After its initial launch on Windows in 2013, it took some time for Warframe to gain momentum and a following. The idea of an online, massive squad-based shooter with RPG elements that spanned the entire galaxy wasn’t that far fetched, but a free-to-play game with the same characteristics seemed like a fantasy. Fast forward to 2019 and Warframe has become a full blown smash. Micro transaction profits are at an all time high, and the game has received multiple updates that keep veterans coming back time and time again.
Now Panic Button, the team behind the incredible Switch ports of Doom and Wolfenstein 2, have taken up the massive task of porting this online-only, squad based shooter RPG to a hybrid console with considerably less power than its competitors. Can Panic Button maintain the magic and go 3-for-3 on a seemingly impossible Switch port?
A Visual Milestone
Everyone that played Wolfenstein 2 on the Switch knew within the first few minutes of playtime that these were the most realistic graphics to be found on the Switch, and Panic Button SOMEHOW manages to go beyond that feat with Warframe. Wizardry, I tell you! I spent a considerable amount of time with Warframe on the XBox One, so I was well aware of how frantic and frenzied the action and environments of it could become.
With that being said, I was eager to see how my Switch handled the challenge. Sure, there were differences, and most were hardly noticeable, but there were a couple that were hard to ignore. Most predominantly was the issue of “ghosting.” As you and your squad engage multiple enemies, there would be times that an enemy would disappear and reappear within closer proximity. The glitch once even had me thinking that it was possibly an ability that some of the enemies had that I had just forgotten about. However, this never put me at much of a disadvantage.
An old adage states that “If you’re looking for something to complain about you’ll eventually find it.” As my play through progressed, it became obvious to me that nitpicking Warframe by comparing it to its performance on an another console was not only unfair to the incredible work that Panic Button had done, but also to myself. My approach was robbing me of an attempt to enjoy a technical milestone for the Switch.
Defying Genre Labels
Ask any five of your friends that may have played Warframe to attempt to classify it in a genre and you may very well get 5 different answers. The fact of the matter is that the game does an amazing job at tailoring itself to the player’s preferred style. In fact, the very name of the game is what makes the idea become reality. Your “Warframe” is a technologically altered bio suit which allows you to be whatever type of warrior you choose. You could choose a Warframe that focuses your skills on ranged combat and stealth. You could choose one that makes your warrior a sword-wielding slasher with telekinetic powers similar to biotics from the Mass Effect series. Mix and match by choosing a Warframe that makes your character a skilled archer with a bow that can slash his way out of trouble when his back is against the wall.
And here is where the game’s RPG DNA is showcased. Your weapons and suit can level up and unlock more abilities and attributes to even further customize your experience. Unfortunately, it isn’t very easy to navigate through the game’s layers and layers of menus and customization options. I’m sure I missed out on many fine details that could’ve made my Tenno (the name of the warrior race) even more dangerous because I simply couldn’t get a grasp on things due to being overwhelmed by menus and options. Veteran players probably adore this about the game but I could understand how this setup could make it seem inaccessible to some newcomers.
Once you have figured out exactly what type of warrior you’d like to be, you then get to choose how you’d like to progress. Although Warframe is always online, you can certainly go the route of the lone wolf and essentially play it as a single player experience. However, assuming you’re playing on the Switch, you’d be robbing yourself of the most unique Switch Online experience available. Warframe is your only option on the Switch for a squad-based shooter with MMORPG charactistics right now. I can say with confidence that the game maintains its online performance just as well with Switch Online as it did with Xbox Live. Yet again I found that the Switch Pro Controller makes for the most comfortable and ergonomic way to play Warframe.
Not only do you have the power to choose how your character’s weapons and abilities progress, you get to choose how to progress through the game entirely. Objectives are mission-based, and you can choose any of them at any time – assuming you have met the requirements to unlock them. This sounds great on paper, but I personally like the main story to carry weight and importance, and with so many options available almost from the beginning, the story tends to get a bit lost in the fray.
This is honestly a hard game to rate. I could understand how 10 different players could come up with 10 different opinions of Warframe. What IS easy to see is that it’s a game made with every option imaginable for the player to enjoy their experience. Quality is never pushed to the back burner in favor of maintaining visual performance from the other more powerful consoles, and Panic Button should be heralded for this. The feat they’ve pulled off with Doom, Wolfenstein, and now Warframe automatically leads me to think of them when a rumor is mentioned about a Triple A title being ported over to the Switch.
It’s also easy to figure out that this is the best 3rd party online experience available for Switch Online services. This is something the “experts” never thought we could see with the Switch. Warframe offers testament that our favorite console simply doesn’t have as many limitations that it was labeled with at launch. Panic Button has proven that if it can be done mathematically…hard work and determination will take care of the rest. Maybe we can call upon this talented team to lend an ear to the Kingdom Hearts 3 and Witcher 3 rumors?
As for Warframe, it’s a pretty simple choice if you’re a fan of the modern western RPGs in the same category as Mass Effect or Skyrim. The same goes for gamers that enjoy squad based, online combat. I’ll reiterate that Warframe is a FREE download – if you have fear that the game is weighted with micro transactions, let it go. Are they there? Yes, but they never feel necessary in the least bit. Warframe offers an experience on the Switch that you can’t experience with any other game on the console. I would recommend making sure you have an SD card before downloading it because it certainly does absorb a ton of space. I can’t think of any other reason to avoid giving Warframe on the Nintendo Switch a download.
Thanks for reading the review and thanks for visiting SwitchRPG! Let us know if you choose to play Warframe on the Switch and share your thoughts in the comments!