Warframe is a free-to-play third-person space shooter video game. It has been around since 2013. In a way it’s comparable to Path of Exile. That is it’s complex, involved, somewhat strange, and the free-to-play isn’t *too* predatory (but do remain wary).
Like Path of Exile, it can easily become a “lifestyle game”. Or in other words, a job. But on the OTOH the missions are short, which makes it suitable for occasional play.
Warframe is notoriously cryptic and there are piles of systems. So, here’s a “Things I wish I knew when I started” list to help. It’s meant for PC players, but console players likely can adapt.
As the title implies it’s not a high-level play guide. It’s solely for onboarding/beginning. A primer. The early steps.
Solo shoots first
In the upper left of the screen, you can set the game for solo play. I suggest doing that for the first three planets or so.
The game is complicated to learn. So you need to read the things, examine the environment, set the controls, understand the enemy types, listen to the mission instructions, read the things, look at the map overlay (“M”), spend time with the new systems in your spaceship, do the tutorials, read the things, etc..
As long as you play that slowly, it’s better to proceed alone.
(Or with a friend in the same room, over Discord, etc..)
You can’t quite muff things up at first. Don’t spend any currency, don’t sell anything, focus on understanding and executing missions, take it slow, read the things. You are learning a complex hobby, not playing an easy-to-grok party game with karts and moustaches.
Excal or bust
As of this writing, you have a choice of three starting frames. One, Excalibur, is a solid generalist and quite newbie-friendly. The other two are much more specialised and technical – that they are offered as a newcomer choice is odd.
In particular, Excalibur makes the Tenno Junction Specters (boss battles that you must solo) *way* less frustrating. I suspect many people quite Warframe because they tried doing those on a Volt.
The Plains of Eidolon
One of the low-level zones is the Plains of Eidolon (behind the Cetus hub). It is *not* for beginners, though, especially solo and especially at night. Banging one’s head against that wall and rage-quitting doesn’t seem rare.
Yet you should visit. There’s a nice cinematic intro, you can get a sense of whom the characters there are and what they sell, and you can attempt the easiest bounties. The quest is also doable without excessive bother.
The bounties you attempt solo can easily fail, but trying gives you a sense of how they work and what to watch out for. This is one of the many bits of Warframe that’s likely to leave you all “wait, what am I supposed to *do* ?” because you missed some unclear verbal instructions.
Mods are life
The exact weapons and armour you are wearing are important, sure. But it’s the *mods* that determine how powerful they are. The mods are the sorts of “cards” that drops from mobs and as mission rewards. You slot them into equipment.
These are the ones you get early on. It says “flawed” and the picture has fracture lines on it. They kinda suck, but they are important in tiding you over until you find the non-flawed versions.
Harvesting mods takes a while. So don’t dispose of your flaweds until you can replace them with the real version. And if an important mod just refuses to drop, you can level up the flawed (below) in the meanwhile.
Levelling up mods
The tutorial shows how to do that. But to be sure – Escape for the menu, “Arsenal”, select a weapon or armour, “Mods” button at the bottom. You have to select one or more mod, *then* you can take an action on them.
(Warframe UI isn’t generally the best. Do not assume that the buttons are where they logically should be, either on the screen or in terms of menu structure.)
Levelling up a mod takes credits and a resource called Endo. Costs are okay at first, but they sure do ramp up. Levelling up a mod also increases how much charge it requires to run, meaning it’ll need a higher-level item to support it. So at first you’ll want to focus on the critical mods, and not overinvest.
The critical mods
Early on, it’s pretty simple.
- Mods that increase raw weapon damage. These are Serration (Primary), Hornet Strike (Secondary) and Pressure Points (melee).
- Mods that increase warframe survivability. These are Vitality (Health), Defection (Shields), Steel Fiber (Armour). You don’t necessarily need all three – for instance a Volt has too little base Armour to bother.
Stay focused on acquiring these ones, and levelling them when you feel you’re lacking damage and survivability. With the mods capacity you have left on your weapons and warframe, you can experiment with what seems appropriate. It’s okay, just learn.
