Warframe review – the excellent *free* alternative to Destiny on Xbox One

A few weeks back, Bungie finally released its first post-Halo game under the Activision label: Destiny. Destiny revolves much more around completing missions and hunting for loot cooperatively with friends than Halo, with far less narrative driving players forward.

Everyone knows about Destiny, but did you know the Xbox One has another cooperative action game with just as much content and even more features at a fraction of the price? Warframe is a free to play third-person action-shooter, similar to Destiny and multiplayer classics like Phantasy Star Online. With tons of missions and playable characters, full clan support, and a very fair free to play model, Warframe has become one of the Xbox One games I just can't put down.

Enter the Tenno

Warframe launched on PC and Playstation 4 last year, eventually arriving on Xbox One just this September. Developer Digital Extremes updates the game once or twice a month, which has given them plenty of time to fine-tune and add new content. The Xbox One version has already received one major patch so far.

The game takes place within the same universe as cult classic Xbox 360 actioner Dark Sector, only thousands of years in the future. The story begins with the player waking from cryosleep as a member of the Tenno, an ancient race of warriors (space ninjas). The Tenno are at war with three evil factions, including the Grineer (ghastly cybernetic clones), the Corpus (a militarized mega-corporation), and the Infested, monstrous victims of a virus originating in Dark Sector.

As a newly awakened Tenno, you'll choose from three Warframes. These are advanced suits of armor that grant the wearer unique abilities. Your choice in Warframe determines your initial playing style, as each one has different stats (health, shield, armor, and stamina) and special abilities that differentiate it from others.

Next you'll fend off the Grineer who seek to capture or kill you before you can join the surviving members of the Tenno. Transmissions from the Lotus (this game's equivalent to Cortana or The Ghost) will teach you the basics of gameplay and deliver mission objectives throughout the game. The Lotus doesn't show much personality, other than boldly speaking with a Canadian accent. That's cool, eh?

The first three or so missions are restricted to single-player, so you'll want to knock them out quickly. After that, you can join multiplayer games. You'll get a little more story throughout the rest of the game, but Warframe is about as light on story as Destiny. We never even get to meet the Lotus in person, nor discover the answers to burning questions like her true identity or the identity of her favorite hockey team. The developers seem to have more story content planned for the future, at least.

Slash and shoot

Although Warframe and Destiny share many similarities such as their sci-fi settings and structures built around hunting for loot, they play quite differently. Warframe is a faster-paced game with less focus on shooting. Your Tenno wields three types of weapons: primary, secondary, and melee. Primary weapons include assault rifles, bows, and shotguns. Secondary weapons include pistols, throwing blades, and more. You fire either type with the Right Trigger, switching between them with Y button.

Guns are cool, but melee weapons quickly emerge as the combat's real standout feature. You have a large variety to choose from, including swords, staves, polearms, tonfas, and more. Right bumper attacks with your melee weapon at any time, so you can alternate between shooting and melee attacks without the need to hit a face button.

Melee can also be equipped as your main weapon by holding the weapon swap button for longer. Doing so lets you block with the trigger, but I prefer to keep my ranged weapons equipped instead. It feels great jumping between both forms of attack at will.

Tenno are quite mobile compared to your average FPS character. They can dash until stamina runs out (dashing speed should be faster though) or slide beneath obstacles. Running along walls is as simple as tapping or holding the jump button as you jump against a wall. This can lead to secret or alternate paths throughout the procedurally generated environments.

World of Warframes

Although you choose from three Warframes to start with, the game actually offers more than twenty to collect throughout your playtime. These act as unique characters or classes. Besides varying stats and appearances, each 'frame gains a total of four distinct special abilities after leveling up sufficiently and equipping the proper mods.

Tapping left or right on the d-pad switches abilities, and a click of the Right Stick activates them. They offer benefits like shields, healing, and attacks. Using an ability consumes energy that can be replenished by collecting blue orbs dropped by enemies or found within the environment.

The variety of special abilities is appreciated, but I wish we could select one as the default ability. I mainly use a specific ability with my current Warframe, and it's annoying having to switch to it every time I start a mission.

A solar system's worth of missions

After completing your first mission, your Tenno gains a ship that serves as the hub of the game. From there you can change equipment, craft items, and choose missions.

Warframe's missions span a total of 14 planets and moons from our solar system, as well as two additional zones (Derelict and Void). Each location offers multiple missions to choose from, with new missions unlocking after completing the preceding mission. The planets don't all start out unlocked. You have to defeat a planet's boss to gain access to the next planet.

