Warframe guide: essential tips for beginners

main_guide_gameplay

Warframe is almost impressively obtuse. The free-to-play loot shooter layers systems upon systems upon systems, all of which have an impressive amount of depth to them. Unfortunately, the game is almost aggressively uninterested in making sure you understand any of it.

There’s Warframes to mod, guns and swords and crossbows to craft in the Foundry, Dojo rooms to build, Endo and Mutagen Samples and Argon Crystals and, well, a whole bunch of other stuff. Like, a lot of other stuff. Be ready to grind.

To help you on your journey into one of the biggest — and best! — free-to-play loot games out there, we’ve got a bunch of tips and tricks for making your Tenno the best Tenno that it can be.

You can read for general advice, or hop over to one of the following pages if you’re looking for more specific advice.

Warframe: How to acquire warframes and equip mods
Warframe: Damage types, how they work and when to use them
Warframe prime relics: how to get the best gear
Warframe: Farm credits via the Index mission
Plains of Eidolon expansion: Bounties, Fishing, Mining, and Eidolon Hunting

General tips and help

Like any good loot game, Warframe is all about doing the same thing over and over again in order to get better and better stats. But unlike a game like Diablo III or Path of Exile, it’s not a linear progression. Rather than simply farm out the same item over and over again with the hopes of getting better and better stat rolls, Warframe is all about getting new gear and using mods to upgrade them.

Just in case you were wondering, the titular Warframes are effectively suits of armor that each has its own set of abilities (both active and passive), and stats. Whenever you change your Frame, you’re basically playing a new character class.

When you’re first starting out, don’t stress too much. Just get a feel for the movement, figure out what kinds of weapons you like, and generally just learn how the game operates. You won’t understand a lot about what’s going on, but thankfully Warframe is just a really good shooter in its own right. You don’t have to understand all the systems going on underneath the hood.

So how do you get all of those Frames? Let’s go over some of it.

The Star Chart

All of Warframe’s missions are organized into a huge galaxy map called the Star Chart. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock more and more missions. Unlocking everything is key for having all the options necessary to get all the stuff you want. So, do that first. Unlock everything.

Remember to take a look at the Alerts in the top-right portion of the Star Chart. You’ll want to do a lot of those when you’re starting out, and later on for specific types of resources. Do all the Nitain Extract Alerts. Just trust me on that one.

Getting new gear

When you first load up Warframe, you’ll be given a choice between three Warframes (Volt, Excalibur, and Mag), two melee weapons (a bo staff and a sword), two primary weapons (an automatic rifle and a bow), and two secondary weapons (a pistol and some kunai). It doesn’t matter which you choose, as you’ll be replacing most of them pretty quickly, so just pick up whatever you think is the coolest. The only note is that Volt is harder to farm up in the late game.

There’s a ton of ways to get new gear. First and foremost, you can buy certain weapons from the in-game Market. I’d recommend picking up a Braton for your primary weapon slot and the dual pistols Aklato for your secondaries relatively quickly, as they offer significant upgrades over your starter gear.

As you play through your first few hours of Warframe, you’ll find tons of resources and gear components. Typically, you’ll be able to use those resources with Market-purchased Blueprints to craft new gear in the Foundry. Crafting new gear usually takes somewhere between 12 (for guns and Warframe parts) to 72 hours (for full Warframes). Or, you can rush the building process by paying Platinum, the real-world money option — this is a free-to-play game, after all.

To craft Warframes, you’ll need to grab four components: Neuroptics, Systems, Chassis, and Blueprints. You’ll get those components a few ways, but most of your early Frames will come from farming bosses on specific planets. Mars boss Lieutenant Lech Kril, for example, drops the parts for Excalibur, so murdering him repeatedly will get you the ability to craft that Frame.

Other Warframes will come from a variety of other sources, including quest rewards, reputation bonuses, research in a Clan Dojo (we’ll get to Dojos later), and random drops off normal enemies (Oberon parts drop off of Eximus enemies, as an example).

Primary, secondary, and melee weapons operate similarly. Many weapon Blueprints can be purchased from the Market, but others have to be farmed or researched. Just make sure you head over to the wiki to figure all that out.