Later on you discover multishot mods, combinations of elemental damages (particularly the corrosive effect), shield regen rates, warframe ability strength and duration, etc.. As always, read the things.
Early on, your equipment can only support 30 points of drain. That’s about three levelled (but not completely levelled) mods. So really, your options aren’t enough to think about “builds” at this stage. Later on you’ll learn about reactors and catalysts, auras, formas, etc.. But early on, your full-levelled gear has but 30 points.
Disposing of mods
Just keep everything at first. You probably will have enough Endo for early, cheap level-ups. Once you start to have a bunch of duplicates (plus no-longer-required flaweds), you can consider disposing of them.
- Selling for credits can help in a pinch, but likely isn’t the best long-term.
- Selling for Endo doesn’t seem to be attractive at first. But you’ll eventually see how the highest fusions cost, particularly on primed mods.
- Transmutation is an important option, allowing you to get some important mods without farming for them. However, it is expensive, particularly as your transmutation mix starts including silver and gold mods.
No-credits-paid transmutations are available from Cephalon Simaris at star relays. *Generally*, you’ll be able to get the bronze and silver mods you need from normal play. So the bulk of your transmutation ability will be to turn three extraneous rares and a Simaris offering into (hopefully) a new rare you didn’t have.
Weapons and armour and mastery
You have a limited number of slots for weapons and warframe. So unless you want to pay real money for more slots, you won’t have an arsenal. Yet the game is full of exciting warframes and guns and bows and swords and stuff.
Another fact is that raising the level of equipment (weapons, warframes, drones, pets, drone weapons…) raises your Mastery level, which provides useful perks.
A third fact is that weapons and armour for high-level play need a bunch of resources (polarities and potatoes). It’s best to focus on one progression warframe and weapons set.
Therefore, there’s a logic in trying out new weapons (starting with the “Mk-1” ones for new characters), levelling them to 30 and selling them away to free up a slot. And only keeping the ones you really like. While accumulating Mastery points and player experience with weapon types all the while.
*Some* weapons are used for crafting , though. And some weapons have niche utility, so Google them up before disposing of them once you have maxed them out. Or better yet, Google them *before* you acquire them to have long-term plans.
Also, do keep in mind that when retiring a level 30 weapon to level a brand new, unranked one… It’s going to be a while before the new one doesn’t feel underpowered. Don’t dismiss good weapons by not giving them time to grow. Many weapons only come into their own as they approach max level.
Warframe doesn’t really have a notion of “the best”, and when one emerges the developers usually rectify it. Rather, warframes and weapons and mods are context-specific tools.
Frex I tend to use Rhino for Dark Sectors and some bossing, Nyx for interceptions, Frost for defense, Oberon for defections, Valkyr for some bossing and most exterminations, etc.. Many weapons excel against some factions and in some missions, and their elemental payload should be tailored for the fight. Ditto for pets.
Even utility mods or older mods tend to have niche uses. So framing things as simple, one-size fits all absolutes is missing a good chunk of the game.
You start the game with some free platinum – the currency wot you pay real money to get. Keep it on the side, and wait until you genuinely understand what you’re doing.
Spending it for slots isn’t uncommon. Unless you find your niche fairly quickly and would rather spend it on augmenting your weapon.
On PC, the daily free-stuff-upon-logging-in system includes rebate coupons on plat, which can go up to 75%. They last for 48 hours. My personal policy is to spend on F2P games that I enjoy as much as I would spend on a bought game. Yours may vary.
Example of weapon progression
I like automatic fire (mostly because I aim like crap), especially since I play solo. So here’s an example of how I progressed. Keep in my mind I was aiming to have all my weapons hit lvl 30 almost simultaneously.
Mk-1 Braton / Lato pistol / Skana sword.
Braton / Aklato pistols / Mk-1 Bo.
The Braton is a solid assault rifle with good accuracy and okay damage. The Aklato (requires Mastery Rank 3) are robust paired pistols, but the reload time is a bother.
I prolly should have continued with Mk-1 weapons, but I was (wrongly) concerned about insufficient firepower. Hence the Braton and Aklato.
Hind / Mk-1 Furis / Mk-1 Furax.