There are a whopping 14 basic mission types to complete. All of these can be attempted solo, but are much easier with a party of 2-4 players. Inviting friends is slightly cumbersome thanks to the unintuitive UI, but the matchmaking itself is great. Whenever you select a mission, you can opt to either start it immediately or wait for matchmaking to find one or more partners. The effortlessness of building a party really helps the game's cooperative focus.

Join the Windows Central clan!

Partnering with random players is good, but joining a clan of likeminded players is even better. Clans are Warframe's big advantage over Destiny – joining one allows players to work towards common goals.

Each clan gets a dojo (headquarters) which can be customized and upgraded with an assortment of rooms and structures. Building labs allows the clan to research blueprints for new Warframes and weapons. Once the clan has unlocked blueprints through research, all members gain access to those blueprints.

As is often the case these days, we have a Windows Central clan for you guys to join! One downside: all clans are invite-only. That's a hassle, but we're still happy to get you in. Check out this forum thread for details. I look forward to teaming up with you guys!

Free to play elements

Free to play games have a bad rap for many reasons. But sometimes a developer gets the payment model right, offering a game that both free and paying players can enjoy with a minimum of intrusive payment mechanics. Warframe succeeds in delivering a fun and fair game for all. The whole massive game and all of its missions can be played without buying a thing, as long as you don't mind some grinding.

New Warframes, Sentinels (helper robots akin to Phantasy Star Online's mags), weapons, and other equipment can be created through crafting. Buy a blueprint using credits (soft currency) or find it as an enemy drop, and then craft it using the materials you gain from completing missions. Crafting takes hours of real time. You can speed it up with Platinum (premium currency), but that's not wise.

Platinum can also be spent to buy new Warframes, equipment, and certain crafting materials outright. That's how you'll want to spend the premium currency if you buy any. Warframe slots are limited, but Platinum-bought 'frames come with a slot and double the mod capacity.

Die during a mission and you'll have to choose between reviving or failing the mission. Everyone gets four free revives per day. After that, you have to buy more with Platinum. Luckily, co-op partners have a few seconds to revive a downed player. Most are happy to do so, if they're close enough. (By the way, the ability to crawl while downed is erratic and poorly implemented.)

Finally, dedicated players can opt to permanently unlock Prime Access for $80. This gets you some unique Warframes and items, and a ton of Platinum. Hopefully we'll get to look more closely at Prime Access in a future story.

Achievements

Warframe's 39 Achievements largely involve reaching maximum proficiency with the game's expansive arsenal of weapons and Sentinels. That will take forever, but at least the game has tons of different missions through which to level everything up.

A couple of fun Achievements involve completing 10 missions with only a melee weapon equipped and blocking 1,000 projectiles with the melee weapon. Melee is one of the game's strengths, after all.

Overall Impression

Warframe takes a few hours to get good. Initially, I was confused by the space ninja jargon, the awkward menus, and some of the mission objectives. Partying up, sending messages, and a few other tasks are more difficult than they should be.

Stick with the game though, and things will start to click. The combat is more dynamic than you'd find in most shooters, with visceral melee attacks and plenty of unique weapon types keeping things fresh. The hunt for loot (and ever more distinctive Warframes) and road to leveling up weapons and 'frames proves extremely addictive as well. A game like this thrives on multiplayer, and the intuitive matchmaking ensures you'll seldom have to go it alone... Especially not if you join our humble clan. Plus: keyboard support for text chat!

In short, Warframe gives players a lot of content to love, for the low price of free. With Xbox Live Gold serving as the only barrier for entry, this is the perfect game for teaming up with your friends. Try it and unleash your inner space ninja. It is your destiny.

  • Warframe – Xbox One – 7 GB – Free – Xbox.com Link (opens in new tab)