Finally, there’s Archwing gear.

There’s also Prime gear, which we’ll cover in our Relics guide.

Mastery Ranks

Each and every piece of gear you use on your mass-murdering loot journey has its own level rank. As you play with them, they’ll level up, improving their stats and giving them more slots for installing mods (which we’ll get to in a second).

Every level you gain improves your Mastery Rank score, which is your overall account level. Raising your account level offers a bunch of benefits, not the least of which unlocking new gear. But it also gives all of your weapons a minimum amount of mod slots corresponding to your level, the ability to farm more reputation on a single day, the ability to hold more Void Traces (which you use for Relics, which we’ll get to), among a couple other things.

Mastery Rank is important, but it’s not the end-all be-all. You’ll typically get it pretty passively if you’re just playing Warframe enough.

Once you’ve reached a new level, you’ll be asked to take a Mastery Rank Test, which you have to complete to advance. You’ll get one attempt every 24 hours at the test, so look up what you’re getting into beforehand. Most of them aren’t terribly hard, and you’ll continue gaining Mastery Rank points even if you don’t complete them, but you won’t fully rank up without finishing your exams. Kind of like school!

Modding

Once you’ve got your gear loaded, it’s time to power them up. Most of your power will come from the mods that you insert into your gear. Mods look like little cards that you can slot into your Warframes or weapons on the — you guessed it — mod screen. They do everything from giving you more shields or health, adding damage to your weapons or abilities, affecting your movement speed, or even some changes that only affect a very specific piece of gear. There are hundreds of mods in Warframe, and the mod screen can seem intimidating at first, but don’t stress too much.

Every mod has Capacity Drain, which tells you how much power it uses when installed into a piece of gear. Typically, the more powerful a mod is, the more capacity it drains. When you start off, your gear’s mod Capacity will be its item level. But there are ways to give you more capacity, including installing Orokin Reactors or Orokin Catalysts in Warframes and weapons, respectively, to double up your Capacity. Aura mods in Warframes and Stances Mods in melee weapons also give more Capacity.

See those little symbols on some of your mod slots? Those are Polarity symbols. Mods have them too. If you put a mod with a symbol into its a mod slot, the Capacity Drain of that mod will drop in half. Polarity management is a huge part of min-maxing your gear, so pay attention! Just don’t put the wrong Polarity in, that will double the Drain.

Mods themselves can be leveled up using Endo, one of the many, many resources in Warframe. Of course, each level increases a mod’s Capacity Drain. You can get Endo by doing the weekly Maroo’s Bazaar quest and selling your Ayatan Treasure reward back to Maroo herself — but only after you put Ayatan Stars into it. That sounds complicated, but it’s pretty simple. You find Ayatan Stars out in the world, and they can be installed into Ayatan Treasures as an option on the mod screen.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do with a particular piece of gear, customize it! Toy around with mods and see what you like. Or, head over to Warframe Builder to see what people have been doing with their gear.

See something you don’t have yet? Well, there’s probably a good reason for that. Some mods only drop off of certain enemies. Some are rewards for doing more difficult missions. Some of the most powerful ones are purchased from Baro Ki’Teer, a wandering merchant that pops up every so often a la Destiny’s Xur. Many of them are picked up purely by grinding out certain missions over and over again. Or, you know, you can buy them from the player-run market.

Formas

Once you get deep, deep into Warframe, Formas will become your best friend and biggest annoyance.

Mostly, you’ll be using Formas to slap additional Polarities on your gear. Once you hit level 30 on a weapon or Warframe, you can hit it with a Forma to give one of its slots a new Polarity symbol, opening up even more Capacity. But once you do that, the weapon will lose all of its levels, making you level it up a second time to fully utilize your new Polarity slot. It’s a lot of work to properly Forma up your gear, so be sure you’re ready for the commitment if you’re going to go through the process.

Be careful, though. Formas are also used to craft certain pieces of gear, raise up in reputation ranks, or used to create rooms in Dojos. So don’t go spending them willy nilly.

