By Alexander Leach
Warframe recently released a major update, which consists of graphical upgrades, system rebalances (namely, making all the Warframe abilities innate rather than tied to mods, and replacing all those mods with fusion cores used for upgrade) a new magician-themed Warframe, and an entirely new game mode – the Archwing mode. I love Warframe, but having an entirely new mode, separate from the main ninja-combat gameplay, is a risky proposition.
I’ve wanted to write a post here about Warframe for a long time, about Dark Sectors, the competitive-PVP element. However, considering I continually made myself depressed, and Dark Sectors were quickly abandoned by DE in favour of their far-stronger cooperative multiplayer elements, it just never happened. Perhaps it will, but it seems the mode has been largely pushed aside.
It took some time to actually get the parts together and built – a few missions to collect the parts, 6 hours to build all three, then a day and a half to build. After that, and playing the first Archwing model to near-max level, I think I can say what I think of Archwing.
It’s really quite fun. In fact, it’s great.
The introductory mission, after you’ve taken the few days to build your robotic wings, has you forced to escape a crumbling ship through deep space, amid the wreckage of a Corpus (merchants with robotic proxies) being blasted apart by a giant, lumbering dreadnaught with a single destructive laser, the Balor-class Fomorian (great use of Celtic allusion). Swarms of fighter craft and drones, all utilitarian and ugly as the Grineer who champion it. Hiding behind wreckage is critical as you make your way along, destroying energy nets and squadrons along the way.
The Archwing controls rather well – the Shift key, used to dash in the main game, allows you to boost along at high speed. Spacebar moves you straight up, Control down (and allows for a devastating ‘air slide when boosting). While I tend to bounce off asteroids a lot, you can fly with precise controls. Even in space, ‘up’ and ‘down’ are fixed, presumably to prevent disorientation. I’m happy with this – I loved X-wing as a child, but the level geography and large spaces would get confusing quickly with a free perspective.
Combat relies on a ranged weapon, and a melee one. I’ve only used the defaults, as the only other options in the game (another Archwing more suited to demolition and a gun and melee weapon) require you to run missions to acquire parts. Of the two, the default Imperator minigun is the weaker option – it doesn’t do much damage early on, until you put some mods into the weapon. The Veritux Sword, on the otherhand, is vastly superior – the Archwing dashes into sword-slashing range, cartwheeling in the air and staggering ships with every blow, and does far more damage in a shorter amount of time. A series of sword-strokes that destroy enemies in one hit allows you to bounce back and forth within a squad, tearing them apart.
The actual mechanics of combat are well-thought-out, and I appreciated that in Warframe, where new systems are works-in-progress and sometimes problematic at launch. The guns are ‘hitscan’ (instantly strike a target in their bullet trajectory with no travel time), an absolute requirement given the distance and sizes of enemies present.
Personally, I found myself using the melee over the gun until nearly max-level. The default Archwing, the Odonata, has a mix of defensive and offensive powers, but the most useful of them with the shockwave pulse ability that repels and and heavily damages all enemies around you. This is better suited for use with melee, as you can quickly close the distance with your standard attack, and let loose from within. It’s a lot of fun to do, in such a wide area.
The two map types present so far are the asteroid field, a wide-open area with little solid structures, and the outside of a Corpus ship you can flying around within, zipping through trenches and chopping up enemies. The maps are detailed, and require different tactics, particularly the care needed in the more-clausterphobic ship interiors.
Archwing plays like the the traditional Warframe, only with full mobility, and presents the same style of one-against-all action you’d expect. Its state as a separate mode (only the default mission allows you to play both running and flying) does present some modding concerns, as only select Warframe mods carry over (health,shield,armour,energy modifiers), leaving the rest of your loadout useless. Archwing mods only drop in Archwing missions, and tend to be easy to miss given the large areas and frantic speed, though it’s easy enough to see them and fly over them. The mods themselves are critical, but become somewhat hard to farm and use due to the slow levelling of the Archwing itself, especially compared to the weapons. There’s a period early on when you die quite a bit, especially in the Interception missions, where the difficultly steadily increases.
Missions tend to be low XP except for Interception, which requires running the same missions over and over again, meaning it takes some time and effort to get up to the two high-level ones. There are currently only single missions per planet, and only for over half of them (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). Levelling can get repetitive as you run the same missions again until you’re high enough to move to the next one, and since repetition is a part of Warframe in general, it becomes a much larger concern.
None of these missions transition between a standard Warframe mission and an Archwing one. There’s no reason to take certain frames along on Archwing, as long the most health/shield-oriented ones truly benefit you. Personally, I would like to see more ‘hybrid’ missions available, as they encourage careful thought for builds.
Archwing’s are currently a limited part of the game, to test them – a test they’ve succeeded quite well at. I love the freedom and the speed of slashing through an army of ships, and flying through a multi-mile capital ship to blow out its towering power core. However, it needs to be expanded upon and better integrated into the main game over the course of future content. They’re not a new variation of an existing thing, like Kubrow – this is an entirely new game mode, one that adds a new level of variety to the game.
I feel we can expect to get Archwing bosses in later events, and possibly Archwing Orokin “keys” where we can get rare items and more money. Personally, I’d like to see a greater integration – levels that allow you to transition between Archwing and standard mode, and even affect one or the other (flying by a ship’s windows and shooting into a hallway to kill the soldiers inside, destroying hallways to cut off defense reinforcements for enemies, taking out anti-Archwing defenses inside a ship, etc.). This mode needs to be connected to the core game, and needs to have a far greater showing to make full use of its enjoyable gameplay.
I’ll keep watch on it.