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

93 Comments
  • Its a good game if space ninjas gives you boners
  • Used to play this for months on PC, but why does a have needs to give you boners to be good?
  • Because otherwise it's just a platonic relationship.
  • I can see Paul is really enjoying this game.....yet to play.
  • Not a bad game overall. I have stopped playing it though because I got a PS4, and they keep promising the ability to port your PC data over to console, but it has yet to happen. So I've stopped supporting them since I've already given them more than enough money.
  • They already ported the content over maybe a month ago. Theres was a deadline thoe im not sure why
  • Because of version parity. They don't let you port your data unless the versions are the same. The PC version updates faster. I guess I never knew because I have an old email. Also it appears I can't change my email without them changing it for me. So primitive.
  • Perhaps it's a cerberus plot!!! 
  • It came out much earlier than destiny and I don't really feel its fair to call it an alternative. Its not really story driven or an MMO, its more of a cooperative action-shooter. I also personally believe it looks much nicer and is a more complete package than Destiny.
  • I dunno if I'd say it looks better than Destiny. You are always just in giant rooms. But I will agree it's not a competitor, per se, considering it was out several years ago now, and is a totally different style.
  • It's only been out for ~1.5 years on PC, and part of that was open beta. Destiny had one of those two, albeit drastically shorter. But there are a bunch of similarities between them, although the actual gameplay is much different.
  • Yes. Another thing that I'd like to bring up is that the game is fractions the size of destiny, in game size and in download size. The original beta was like 1gb, its like 8ish now. Its a lot of content in a pretty small package.
  • I would like to point out that the game still is in beta it is not released and a simple perview of the warframe website can tell you that if your gonna review games at least know wether the game is released or beta  DO A BETTER JOB OF FACT CHECKING
  • Who cares if they call it a beta or not? I'm well aware of the version number, and worked with the developer to produce this review. :P
  • i care because your attempting report it like a finished game have glaring misrepresentations about the game all brought about  when you didn't fact check and I  doubt the devs would actually have anything to do with this review as it is so inconstant with thier own explanation of the game
  • You're espousing a bizarre, extremist, and incorrect viewpoint. Thank you for reading the review though, even if its content was lost on you.
  • Good thing Destiny isn't either of those things aswell!
  • Third
  • Kinda reminds me of Mass Effect...
  • I second that
  • Mass Effect plays much slower. Not to fret though.  I wanted to say "Looks like an unpolished spiritual successor to Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict." Warframe plays much slower. 
  • Got almost 300 hours on the PC version. Excellent game. Way more in depth and diverse than destiny. In all honesty I would say Destiny is an alternative to this if anything. Amazing game
  • I agree. Why pay for destiny when war frame is already here??
  • Soapbox3000. send me an invite to the clan please and thank you.....any word in bringing a PC save to Xbox one?
  • But it's free!!
  • I downloaded it about a week before Destiny came out, but I haven't tried it yet. Maybe once I get my full raid gear.
  • Don't keep us waiting too long, man. The clan needs ya.
  • Gamertag: Hoytler23 hmu
  • Gamertag does not exist. :'(
  • I've downloaded it but haven't given it a shot yet, may have to now. Plus Digital Extremes is based out of my hometown here so be nice to support them,I've dug all their games I've played so far.
  • Tge Game is old . And not excellent. It's one and crytec did good that's all
  • Are you thinking of Warface? This game - Warframe - came out last month and is still being continually updated, which hardly qualifies it as old.
  • "This game - Warframe - came out last month" Warframe is a game many of us first played a year and a half ago. "Old" - in context of a comparison to Destiny - is not unfair. It's a hell of a lot less misleading than your "came out last month" comment. If you specified that the XB1 version of the game came out last month then you'd have a legitimate point, but as it is your criticism of his / her comment falls flat on it's face. A new platform does not a new game make.
  • It's obvious I'm talking about the Xbox One version. This is not a PC review. Also, Bertram admitted he was thinking of the wrong game.
  • Warframe is great
  • In class now, but started the download via smartglass! Will play tonight!
  • Cool, be sure to let us know your Gamertag so I can invite you to the clan!
  • fate42024, is my gamertag. please send me a clan invite. this game is awesome  
  • Initiating downloads/purchases from SmartGlass is so awesome. I did that when D4 came out unexpetedly, fell in love with the idea of coming home to an already-downloaded game, and now I do it for all games even when not necessary: I take the wife and kid to a local cafe, order some tiramisu and a cafe latte, and then bust open SmartGlass. It never gets old (kind of getting expensive, though, with all the tiramisu and coffee it's costing me).
  • I played this about a year ago when the beta came on steam. Its one of the two reasons I still have faith in F2P fames(the other being path of exile). Its well made and lots of fun. I haven't picked it up in a long time though so a lot has probably be upgraded.
  • If someone could shoot an invite my way, I'd appreciate it! GT: KILLAchievement
  • Invite sent. :)
  • Thanks Paul
  • I thought this game was just average at best, nothing special. I wanted to like it but couldn't.
  • Needs gold, sucks.
    Well the smarter players will play on PC as you dont need to pay for anything other than your monthly internet access. No monthly XBL bs :3
    Already got a gamer PC in the works that can play this and planetside 2.
  • No, being a PC gamer doesn't make someone smarter.
  • Playing Planetside disproves your smarter theory.
  • I don't know, I gave the game a go, and found something with the movement and controls totally awkward.  I uninstalled it.
     