How do you get a Forma? Well, a lot of ways. You’ll get Blueprints for them as rewards for certain missions (Alerts, Invasions, Orokin Derelicts, and some Orokin Voids, for example) or from Relics (which we cover more in-depth here). From there, just like the vast majority of things in Warframe, you’ll have to craft them.

Farming

Okay, so. You need the materials to craft something. You need some Neurodes. You need like 400 Plastids (it’s always those damn Plastids). You might even be low on Ferrite, god forbid. That means it’s time to farm.

The best way to go about that is to go to whatever planet happens to have the resources you need. Thankfully, the Warframe wiki has a handy sheet for figuring out where you should head to nab specific resources. All resources except for Nitain Extract can be found while running missions. For Extracts, you’ll have to do Alerts that reward you with them.

One thing to note: If you need Argon Crystals, make sure you’re ready to use them quickly after you pick them up. They will start to decay 24 hours after you pick them up. You’ll lose half of however many Crystals you’ve held onto for more than 24 hours at midnight GMT. If you run out, it’s back to the Void for you! Farming, ahoy!

Clans and Dojos

Just like any good RPG, Clans are a big part of Warframe.

Joining up for a Clan has a lot of benefits, but mostly it gets you the opportunity to research gear that can’t be attained anywhere else. First, you’ve got to build the various Lab rooms that unlock the ability to research new gear. Then, you’ve got to put in the resources to research gear. That takes 72 hours per piece of gear. Then, you’ll buy the blueprints to actually build the things you want. It takes a while and costs a lot of resources, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

For most solo players, upkeeping a Dojo and researching everything on your own can get quite expensive. But if you have a group around you (or find one while playing), anyone can contribute to the research costs. That way, you can split up the cost.

Sorties

Sorties are as close to MMORPG-style raids as Warframe gets. Unlocked after completing The War Within quest, Sorties offer up three missions per day that must be completed in order. All three are more difficult versions of normal missions, culminating in a much more difficult version of a boss fight from the main game.

Each mission will have specific conditions that make them more difficult. Some will erase your shields, others require you to only use a shotgun or melee weapon, while still others will reduce your movement speed.

To pull off Sorties successfully, you’ll likely want to pull together a strong squad of four players with strong gear and good mix of DPS, crowd control, and tank Frames. A defensive or healer support Frame can help, too. In public matchmaking, consider running a Frame with strong crowd control like Vauban, just to make sure your team has the support needed to complete it.

Assuming you complete the Sortie, the rewards are strong. Most often, you’ll get an Ayatan Sculpture, but you can also pick up a powerful Riven mod or even a Legendary Core, which can be used to max out any mod you have for no cost. Make sure you hold onto that for something really important.

39 Comments

  1. Vinraith says:

    Tried this for about 20 minutes once but couldn’t get pass the utterly baffling controls and the equally baffling narrative.

    • Exxar says:

      Baffling controls? You mean the E key being the default for melee attacks, the parkour system or something else? The latter does need some time to get accustomed to, but you can just run and gun until then.

      • Vinraith says:

        The E key for melee really messed me up, since it seems to be very central to the game. In general I couldn’t find a way to comfortably execute any of the move/melee combos the game was asking me to – it all just felt incredibly awkward.

        • Askis says:

          Well, you could just rebind everything to find a more comfortable key layout for you.
          Or even use a controller, if you don’t mind playing a third-person shooter with one.

    • dragon31h says:

      Baffling ? Yeah, yeah, yeah…Warframe is not for all people.
      20 minutes is not enough to make u into the game.
      Warframe is so deep…and the controls are so responsive…I think is one of the most fast paced and fun games I play right now.
      Yeah, warframe is Baffling for filth casuals. Haha.

      • Anti-Skub says:

        “To help you on your journey into one of the biggest — and best! — free-to-play loot games out there, we’ve got a bunch of tips and tricks for making your Tenno the best Tenno that it can be.”

        You don’t need the free-to-play bit in there. It’s just one of the best loot games. It can more than hold it’s own against any of the paid titles.

      • FunkyB says:

        “…filth[y] casuals…”

        Stop that.

    • po says:

      Must be one of those weirdos who does crazy stuff like rebinding sprint to spacebar and jump to shift, like a friend who did that for Battlefield 4, then he couldn’t play Warframe, because you need to jump a lot.

