Warframe: Plains of Eidolon doesn’t fix the game’s problems

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I played a little bit of Warframe [official site] a long time ago, when it was in a much more limited form. I quickly bounced off it.

Several years of updates later, at first glance Warframe looks like a very different beast. I jumped back in for the Plains of Eidolon expansion, which adds an open-world zone for players to fly, shoot, fish and mine their way around. It’s a major divergence from the corridor brawls the game has offered up to this point, but it’s not an escape from the relentless grind.

[I should note up front that since I played, the devs have released a hotfix that reduces the grind and fixes some other problems I mention here. What are games like nowadays eh, improving themselves before critics have had time to weigh in. Where appropriate, I’ve mentioned the specifics of the changes and how they might address my criticisms.]

I’ll get to talking about the expansion in just a minute, but first I’ll get any non-Warframe veterans caught up on what the game’s about. It’s a free to play, multiplayer third person shooty/slashy action RPG, with the titular Warframes each providing a different skillset. The one I’ve been playing with, Excalibur, has a sword that can cut through most enemies like butter as well as blinding them.

As Alec noted in his review, the combat is meaty and satisfying. I’m a big fan of my bow, which can pierce through multiple enemies and pin them to walls. Acrobatics play a large role in every fight: aiming while twisting through the air slows your movement slightly, making you feel like the cyber-ninja you’ve always wanted to be as you headshot foes while sailing over them.

Trouble is, a lot of that ninjaing takes place in repetitive environments with even more repetitive mission designs. There are story missions with set pieces that mix things up, but reaching them means playing through uninspired levels that have you hacking or defending some computer gubbins, or just killing every enemy. There’s no real sense of escalation – it’s a case of sticking things out until the evac point appears. Plains of Eidolon adds a new chain of story missions for low-level players, which helps stop the game from feeling grindy quite so immediately.

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To get to the plains, you need to wander through Ceta, a new hub that takes the form of a crowded marketplace. It’s part of a town that’s built around an old ‘Orikin tower’, a structure that’s made from synthetics and meat which the natives harvest to survive. The harvesting is a suitably grimy looking activity that gives Ceta an aesthetic you’re unlikely to have seen before.

It’s packed with a confusing array of vendors, and when I first played it wasn’t immediately clear which ones are set dressing and which ones you can actually interact with. With the recently applied hotfix, the real shopkeepers are highlighted on the minimap. Of course, even when I did manage to talk to vendors they inevitably tried to sell me things I didn’t understand for a unique currency that I a) didn’t have any of and b) also didn’t understand. It turns out they use Standing, which you earn by doing stuff for the Konzu, a new quest-giver who I had managed to miss while heading to the plains.

When I did get out onto the plains, it happened to be night time. The new zone is on a day/night cycle, with 100 minutes of day time passing followed by 50 minutes of night. When it’s dark, the normal enemies hide in their camps and higher level baddies roam the zone – ones that could easily vaporize my under-leveled character. When I returned in daylight, I could just about defeat the enemies closest to the gates. When I ventured more than a minute or two away though, I went back to being annihilated – so I mistakenly got the impression that the plains weren’t accessible straight away.

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I realised my mistake later on, and it was my mistake, but this one issue feeds into a broader problem the game has with clarity. Information is often poorly presented, from the upgrade and currency systems to the mission select screen with its overwhelming number of relays and gates (separate things, it transpires), as well as in-game stuff like your health being displayed at the very top right of the screen.

In fairness, some of the problems are partly a consequence of just how deep customisation goes. I mean, look at this tip that comes up on one of the upgrade screens – “Capacity is the larger of your master or weapon rank, and is doubled if an orokin reactor or catalyst is installed”. That’s five separate systems I had to look up before I could even parse one sentence! And don’t get me started on reversing the polarity of the neutron flow individual mod cards.

