This week we’re running a beta key giveaway for the latest game from
Digital Extremes, Warframe.
To help give our readers an idea of what Warframe is all
about, we’ve put together an intro guide to some of the game’s core
features. For those of you who end up snagging one of the closed beta
keys we’re giving away this week, it will also provide some useful
insights into what makes the game tick.

Also be on the lookout later this week for our hands-on preview of Warframe.
Xerin and I have been playing the heck out of the game, and each offer
up our different perspectives on the game based on our time with the
closed beta so far. In the meantime, this primer will get you up to
speed on what Warframe is all about.

What is Warframe?

Warframe isn’t what you’d expect when you hear the words
“online shooter”. Instead of focusing on PvP match types, Warframe
is a cooperative PvE game. Teams of up to four players can embark on a
series of progressively more challenging missions that take place on
enemy spaceships. The missions themselves are very reminiscent of your
typical hack-and-slash setup of randomized dungeons, enemy encounters,
and loot.

Don’t get me wrong though; Warframe is very much a third
person shooter through and through. For those of you unfamiliar with
developer Digital Extremes’ place in shooter history, the studio is
co-creator of the original Unreal. Needless to say, DE knows a
thing or two when it comes to solid shooter gameplay. And unlike where
the Unreal Engine ended up going in later years, Warframe is
more about action gaming rather than boring cover systems and dudes who
don’t know when to stop taking steroids.

Warframe Selection

Following a brief tutorial, you’ll be able to pick from one of three
available starting warframes:


A perfect balance of mobility and offense. Excalibur is the
ideal Warframe for new players.


Desired by advanced players, Loki offers a variety of
specialized reconfiguring abilities. The creativity of Loki's
powers allows players to master the battlefield through


Volt can create and harness electrical elements. This is a
high-damage Warframe perfect for players who want a potent
alternative to gun-play.

You can purchase or create a pretty decent variety of Warframes, each
offering a distinctive playstyle. For example, Mag focuses on magnetic
manipulation and is perfect for reducing enemy shields, pulling targets
into melee range, or crushing them for massive damage, while Trinity
plays more of a support role, capable of providing another means for
players to regain health or energy.

To swap out your active Warframe, open up the Arsenal tab at the top of
the screen, and then click on its portrait. This will open up a listing
of any Warframes you own and those that can be purchased for credits or Platinum. Blueprints to create certain Warframes can be purchased in the market, and then created using the Foundry.

To start out with, you will have one additional open Warframe slot,
with other slots costing you Platinum to unlock. We’re also dubbing Warframe
a “dude game” due to the fact that all starting Warframes are male,
while female options have to be purchased for cash or created from
blueprints. The logic behind this move baffles us to be quite honest,
but I suppose some game developers still consider female shooter fans to
be a myth maybe?


Advancement works a bit differently in Warframe than in your
standard online PvE experience. While you do get an overall ranking as a
player, power advancement is based on active usage of a specific
Warframe or weapon. As such, all warframes and weapons you own will not
only level up independently from one another, but also come bundled with
their own skill trees.

alt="Warframe Affinity" />

You gain affinity for each Warframe or weapon
independently through active use during missions

Swapping out weapons will be the same process as swapping Warframes
described above. From the Arsenal screen, click on the weapon and you
will see a complete list of available weapons. From here you can equip
any weapon for that slot you currently own, purchase new weapons, or
even some blueprints to create new weapons in the Foundry screen.

As you actively use a weapon in combat, you will earn experience
towards leveling up that specific weapon. Each time you level one up,
you will earn one skill point that allows you a certain degree of
customization for a particular weapon. This includes things like
unlocking mod slots, faster reload times, bigger clip sizes, or even
higher damage output.

alt="Warframe Basic Skill Tree" />

width="300" src=""

alt="Warframe Pro Skill Tree" />

On the left you can see an example of a basic weapon
skill tree, while the right shows the expanded Pro tree for the same

As shown above, all standard weapons or those purchased with in-game
currency will come bundled with a basic skill tree. Advanced (Pro) trees
can also be unlocked, but will cost you Platinum (Warframe’s
virtual cash shop currency).

Pro Tip: One of the easiest ways to level up your
melee weapons is to run any missions with the Infested enemy type.
Infested are kind of like mutant space zombies, and will charge at you
in packs rather than using ranged weapons. You’ll start seeing
Infested missions as soon as you complete the first chain of missions
in the Mercury system and progress into other regions.