      There is literally no way that exactly the same default controls as 99% of all the other first/third person shooters ever made, could ever be considered ‘baffling’.

      You want baffling, look at the PC controls for Assassins Creed.

      I swear, people who have only ever played games with a gamepad should be beaten around the head with the thing, if they ever think they can come up with a better control scheme for keyboard and mouse, than the one we’ve been using for more than a quarter of a century.

      • Dyno says:

        you sure showed him..

      • Lord Byte says:

        There’s BUG with the controls that no matter how many times you rebind them, it won’t actually work ingame like that. Tried playing it many times, contacted support, jumped through all the hoops, until finally someone else said he also had that issue, checked with friends whom, when tried rebinding, also had that issue. Then support said they’d pass it unto bugfixing… and nothing happened. Checked a few more times, it’s still there, still cannot play it then. Their loss.

        • po says:

          Yes, it’s called a corrupted EE.cfg file. If a line early in the file isn’t what the game expects, it ignores the whole of the rest of the file, and you get stuck with the default bindings.

    • dog2 says:

      Wait till you get to the UI. Ugh…

      It’s a fine game if you need some grind to pass the time, though. If you ever need to fast forward 8 hours thru life without any real gain or benefit, I’d keep it on my radar.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      OK let’s have a look at the default controls.

      WASD – Movement
      Shift – Sprint
      Ctrl – Crouch
      Space – Jump
      Left Click – Shoot
      Right Click – Aim
      1-4 – Abilities 1 to 4
      Q – Radial Menu
      Esc – Menu
      T – Chat

      No I see it now…baffling. No one has ever used those key binds before.

    • 111uminate says:

      Only the snobby, stuckup RPS crowd would complain about such a thing. “Baffling” controls on a PC game, where user freedom to tailor their own experience is a hallmark of the platform. Did you bother to rebind anything? Did you bother to look at the options menu, at all?

      The narrative is pretty standard fair for sci-fi. You’re telling me you grasped the narrative in the 20 minutes you played? Your ignorance is astounding, and your comment on the article is completely useless. If you’re not going to bother to play a game for even a half hour, don’t bother sharing your opinion on it.

  2. Evan_ says:

    Dang, so much new stuff again!

    I’m MR19. I’m not going back. Not this time.

  3. haldolium says:

    Warframe has the worst item farming. Way too many subitems and RNG required and involved. It can be really annoying, especially when time limits are a factor.

    Thankfully the (community) documentation is very good. But it remains a overly grindy game, even though the core loop is awesomely intense and the controls very tight once getting used to it. pew pew SLASH.

    • MadMaxHellfire says:

      I’ve never had to farm, truly “farm”, past my second week. Resources drop everywhere while you gain experience. Even the infamous argon crystals, a single defense mission could net you 4-5 which is more than any single item could require.
      Or do you mean “do this 5 minutes boss mission an average of 5 times” as “farming too reliant on RNG”?
      Maybe you’re right, there’s some RNG involved in getting rare mods and prime items. Well, rare mods are meant to be rare (and 99% of them can be bought for beans, for less than you could earn by selling syndicate mods which are basically free), and prime items are 1) end-game 2) meant to be rare, as rare mods are 3) often little more than a cosmetic upgrade.

      • haldolium says:

        Guess it depends on the definition or what you’re used to. I find it obnoxious at times, such as getting ressources based on rng to use rng items to maybe get what you want if you finish the mission. Still, Ive put 500h into it and may return again if I feel like it.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      It’s literally a grinding game. It’s for people who enjoy grinding. Same as any loot grinder. The difference is the grind is no where near as repetitive as the likes of Diablo 3 or Destiny 2.

    • Exxar says:

      Coming from Path of Exile as a standard loot-grinder ARPG (the devs’ name Grinding Gear Games isn’t for nothing) and SWTOR as a “grind the raids and dungeons for max-level xp giving random endgame drops” MMO, as my last two games with significant time investment, I find the grind in Warframe pretty refreshing so far. Now I do only have about a month of play behind me and haven’t yet unlocked/seen all of the content so I could still discover it ain’t so pretty later on, but the the grind in Warframe is way easier and more enjoyable than in other games I played.