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I found Konzu when I noticed a herd of players gathered around him. He dishes out bounties, which are like story missions in that they launch a separate instance of the plains. Warframe hasn’t suddenly become an MMO so the plains will only contain the players you bring with you directly. Bounties are split into three sections, with a random objective for each like escorting a drone or destroying supply caches. For one of them, you’re given four minutes to seek out crates in a wide area. Whenever it came up, I struggled to find even one of the damn things before my time ran out. That’s another thing the hotfix has improved: you can now use a scanning tool to find the crates, and there’s a more generous time limit.

The best reason to visit the plains might be the archwings, if they weren’t so hard to acquire. Archwings are jetpacks that have previously only been usable on special space missions, but if you don’t already have one and are a beginner like me, don’t get too excited. You’ll first need to reach mastery rank 2, then complete a quest chain to unlock the Archwing itself. After that, to actually use it out on the plains, you need to get your hands on an archwing launch segment. They’re one-use only, and you can get a pack of 50 from the store for $10 – but you’ll have to spend at least $20 because the cheapest money packs are just over $10.

If you don’t want to spend real money, you’ll need to sink a considerable amount of time into gathering the materials to craft them – though much less with the hotfix, which more than halves the resource cost. Gathering those materials involves simple tasks, and requires fishing and mining tools, which have to be bought with Standing, the currency that can be earned through completing bounties for Konzu. When I played, the rewards felt pretty measly, though the devs have now doubled the amount of Standing you get from each bounty.

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It’s frustrating that an element as (potentially) enjoyable as archwings is gated behind a good chunk of money or hours of grind. With the hotfix, you should be able to get your hands on one in a much more reasonable amount of time, but I haven’t had the chance to play with one myself, or to determine exactly how much time is required.

I’ve been too busy moaning and trying to understand all of the terminology to mention how gorgeous the plains look. While the armour and weapon designs are flashy, I hadn’t really considered Warframe a good looking game until I reached the open area. It’s particularly alluring at dusk, when the sun casts a glow over the battlefield. The plains are a graveyard, where massive creatures battled aeons ago – and some still remain. I only got a quick glimpse of one of them in the story mission, but groups of high level players will be able to take down the Eidolons that wander around the, ah, Plains of Eidolon at night. They’re hulking beasts of sinewy muscle and glowing lights, with the same meaty/synthetic aesthetic as Ceta.

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It’s a good look, and the plains might be worth exploring for people who long for a grislier, stranger slice of sci-fi. Even with the hotfix changes, however, Warframe will always be a game that demands considerable chunks of your time. This expansion might be more streamlined, but the bounty quests that form most of the actual content suffer from the same problem as the repetitive missions that have come before it. Interacting with the residents of Ceta makes the tasks you do seem a bit more meaningful, but at the end of the day ‘task’ still feels like the right word for them. In that regard, I’m not convinced the Plains of Eidolon constitutes much of a change in direction for Warframe after all.

26 Comments

  1. Hennet says:

    It may be me just not finding it, playing in French, it may appear under a different name, but I don’t see the Archwing launchpad for sale in the store. The Segment that allow your crafting center to make them, sure, it can also be unlocked via dojo research. But the actual used charges only seem to be craftable (at a high cost in PoE specific ressources).

  2. Lars says:

    I have played Warframe on and off since the moment it was released, and the different updates implemented over the years have genuinely improved the fluidity of the game. Rates on loot drops have noticeably increased, and getting new warframes and weapons is a lot easier. I created a new account a few weeks ago, and noticed that I did not have to grind for a particular resource to create weapons I was interested in. The first quests, if followed, give a good introduction to the different systems (i.e. Archwing, Mods, Pets). Achieving Mastery Rank 2 is easily done by just playing the game, and figuring out the first set of weapons that you acquire during the first quest (which is automatically assigned at first login).

    The main problem seems to lie in the isolated nature of the Plains of Eidolon, contrary to the randomised levels you find on the different planets you can visit. Perhaps a tutorial that takes this into account might ease some of the difficulty deciphering the deep customisation at the root of Warframe.

