War. What - some of the greatest scholars of our time have asked - is it good for? "Absolutely nothing" is the traditionally arrived upon conclusion after miles of mind-boggling chalkboard math, but the gaming industry begs to differ. "Naming things," it posits, resulting in an immediate surge of shocked whispers and "harumphs" all around the lecture hall. "Modern Warfare, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Warface, Gears of War, God of War, World of Warcraft, World of Warplanes. And that's just the beginning." Which is technically correct, because now there's also Warframe, an F2P "fast-action PvE shooter set in an evolving sci-fi world" from Digital Extremes - they of BioShock 2's multiplayer, The Darkness 2, and, er, something called Warpath. So then, what exactly is a Warframe, anyway?
Turns out, a Warframe's, well, er, uh. It's shockingly complicated, is what it is. And also kind of incredibly silly sounding. So here's your explanation, complete with backstory that's even better when read out loud and in a deep, gravily movie announcer voice.
"Set in the far reaches of outer space during a new Dark Age, WARFRAME introduces the Tenno, a race on the brink of extinction after being enslaved by the Grineer for centuries. Players enter WARFRAME on the cusp of the Grineer's victory over the Tenno until they begin to arm themselves with WARFRAMES - an ancient exo-skeletal technology only they can operate. Hidden within the Orokin Derelicts of a lost civilization, new WARFRAMES lie dormant and undiscovered. These artifacts are the Tenno's only hope for survival."
WARFRAME WARFRAME WARFRAME WARFRAME WARFRAME.
Ahem. So, how does it play? Well, based on the description, a whole lot like a sci-fi Left 4 Dead. Warframe sees four players battle through locations whipped up by an "Automatic Mission Generator" - though Digital Extremes hasn't elaborated on how much it will procedurally generate. Left 4 Dead's AI Director is a diabolical stroke of genius, though, so it'll be interesting to see how dynamic (and perhaps even extreme - but let's not get ahead of ourselves) Digital Extremes plans on making this one.
The term "MMO lite" was also spotted mingling among the wordcrowds that make up Warframe's announcement, followed shortly by emphasis on players' ability to "continually increase the power and abilities of their WARFRAME and weapons." Unfortunately, Digital Extremes hasn't explained how or even if that'll tie into its F2P business model - though my F2P Magic Eight Ball says signs point to "yes." Then it asks for a dollar.
So, right then. Silly story, potentially interesting game. To my knowledge, though, Warframe is the first game of this sort to charge guns-a-blazing into the F2P arena. So it's probably one to watch, if for no other reason than that. And watch it you shall, as I conveniently happen to have this trailer for you.
The full launch is currently set for winter, with a closed beta slated for fall. You can even reserve an alias right now. I'm going to name myself Warrington Warslaughter McWarravager - just as videogames have taught me.