The Hind is a neat battle rifle, with a 5-round burst mode and a single shot alternate. You have to built it (24 hours wait).
The Mk-1 Furis is a lightweight machine pistol. It’s underpowered, so Mastery it out whilst yer still low level. At lvl25+ with decent mods, it’s workable, but it’s sill a Mk-1 weapon.
The Furaces are excellent fighting glove with good crits, and the slam attack is great. On hard targets you can slam, rush the ragdolling mob, and attack with a finisher.
MK-1 Strun / Kunai / A kubrow
Odd choices, eh ? What’s happening is that I’m getting my Rhino, the day after having level-30’d the previous round of weapons. Since I’ll be in lower-level zones levelling my new warframe and practising its abilities anyway, I’m seizing the occasion to hobble meself with cheap, weak weapons. And I’ll level a kubrow as well.
Round #4 got me to Mastery Rank 5.
The reload time on the shotgun is definitely a bother, but not as awful as I feared. The Kunai are neat – silent, rapid fire, rapid reload. Silent weapons allow for more rapid progression across maps as they cut down on the combat.
The Cronus is a bit better than the Skana – the beginner sword. Since I have a rare mod than leeches part of my melee damage to heal a pet, I’ll do all-melee missions against Infested, which will also help finish level-30-ing the kubrow in a safe manner.
The kubrow turned about a sunika, prolly the least useful breed of them all. The idea was to sell it once it hit 30 and hope for a better breed next time… which is when I noticed one *pays* 25K to consign a kubrow. Grrr.
Mk-1 Paris bow / Cronus sword / Diriga sentinel
The Cronus was supposed to be in round #4… but I flubbed my planning. So I ended round 4 with everything at 30, but no melee weapon and the Rhino still at 25. D’oh.
The Cronus is much like the Skana sword, but a bit better. The Paris is silent… but the arrow flight time and limited sniper ammo make it my least favourite beginner weapon. But hey, might as well level something, and the stealth kills make that faster. Experience for those is increased, and the bonus ramps up if you can chain them.
The Paris is also a good education in damage types. It is almost all Puncture, so seeing the difference of efficiency between Grineer and Corpus enemies (with armour and shield, respectively) is illuminating.
To plan my weapons mastery round, I use this wiki page . Ordering it by Mastery Rank gives a good sense of what I could try.
Gorgon machinegun / Kraken burst pistol
The Gorgon is a rare-ish drop from Heavy Gunners, and as of this writing you get the Kraken blueprint at the Phobos junction. Both are Impact damage, so they are more suited to Corpus enemies – which is nice, since at that point I was doing Jupiter. I made a loadout with Magnetic damage to go with it.
The Gorgon is a bullet hose shooting weak rounds, but with a high rate of fire. It is a “spooling up” weapon, starting with a low fire rate and ramping up over a second or so.
Hek shotgun / Twin Gremlins pistols / Volnus hammer
This is a progression weapons triad. I adopted it since enemies were taking too long to die, and I needed to progress to get better (T2) weapons mod. So all three are high-end, circa-Mastery-Rank-5 weapons that can do a good job even while undermodded. I’m using them to fight my way into Saturn to get nano spores.
The Hek is great CQB against armour-heavy opponents. The reload isn’t as bad as the Strun’s, but it has four shots only. I have one radiation damage loadout (for heavy Grineer units) and one corrosive damage ladout (for heavy Infested units).
The Gremlins (blueprint may drop from the Ceres bosses) are robust close-range, moderate-rate-of-fire machine pistols with balanced damage types. One magnetic damage loadout for Corpus, one corrosive for everything else.
The Volnus is a two-handed hammer that does slash damage (go figure). Simple and effective, and unlike the Guandao (another mainstay melee weapon in this range) you don’t need a clan. It’s modded for blast damage against Infected bosses – I picked blast because the only golden elemental mod I have (+status, + damage) is for melee cold.
After that I keep this triad of progression weapons for star chart progression, so that’s three slots inventory taken. The rest is any random weapon I decide to level on lower-level planets for Mastery points, so the exact setup is no longer important.