  • Well, no game is for everyone. At least you tried it.
  • Many have said the same thing and I agree. I stuck with it though and I'm glad I did.
  • Turning up the look speed a bit (maybe a fourth of the way up) makes aiming a lot smoother. It will never quite be as smooth as I'd like, though, unless the devs revamp it a bit.
  • Been playing this since it came out on Xbox One. It is good, albeit not the greatest game, but I do enjoy it. Had been hoping to join a clan, so this is good. I've only got about 10 hours and only around a lvl.10. Pretty rough on my own, haven't figured out all the upgrade things yet and so I'm probably loading out in worse shape than need me.
    Have sent you a message via Xbox, but just in case it's easier... Thirstyjester19.
  • Of course you're welcome. Invite sent. :)
  • Oops.( I read warface ) Haha warframe was the game destiny actually cloned along side borderlands xD And btw I like warframe more . Cause the gameplay is faster :D
  • I remember Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb saying how bad this game was. Confused by your praise of it. Looked it up on Metacritic and both previous versions scored in the 60s.
  • This was rated back in March 2013 (When it first released in beta) and has come a LONG way since then.  It gets constant updates in the form of fixes and feature adds, including new Warframes, weapons, mission types, etc.  It is much better than the editors ratings.  The user ratings from that site give it 8.1 so that shows a bit more of its appeal than a few reviewers who try it for a couple days and post thoughts IMO.
  • You either love it or you hate it. If you're okay with grind, then Warframe is really really good. It's not perfect, (movement controls can be a little confusing/clunky at first), but it's one of the best games I've ever played.
  • Having trouble finding what he wrote about it, and the search function on the actual Giant Bomb site is no help. It's possible he played an earlier version - the game has been updated and improved significantly over time. You should really try it for yourself (and give it time to get past the learning curve) to see how you like it.
  • (PC player here, so not a 100% representation of the XBOX version)   Warframe is a surprisingly fun game that I wish i had found out about sooner.  It is a bit tough to start, but once you start getting a grasp of the mechanics and how the mod system works in terms of properly boosting your frame and weapon powers, you start taking care of business.  This is not an easy mode game however.  Solo can be tough above the starter areas, and it is really designed (And frankly more fun) with 1-3 other players.  I play with a friend of mine almost entirely and sometimes with a 3rd and we are able to take care of business just fine.  Being on Skype during the missions of course makes things more fun and easier to communicate as well. =)  If you don't already know about the wiki, go there NOW and you will find TONS of info about the game and everything in it.  Well worth your time especially as you're learning things.  Address at the end of this post.  Also follow the @WarframeAlerts twitter feed for random alerts that appear in the game for various items, some are cosmetics, some are resources, or mods.  Auras, the Warframe mod slot that gives the entire cell a bonus on missions + gives you additional mod capacity for your Warframe only show up on these alerts so watch for those.  Not sure if there is a separate alert feed for PS4 and XBOX vs. PC, but check into that just in case.  All in all it's a very fun game and you don't HAVE to buy into platinum if you don't want to unless you want to support the devs (Always a good thing) and/or really want to have a lot of frames and other items without grinding for them over time.  The community on the forums is pretty good too and lot of helpful people there to answer peoples questions about the game.  Worth checking out and giving a little time to adjust to it before dismissing it as it is evolving continually.  They devs really are active in adding to this game and another major update is already right around the corner (For PC, which is generally always a bit ahead of the curve).   http://warframe.wikia.com   Edit: Twitter feeds as follows: @WarframeAlerts (PC) @WarframeAlertsPS4 (PS4) @WFAlertsXbox (XBOX)
  • It's pretty insane how many background systems and gameplay elements are put into Warframe that you would never notice unless you looked into it. I second checking the wiki to get started.
  • This is easily my fav Xbox One game by far
  • Oh snap!! No u didn't just say that :D but I agree tho
  • I've only played a little of this game but I thought it was a better game than Destiny
  • So, would be clan members.
    Xbox One, is it worth getting now? I mean in respect to enough quality games etc.
  • Depends on how eager you are to start playing the new generation of games. There are tons of downloadable games on top of the retail offerings, and a bunch of big retail games are coming out this fall. The Sunset Overdrive and Call of Duty bundles are pretty good deals, but waiting till Black Friday will probably net you an even better deal on the system.
  • All the blockbuster sort of title games are coming/ have come out this and next month Shadow Of Mordor is great on Xbone
  • I put about 80 hours into this pre-destiny and whilst I liked it there were a few niggles that really need sorting before I'll play again. The look sensitivity is awful! Huge dead zone and then bam full speed... made aiming a nightmare. The level design is a little samey and the en