    Nevertheless, I have never felt “forced” to spend a considerable amount of time on grinding anything thus far. When I feel like doing a mission, I can just pop in without something holding me back.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    I have to say, I’m quite confused with what Warframe’s “problem” is. The only problem it seems to have is it’s too popular.

    Well, okay, valid points. The UI could be clearer, I too found myself rather confused with where my health and mana bars were when I tried getting back into it earlier this year. The environments and activities feel like they could use more variety, although there’s certainly more variety now than there was at release. And there’s grinding, as it seems all a space ninja is good for is grinding.

    Speaking strictly practically, though: if you are among the playerbase the game, you play it well expecting these issues, and have adapted to them all.

    • MisterFurious says:

      You said that the game’s only problem was that it’s too popular and then you proceed to list several problems with the game and your answer to those problems is ‘just accept it’. First off, that’s not how criticism works, which is what this article is. Secondly, most people don’t want to ‘just accept’ a game’s problems. I sure didn’t. I played this a couple of months ago and found it boring, repetitive, and doing group missions was a confusing clusterfuck. I really lost interest when I went to Venus and saw the same bases I was running through on Earth. One had snow. On Venus.

    • The Great Wayne says:

      You can still enjoy a deeply flawed game, it doesn’t prevent it from being analyzed and criticized.

      Myself I’ve poured a few hundred hours of gametime into Warframe, and while I’m not playing it anymore these days I’m quite (even moreso considering my experience with it) aware of both its strengths and its shortcomings.

  4. Stargazer86 says:

    The issue I have with the Plains of Eidolon is that it’s not really an “open world” like it was advertised as. You still can’t bring anymore than 4 people, it’s instanced, and there’s nothing interactive within it other than the titular Eidolon and bounty missions. It’s basically just a bigger non-randomized mission instanced.

    • Niceguydan8 says:

      That is exactly how it was advertised though. The developers were very clear that the player count would stay at 4 per instance.

  5. Holden McGroin says:

    I like warframe.
    I don’t understand plaidolon.

  6. vahnn says:

    Warframe’s combat is meaty? Did I read that right?

    This game is a perfect example of the opposite of meaty combat. Characters are light and floaty, attacks are quick and without a sense of heft, with little feedback to indicate a suit of powered armor swinging a sword through muscly biological or metallic robotic enemies. It’s the main reason I don’t like the game.

  7. Daymare says:

    To use flying mounts in this game you need to a) farm (less after the hotfix) or b) pay real money?

    I regret showing interest in Warframe in the past.

    • Nobo says:

      The game is free so tbh there’s little to lose showing interest or not :P

      It takes probably 10-20 minutes to farm for what you need to fly, I don’t see a need to spend money (and you can’t even spend real money to get the charges for it).

      • Daymare says:

        Spending hours trying something out again (I played Warframe for a few hours, some years ago) is … quite a lot to lose, if you value your time.

    • Cinuous says:

      You don’t have to do either lol, there’s clans in the game join a clan each of the clans dojo has research most clans have a huge chunk of research done so you can buy the blueprints with ingame credits you basically just farm the materials you need to build whatever your building lol, most of these comments are from casual destiny players now who haven’t taken the time to actually get into warframe, the community is super helpful and most will help you do missions all you gotta do is ask, if you don’t know or understand something ask someone!!

    • phantam says:

      Well you need to do a quest to unlock the archwings first which is found halfway through the star chart.
      Then to use the Archwings in the plains of eidolon you have to use up about half an hours worth of resource gathering to craft 50 charges of it.

      Frankly the archwings main use in the Plains is to quickly get around as right now they die in a single barrage of enemy fire, if they fix that and allow you to get in/out of one you summoned it’s more than reasonable.