      If you hate the seasons/leagues from D3/POE, a heavy emphasis on an in-game economy/trade with other players, or long queues in MMOs, Warframe could be perfect for you.

  4. Mongward says:

    The guide is fine but, honestly, it could use some pictures (I dunno, maybe there are some, but they didn’t load for me?), because you’re writing about stuff without giving people a way to attach the information to an image. Especially in the mod section it would be useful to show what the mod card looks like, including the polarity symbols.

    • 111uminate says:

      RPS coverage of Warframe is historically pretty lackluster, and often times inaccurate (The blunder on the Halloween event, the launch of Plains of Eidolon, etc). I wouldn’t expect much, and you can find far better guides on Steam and youtube.

      • Mongward says:

        To be fair Warframe is a game that’s weird to explain if you don’t have 100+ hours put into it. I don’t hold it against RPS that they get an odd detail wrong in a day-to-day news, because, to be honest, if they don’t play it and don’t follow it they ARE going to miss some nuance obvious to somebody who has spent the past two, three years following the thing.

  5. Askis says:

    A good guide on the basics, something I’d add is how to get your speed up:
    Sprint, hold crouch to go into a slide (no need to keep holding sprint), hit jump right after, you’re now (briefly) going as fast as your frame will go without any speed mods/abilities.
    While in the air, hold crouch again to fall faster (it’s magical space ninjas, don’t talk about physics) and go back to the sliding as soon as you touch the ground.
    So you can infinitely combo Slide->Jump->Slide etc. to move very quickly, although sharp corners can be an issue.

    While in the air, you can also double-jump, useful to get over obstacles or even to instantly change direction.
    And/Or hold aim, putting you into aim glide for up to three seconds, which retains your speed and direction and allows some limited directional control, while massively increasing your air time, making crossing chasms a breeze.

    Might sound complicated, but with a bit of practice, zipping around the levels will become second nature.

    • Faldrath says:

      Yeah, I’m not a veteran by any means (played some 20 hours? before I realized I wasn’t having that much fun), but if there’s one thing newbies need to know is how to get the most of the movement system, so it was a bit surprising to see that this guide lacked any info on that.

    • Pigswillfly says:

      There is also the difference in jump height if you look up before jumping during a slide, a trick needed for one of the mastery ranks (took me a while to work out that was why I couldn’t get the height).
      I love how smooth the movement is, no other games with a similar system have felt as smooth or as fast.

  6. Love Albatross says:

    Something worth mentioning is weapon and warframe slots. You only have limited space, and extra slots cannot be crafted, only purchased. You either have to spend some platinum or sell stuff to make room.

    Keep hold of the free starter platinum for this, and look into warframe.market after you’ve played for a bit so you can sell your spare prime parts and mods to other players and get a free source of platinum.

    Don’t spend any platinum on anything except slots until you’ve got a good handle on the mechanics and systems, otherwise you’re likely to waste it on stuff you could have got for free.

    • 111uminate says:

      This is solid advice. Obtaining platinum is fairly easy in the game, and doesn’t always need to be purchased. Many people will tell you to hold off on buying platinum until you get a daily login reward for -50% or -75% off on platinum purchases.

      Many things you can sell to other players for platinum you don’t even need to directly farm for. Prime parts, fish, certain resources. Some people can amass thousands of platinum a week if they focus on it, and that’s without spending a dime.

  7. rusty says:

    Thanks for this. I played a couple of years ago and found it ok, so I might metaphorically dip my figurative toes back in.

    One thing – is it soloable? I don’t like playing in groups.

    • 111uminate says:

      Absolutely soloable. Some Frames are better suited for it than others, but typically frames with high health/armor and abilities to help sustain are the go to (Rhino, Valkyr, Nekros, Oberon, Trinity, too many to name).

      I have around 1500 hours in the game, and I would say roughly half of that I spent mainly playing solo. Playing in a group is largely for completing missions quickly, as you will find out that people like to speed through them as fast as possible.

