slightly bigger than others, but why not add special challanges to these fights? Time limits, side-objectives, maybe oppurtinites to make the assasinations silently and avoid part of the bossfight as a reward for a perilious challange of catching the big fish off-guard. The bosses need to be both more interactive and more rewarding. I honestly think that a token system instead of abysmal drop rates would make everyone remember bosses more fondly assuming the pricing on their rewards would be fair. A boss can be a great deal of fun, but only if they don't overstay their welcome.
By now it should be quiet clear that it's just too damn expensive and difficult to get warframe to where it used to be and where we expected it to go. It's just not that game anymore. Reworking everything is not much different than asking a studio to make a new game. I made my peace with that idea somewhat. I would be happy if DE took on the challange, but personally can't imagine it as much viable.
Option two: embracing what it is.
Warframe has became a clear-cut hack and slash over time, but somehow became less satisfying to paly along the way. At the moment we have a weird issue of game feel along with the big problem of not knowing if we are playing a hack and slash because that's what the game is, or if we're playing it because the game just happened to be that right now.
Taking down the damage numbers and possibly getting rid of the crit chance mechanic are still changes I would gladly see, but aren't as required and a re-work of elemental damage wouldn't be needed at all, given the numbers became more valid. For a proper hack and slash the game would need to get rid of one-hit-kill enemies that punish players for essentialy nothing. These overpowered and furstrating enemies are at the moment the only real danger that warframe is posing, they're not satifsying and they don't bring anything new to the table. The biggest need of warframe would be to replace them by something else for example with more situations where you can't avoid the fight.
Guarding a point on a mission quickly became boring and doors closed by alarms take only seconds to hack open or no time at all if you got the increadibly cheap to make ciphers. We need more valid scenarios where the player has to get rid of the hordes of enemies, possibly some that will keep us moving or thinking in general. Having to close doors to lower respawn ratios or having to destroy barriers to proceed rather than use a cipher or do a puzzle would be both decent enough solutions. The game could also require you to get rid of your pursuers from the vicinity of the extraction point or before you can enter the boss room. More than that, the jump height and run speed might after all be a bit too high, giving players just too much reason to not fight the enemies. Enemies could also have more useful and abstract drops, for example a chance to mark the location of a secret on your mini-map and so on. If the player has no reason to do something they won't, that is much too apparent in warframe. But finite incentives like resources or mods or blueprints are going to be acquired sooner or later. Rising mod drop ratios would also benefit us here, as buying them instead has became a bit too good of an alternative. If gridning is a lottery, people are going to be far less excited of it. More than that the game needs to be far more rewarding for playing the mission, rather than for completing it, to countract the validity of rushing whenver you aren't farming.
- Better game feel
Another thing that warframe has now that it didn't have before is increadible amounts of enemies you can dispatch in seconds. But I honestly think we could do more. The game should be more inclined to send at us real armies and should like letting them die even more than it does now. The infested have been people's favorites for a long time and it feels like we could do with more opponents like them. The opponents themselves should also stop trying to survive as much. Randomly hiding behind corners or dodging wildly gets in the way of a good massacre.
- Bosses still need fixing
The abundance of wait time during boss fights is still just garbage. That being said the changes to boss fights wouldn't need to be all that much complicated. Just more things to kill and more dodges to make to keep you on your toes.
- We need more rivens
So why I don't hate rivens? Well think of a hack and slash for a moment. What do you see? The same weapon droping a bilion times with different stats and rarity? That's the point of rivens. Because weapons in warframe are crafted and not dropped, a major stat modifier is needed to make them work like they would in a hack and slash. The reson why it didn't work out and why we hate it, is because the amount of work needed to get them is abusive and the ability to reroll them is not special enough. Rivens should drop off of normal enemies. They should be abundant and wild and always have decent trade-offs with non-negative rivens being fairly weak upgrades and so on. It's actually an ingenious system and a great solution to the lack of weapon randomization in warframe. It was just made too greedily. Not gingerly, just straight-out greedily. I get the scepticism from putting something like this in the game, because sometimes it's amazing and other times it's borderlands, but this implementation wasn't safe. It was pay-to-win'ish.
- Melee still needs fixing
The select few frames that are intended to have high melee capabilities should be able to do melee well with majority of weapons. If it's not always viable or sometimes annoying, then it's not good enough. That being said the changes would probably not be so tough as in the previous scenario, because one on one fights wouldn't be the focus. At the moment the best melee frame is best because it shoots from it's sword and the alternative melee frames get better uses from their bonuses by not doing melee. Meanwhile the best actual melee strategy is to whirl around the place sliding like a bayblade. Sliding damage is fine as an option, but it shouldn't be the main thing that works if anything does. I feel like better aerial control when jumping to murder flying enemies would be the key here.
Can warframe do both?
I think you now see or have a general idea of where warframe is and where it can go and why I predict a hack and slash. We will need to wait for DE to say what they actually want or are trying to do. In the meantime we can ponder whether it could find a golden spot in-between. I lost my faith on that because for the longest time they tried to and nothing came of it. But maybe you will see some golden oppurtinities here.
Bonus: Other things in need of renovation
- The mastery is not mastery
The weapon mastery system currently tells us how many times you rolled a new character. It has no reflection on a player's skill and because we're obligated to level it for some of the quests it became a thorn in the side for people that don't like grinding or just in general, would love to enjoy their current tools without having to toss them away. I would propose dividing mastery into weapon mastery and game mastery, where the sum of both would reflect the player's mastery level. The game mastery experience would be acquired by killing bosses, finishing raids and sorties and other such keystone activities. It would be a much welcome alternative.
- Archwing, the puking simulator of washing machine in space
The scale is too small. In reality all that Archwing is, is normal shooting of dudes without floor and ceiling to orient yourself with. After they also added the new movement system it shifted from annoying to unplayable for me personally.
The thing with archwing is that it can work with anything except shooting dudes. I'm pretty sure a racing mode would do wonders with archwing. Just do that to recycle the assets. You can do variants like bombing the death star for extra PvE reasons why you're racing with time or other people/npcs.
Archwing combat needs a few additions to work. First off bigger enemies with parts to shoot. Shooting off cannons on a giagntic spaceship is far less annoying than circling an asteroid to hit an ant around it. Because one, there's a sense of scale and epicness and two, you actually see what you're aiming at. Of course we need small fry for gamemodes to not be all the same, but you can put these on the ground. The underwater levels are very well set-up for that. In space just give us magnetic shoes to land on ships and maybe have us try to destroy exposed parts on top of them while fighting soldiers running on the spaceship. In such a scenario archwing is still useful - it's an extension of your jump allowing you to reposition yourself and strategise. Just let us do with spaceships what mario galaxy did with planets.
Archwing can be recycled. It just needs to do everything it wasn't been doing and stop doing what it is doing.