An Intro Guide to Warframe

This week we'll be giving away closed beta keys for Digital Extremes' latest title, Warframe. To help get you up to speed on what the game is all about, we've put together this introductory guide to Warframe.

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 manipulation.


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.

Warframe Selection

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.

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.

Warframe Basic Skill Tree 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 weapon

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 energy.

  • 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 helpful.

  • 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.

Warframe Grineer Cipher

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

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 include:

  • 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.

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