Combat and Mission Tips

While Warframe does have a brief tutorial that helps
familiarize you with combat basics, it really is pretty basic stuff that
just about any shooter fan or online gamer will grasp fairly quickly.
There are a number of other things to be aware of that can help
immensely once you begin running missions.

  • Red and Blue Orbs – These are your basic
    hack-and-slash style pickups. Red orbs restore health (one of your
    only means for doing so) and blue orbs will be your primary means of
    gaining energy to use the powers for your current Warframe. They can
    drop from enemies, or are also found in storage lockers and
    containers. The orbs won’t disappear, so make mental note of their
    location in case you need to double back and replenish your health or
  • Jump + Melee – The default hotkey for using your
    melee weapon is [E]. A quick tap does basic damage, while holding down
    the key will “charge” the attack and do a heck of a lot more damage.
    Pressing [E] immediately after jumping [Space] will do a ground slam
    that can knock down nearby enemies. This can be incredibly useful if
    you ever get swarmed by too many infested, or to help make sure your
    charged attacks aren’t interrupted.
  • Party Window – By default, the health bars for your
    teammates will not be displayed on screen. You can bring them up at
    any time, however, by holding down the [Z] key. This can be incredibly
    useful if you’re playing a Warframe like Trinity that has some basic
    abilities to help heal teammates.
  • Gear Tray – The cash shop has a number of different
    consumables that can be used on missions. These can be accessed by
    holding down the [Q] key. Doing so will open up a small tray on the
    bottom left corner of the screen, and free up your mouse pointer to
    use any of the consumables you own.
  • Personal Wayponts – Hitting the [G] key will allow
    you to set a personal waypoint. Cases where this can be helpful
    include marking the location of health orbs so you can find them later
    on, or making it a bit easier for teammates to find you in case you
    get separated. While you can see the general direction of teammates on
    the minimap, the waypoint will also display distance which can be
  • Left / Right Shoulder View – The default setting
    in-game will look over your character’s right shoulder. You can switch
    this to look over the left side instead by pressing the [H] key.

Terminal Hacks

While terminal hacks could fall under the basic mission tips above,
they deserve their own special section here. Not only do you need to
interact with terminals somewhat frequently, but the process for doing
so is a basic mini-game, and there are some conditional factors to be
aware of as well.

The Terminal Hack Mini-Game

When you approach a terminal that you can interact with, you will be
prompted to do so by hitting the X key. Once you do, a randomized
mini-game will begin, and you will have precious little time to complete
it. In most cases, failure just means that you’ll have to start over
again, though there will be certain cases where your shields and health
will slowly deplete until a terminal is successfully hacked.

The mini-game itself is about as straight forward as it gets. As you
can see below, you will be presented with a number of hexagonal tiles,
each with patterned markings. Clicking on a tile will rotate it, with
the goal being to connect the lines between each individual tile.

alt="Warframe Grineer Cipher" />

Consumables can allow you to instantly complete
terminal hacks with the click of a button if you have any in your

Terminal Usage

There will be a number of different reasons you’ll need to interact
with terminals depending on the mission and enemy type. Some examples

  • Mission Objective – Some missions will require you
    to hack one or more terminals as part of the core objective.
  • Lockouts – Occasionally enemies will lock down the
    section of the ship that you’re currently in, and you’ll need to hack
    a terminal to unlock the doors in order to proceed further. This can
    sometimes be helpful if you need to catch your breath mid-mission, as
    new enemies won’t be able to enter the area until the terminal is
    hacked either.
  • Environmental Damage – As noted above, occasionally
    an enemy will trigger an environmental effect that will slowly deplete
    your shields, and then your health. The only way to stop this will be
    to hack a nearby terminal, which can be tricky since you might also
    have enemies trying to shoot you in the face.

Final Thoughts

Warframe is a very solid cooperative shooter, and one that
offers a great alternative for gamers from various genres. In a lot of
ways, Warframe succeeds in many of the areas where games like
Hellgate: London failed to deliver. In other words, taking the
formula of a Diablo style hack-and-slash, but bringing it into
modern times. Millions of Diablo III fans may disagree, but
playing action games in an isometric perspective is one of those things
I’d be all too happy to see go the way of the dinosaurs.

Don’t forget to check back later this week for our hands-on impressions
from the Warframe closed beta, and be sure to snag one of the
beta keys we’ll be giving away this week so that you can check the game
out for yourself!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Warframe Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016