I started playing Warframe for the first time after reading this re-review on PCGamer. I had heard of it a while ago. At least two of my Destiny buddies gave it a whirl during one of Destiny’s many droughts. I usually had something else that was occupying my time when they brought it up, but it was always talked about favorably. Warframe is a free-to-play third person cooperative shooter that’s available for Playstation 4 and other platforms. The whole thing is free, though you can buy the in-game currency with real money, as well as equipment and cosmetics.

How free is free? It’s free. You just have to work for it. For example, right now, I’m working on crafting the materials I would need for a second Warframe, Rhino. I bought the main blueprint from the market with credits that I had earned by doing missions. I had gotten the component blueprints, the three pieces that make up Rhino, by playing one particular boss mission over and over until I got the three blueprints that I needed. Now here’s the hitch — in order to craft one of the components, I need to get certain crafting materials, one of which is at least three systems away from where I’m currently playing.

I need to get plastids for one of the components. In order to get plastids, I need to get to Phobos. To get to Phobos, I needed to work my way through a chain of missions on Mars to get to the Phobos Junction. To unlock the Phobos Junction, I’ll need to battle the guardian specter there. In order to battle the specter, I need to meet a set of requirements. The only thing I have left to do is scan two cephalon fragments, large glowing balls that hang out in random locations on the map, on Mars, and then open three void relics. To open a void relic, I’ll need to run a void fissure mission, which are special missions on the map. Once I get that done, I’ll be able to get to Phobos, and hopefully find some plastids.

That’s an incredibly long grind just to get to one crafting material, and that’s great. That’s what I mean by deep play. I have a goal that I want to complete in the game, and I have a pretty good idea of the steps I need to complete that goal. Yeah, it’s going to take some time, but at least I feel like I’m working towards something, that my playing the game is earning me something, and that I’m making progress towards that goal.

The problem with most games that I’ve found is that the endgame is pretty limited, and once you’ve done it, you’re basically done. Most games measure your progress in the game by leveling you up. The more you play, the more experience you get; the more experience you get, the more powerful you are; the more powerful you are, the better loot you get from fighting the harder monsters. Eventually, this has to cap out. There has to be an upper limit on how powerful the player can get, and how powerful the bosses are, how powerful the loot is, otherwise things get out of balance pretty quickly.

Warframe skirts this by having you level your equipment, not you. Your warframe has a max level, and once you reach it, you can’t modify it further. But there are, I believe, over thirty different warframes to acquire and level. That’s going to take some time to do. But I think I might have found at least the deep play, grinding game that I’ve been looking for.

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