The wiki is your friend (mostly)
So by this point you have a basic understanding of what you’re doing and what you’re after. Which means that the next step is wiki, wiki, wiki. For instance, on your smartphone next to your PC/console.
As with most systems-heavy games, you need to consult the wiki to get information. Frex, where a given mod drops. Even for those parts you think you understand, you should double-check that you haven’t missed an aspect of the issue. Such as a movement option. Did you know that Tennos can stick to a wall without moving for a short while ?
Objective : goals
For beginners, reading the Wiki’s description of the objectives of the type of mission you’re about to launch is also good. Warframe has IME far too many moments where you don’t know what to do. Preferably while being beset by a jillion monsters.
Understanding how each mission types unfolds is one of the main reasons to go solo through Earth, Mercury and Venus. Once you have done the missions types once or twice, you’ll be far less likely to be confused when playing with others.
A word about flowers
You know how some things are best farmed as you go along, rather than in dedicated sessions ? Well, the scannable plants in some zones are like that.
These plants are chiefly used to get a flying pixie warframe (Titania) and trigger boss fights that may drop unique mods. Look up the apothics on the Wikia. Unless you hate flora and/or fairies and/or niche mods, scanning these as you happen ‘pon them could save you boring farming time.
(Limbo is great for scanning plants without interference, BTW).
Now that’s style, babycakes
As often, the wiki is written in a dry, factual, technocratic manner. This may be the main reason why so many people keep asking questions whose answer is trivial to find. So do not be put off by the wiki, even if the language of The Man looks off putting to you.
And of course, do not look at the comments.
Some effort in reading this thing saves much trial and error. For instance, you can assess the costs of keeping a kubrow pet, and determine whether it’s cost-effective for you.
The Internets, they too are your friends
Many aspects of the game are hard to guess. Here are examples of where I stumbled :
- Defeating the Jackal (shoot the legs until it kneels).
- Defeating Lech Kril (shoot the pipes on his backpack, a lot).
- What to do in reactor sabotage mission.
- Where the Serration mod drops (I did a lot of Spy missions – on Mercury and Mars, where they’re still easy. 9% chance to drop in one of the mission reward pools).
- The Archwing rush mission on Phobos (just learn the race “track”, then focus on the last transports so you get one).
- Defeating the lvl 20 spectre with a Trinity Warframe at the Ceres junction (cautious melee, and keep watch for the damage reflection effect).
- As a beginner, which fissure missions to pick (quick ones like capture or exterminate, and under level 10 at first).
- How to win interception missions (when solo, focus on moving quickly between three spots and keeping them up. It’s far from a guaranteed success, though. If you spot a pack of enemies, they’re usually worth eliminating).
- Where to find plastoids (Phobos at the earliest).
- How to beat the all-three-codices Stolen Dreams quest spy mission (make and equip ciphers. A few locks are way tougher than anything you’ve seen before – so you lack the experience).
- That Ayatan Sculptures are inset with stars in the “Mods” menu.
- That Control Modules and Argon Crystals *also* drop in the lower-level section of the Void. Rather than bashing me head against the lvl 25 Valkyrie junction specter.
- How to beat the lvl 25 Valkyrie Specter at the Jupiter junction. The room replenishes your warframe’s energy fairly quickly. So the solution is likely to involve frequent use of your warframe’s best abilities, plus corrosive status on your weapons. And hoping that she doesn’t snag-line you at just the wrong moment.
- That you can have multiple Foundry projects running concurrently. It took *days* before I learned that…
- If you can’t find your objective in the Plains of Eidolon, there is a high likelihood that it’s in a cave underground. Learn where the entries are located through exploration.
All of the tips came from the wiki, Reddit, Steam, the official forums… Google is thus useful. Or better yet, Qwant .
But do check the *date*. Warframe keeps evolving, all the time (as of this writing, the Melee 3.0 system has just been announced). So the advice you find could easily be outdated. Frex, I realised that relying on the Volt Warframe’s fourth ability (a big stunning lightning burst) was harder, as its stun effect had been halved before I started playing.
Writeup completed on the 17th of January, 2019.