  8. Arglebargle says:

    After being away for over a year, even the smart vet members of my small Warframe clan were having trouble figuring out the new additions. While I enjoy the game a lot, this is symptomatic of their approach: poorly explained and signposted.

    And while I am not the swiftest on the uptake, I was still a closed beta tester and have the Lato Vandal to prove it.

  9. racccoon says:

    I love the games concept & some of its play, the mapping isn’t its best of its ideas as it basic copies of each other with tiny added on bits, that brings the whole bore to the game. Why I placed it oed (on external drive)
    I haven’t got around to updating it at all, as, out of sight, out of mind is oed.
    I have been wanting to open it because of this new land base, as the game is easy to play. A question appears about this new open environment map, why didn’t they just do that in the first place! The only dreary is a 50 man limit entry, some what disappointing, & why isn’t a open field, a open field? who knows. :)

  10. Niceguydan8 says:

    Here is some feedback that I’d like to give to the reviewer:

    First off, your review is well written. Great job on that front. You also hit the nail on the head with the thought that the game doesn’t explain itself well, because it doesn’t.

    I have some criticisms and I say them with the intent to provide feedback, not flame the reviewer. So, here we go.

    -I think we could use a little context in regards to how far the reviewer actually got. To me, it seems fairly clear the the reviewer is still quite new to the game as it’s clear he/she doesn’t understand some of the more basic systems in the game. For example, the polarity system is not at all complicated like the reviewer seems to imply. Hell, the reviewer is straight up wrong about reversing polarity on mod cards. That’s not how it works!

    -I think “considerable” amount of time to craft the archwing charges is needless hyperbole. It’s not hard to get those materials for flying within the Plains. Pre-hotfix the values were still too high (and that is when you wrote this I believe), but it still wasn’t unbelievably high.

    I guess the biggest issue I see is that the reviewer is still new to the game and it’s fairly apparent to me as somebody who has a grasp of the systems. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reviewing a product as a player that frankly doesn’t know a lot about the game, but I think some more context to the experience would be nice.

    I think Plains of Eidolon DOES significantly change the direction of the game, maybe just not in the way the author is looking for. Again, that’s totally okay, but I think it’s immediately obvious how they set out to change the direction of the game, and suggesting that the direction maybe actually hasn’t changed just seems really strange to me, because it’s right there in front of our face the whole time.

    Anyways, cheers!

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      Can you elaborate on how it changes the direction of the game? It would be interesting to hear a more experienced player’s opinion.

      • Niceguydan8 says:

        Prior to this update, we basically just have the star chart for progression, which is a bunch of randomly generated levels that the player goes in, does a mission (the reviewer is right, these missions are repetitive), leaves that map, then does it all over again. The tilesets are different so the visuals do change, but they never feel very unique because they are procedurally generated. Unless the player is staying in an endless mission (think a survival mission), most players won’t stay in a map for longer than five minutes.

        With the Plains, it’s a handcrafted open area. It doesn’t change each time the player logs in, and the player is going to spend a significant amount of time in the Plains. Now, they will likely take a break to head back to the city (Cetus), but the setup of the Plains changes how I play Warframe. Instead of speeding through a small map to reach the ending as fast as possible, I might want to head over to a lake and do some fishing, or search for some stuff to mine. Or, I could team up with a group to try to take down the end-game boss that roams around at night. In general, the Plains feel like a place that I’m supposed to spend time in as opposed to speeding through to get to the end as fast as possible.

        The reviewer isn’t wrong that the game hasn’t changed in regards to grind. I do think the grind is fairly steep for new players but doesn’t stay that way for a long time. Eventually players just accumulate so much stuff that most crafting materials become a non-issue. There are some that are absolutely still harder to find, but they are still pretty reasonable. That being said, I think the Plains changes how players interact with the levels in Warframe. For a new player, they wouldn’t know any better because they didn’t spend hours running through procedurally generated levels. That being said, for a more experienced players, I think it’s a fairly drastic shift in that regard.