    • Urfin says:

      It’s not only soloable, but arguably much more ninja-like and atmospheric when playing solo. More work tho, obviously. If you want to solo, you prolly want to have at least one strong melee weapon to carry you through any number and level of mobs, and a punchy accurate gun for killing bosses.

  8. 963d5e1a says:

    Horny MILFS Exposed Selfies To Text, Meet and Have Fun Now! link to is.gd

  9. Urfin says:

    A bit of advice on controls – Warframe’s movement and melee systems have changed a lot over the years, and the defaults are not up to speed with the recent developments. Also, it has a bit more buttons for movement and stuff than you can comfortably bind on a normal mouse + wasd. Here’s the important binds (named as they are in the options):

    Sprint: don’t need to press it anymore, autorun doesn’t turn off now except a few circumstances, so just bind it somewhere and press once a mission.

    Hold to Crouch: tapping it gives you an instant speed boost (~1 sec CD), holding transitions into a slide, pressing it when landing from high falls prevents the hard landing animation and keeps momentum. People usually have this on shift, because the quick bursts are really nice and useful, and it makes bullet jumping easier to perform.

    Bullet jumping (crouch + jump): makes you do an instant straight jump in the direction you’re looking. This is THE mobility tool that’s available to all frames.

    Roll: another instant speed boost, not strictly needed, but nice, and you want this bound on Ivara, because her stealth breaks on bullet jumps.

    Quick Melee: this is usually the most convenient way to use melee (some types of weaps don’t slow you down when quick meleeing). Also very nice and fluid if you bind this to right mouse instead of aim.

    Aim Weapon: again, not strictly needed unless you want to shoot something accurate really far, the weapon has mechanics for aim, or you use mods that give bonuses when aiming.

    Secondary Fire: only some weapons use it, and then it can either be a fire button or a mode toggle.

    Switch Weapon: switches guns on tap and gun melee on hold. I find it more reliable to use the following two instead of this.

    Switch Gun: switches between guns.

    Equip Melee: switches between current gun and melee mode.

    The Sprint/Roll and Toggle Crouch are optional.

    Depending on the frame, binding abilities to something close to WASD, like Q, E, X etc. can make the game much more enjoyable.

    A note on grind – except VERY rare cases, any lootable stuff is easily obtainable within an hour. Warframe rewards speed, efficiency and doing several things in one mission much more than repetition. Unless it’s kuva :)

  10. randomkeyhits says:

    Played this since it came out on PS4 so probably far too many hours. I use it as a dip in game these days. Log in, do a mission or two, finish up and go play something else.

    Have to comment on the grind as its now one of the least grindy games out there and the devs have even made accommodations to make it easier.

    The only real grind is the prime parts with the relic system, with 3 common, 2 uncommon and 1 rare part in each relics table. Do some relic missions and you start accumulating void traces which you can then use to alter the chances of the relic drops. You can bring the rare chance up from 2% (not bad compared to some games) to about 10% which is pretty decent. Add in if you are running a mission with three others then at the end you get to choose which players relic drop you want so you have an even better chance of getting some decent (ie you need).

    You can even trade the prime parts so done right you can get pretty much anything with very little grind.

  11. rusty says:

    I dipped back into this over the weekend, after several years away, on the strength of this series of articles. Thanks so much for reminding me the game existed!

    I’m thoroughly enjoying the low levels. Yes, there’s obvious grind and some of the missions are a bit repetitive, but the action is superb. What a splendid, mindless shooter it can be! The layering of systems is somewhat odd from an immersion perspective, but perfectly sensible from a monetisation angle. This is such fun that I can forgive those blatant barriers to progress.

  12. RCoon says:

    DapperMuffin’s quick start guide is pretty useful:
    link to docs.google.com
    It’s very easy to tell when somebody doesn’t really like or enjoy a game they’re writing a guide for, or at least has learnt as much as possible as quickly as possible without really taking it in, and this feels very much like that. I’m 800 hours in an still learning new things – like rolling reduces the damage you take by 75%.
    If you don’t enjoy reading official Wikis, this game isn’t for you. Much of what you learn is player (self) driven. Your knowledge will only grow with effort on your own part.

Comment on this story

HTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>