        I’m not trying to undermine the reviewer at all. I think his opinion is valuable, but I think he misses the point of what makes Plains different, and maybe that’s because he’s not an experienced player. That’s totally fine because he would be missing the context that experienced players (or even just players that aren’t basically brand new) have.

  11. Touchstone says:

    This game looks like it really changed since I played it. I remember running around in mostly empty levels with bullet-sponges almost always alone ’cause matchmaking sucked. Crafting was barely even a thing and levels were unlocked by moving from planet to planet, I think. I didn’t really get the point of the game and the combat was cool, but enemies were uninteresting and took forever to kill. Story was nonexistent. I was hoping all this time later, all the updates, all the positive words on it, things would be different.

    Then I saw a recent video. It’s structured very differently in presentation, but the actual meat seems to still be boring, if cool-looking, combat in generated levels. I think I’m not wired for games that are about grinding rather than anything substantial. It’s why I never understood Runescape, Maple Story, WoW, etc.

  12. RCoon says:

    I have over 600 hours clocked in Warframe, and by current player standards that does not make me anywhere near close to being a vet. The vets have 1000+ hours, but still, I’m going to weigh in a little.

    The update was frankly rushed out too early and not properly play tested by anyone. If it was, they should fire their QA and playtesters because a tonne of the issues that arose from POE’s launch should never have made it to the release build. By issues I mean the rest of the game having literally game-breaking bugs making players unable to play the game, being locked in a mission. Bounties not completing, players losing their rewards etc.

    Also if you’re hoping for guidance or a tutorial of any kind, good luck. Even with 600 hours under my belt I had no idea how I was supposed to unlock my recently refunded Focus talent tree again. Many players praise Warframe for not “hand holding”, but my god, if a Wiki is required to progress in your game then something went wrong somewhere.

    The economy is completely independent of the rest of the game. Killing enemies will still earn you the rewards from the Earth tileset, but the bounties, mining, fishing, standing (rep for the two factions), sentient killing etc, all award materials and loot that is only useful on the Plains of Eidolon, a single node on a planet with 10+ nodes, in a solar system of dozens of planets with their own slew of nodes.

    That means all the progress you make on Plains of Eidolon is totally irrelevant to the rest of the game. The developers clearly stated that POE was geared towards new players, the enemy levels, the quest for the new warframe (character you can choose to equip/play). This is patently false. If a fresh player goes out onto the plains by themselves, they will be killed. The rewards from bounties and fishing etc are totally unhelpful in improving a new player’s power, and in order to progress your abilities that are limited to just the plains, it requires DAYS of farming (fishing is a requirement) since reputation gain is limited by player rank (like levels, kinda).

    A large portion of people on the forums and the subreddit are not happy with this update. It’s not new player friendly at all, and will actually hinder their progress compared to if they just played the rest of the game normally and completed the nodes in the solar system. The grind is so bad that even vets and popular streamers who spend their entire day playing are complaining that the RNG is too severe and much too grindy.

    I intend to completely ignore the POE node on Earth until significant changes are made, and I urge new players to avoid it if they actually want to progress.

  13. EkoAzarak says:

    I COMPLETELY AGREE… sadly, Plains of Eidolon is a complete “meh”. Really dont care to elaborate; this article nails it. But PLains of Eidolon is a HUGE hype fail and letdown. sure people are enjoying it (the same players that already liked it). but its not gonna win new players because its the same ol game.

  14. mukuste says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned how fun the gameplay on the Plains is. You’re still doing your space ninja thing, bullet jumping and headshotting and slicing fools in half, but somehow with the gorgeous open plains it’s even more fun than in the rather constrained corridor-based levels. It also gives you a real reason to use a sniper rifle for the first time.

    The progression in this new area seems very slow, that’s true, but they’ve been improving that with every single patch (6 or 7 hotfixes in just the few days since PoE came out!) and I hope they continue to do so.

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