Warframe is a free-to-play action role-playing third-person shooter multiplayer online game developed and published by Digital Extremes. Released for Windows personal computers in March 2013, it was ported to the PlayStation 4 in November 2013, the Xbox One in September 2014, the Nintendo Switch in November 2018, the PlayStation 5 in November 2020 and the Xbox Series X/S in April 2021. The game is in open beta.

In Warframe, players control members of the Tenno, a race of ancient warriors who have awoken from centuries of suspended animation far into Earth’s future to find themselves at war in the planetary system with different factions. The Tenno use their powered Warframes along with a variety of weapons and abilities to complete missions. While many of the game’s missions use procedurally-generated levels, newer updates have included large open world areas similar to other massively multiplayer online games as well as some story-specific missions with fixed level design. The game includes elements of shooting and melee games, parkour, and role-playing to allow players to advance their Tenno with improved gear. The game includes both player versus environment and player versus player elements. It is supported by microtransactions, which lets players purchase in-game items using real money, but also offers the option to earn them at no cost through grinding.

The concept for Warframe originated in 2000, when Digital Extremes began work on a new game titled Dark Sector. At the time, the company had been successful in supporting other developers and publishers, and wanted to develop their own game in-house. The game suffered several delays and was eventually released in 2008, having used some of the initial framework but far different from the original plan. By 2012, in the wake of the success of free-to-play games, the developers took their earlier Dark Sector ideas and art assets and incorporated them into a new project, their self-published Warframe.

Initially, the growth of Warframe was slow, hindered by moderate critical reviews and low player counts. Since its release, the game has experienced positive growth. The game is one of Digital Extremes’ most successful titles, seeing nearly 50 million players in 2019.

Set in the future, players control members of the Tenno, a race of ancient warriors who have awoken from a century-long cryosleep as they awake again on Earth, with their memories about the Old War lost for the moment. In the Solar system, they find themselves at war with the Grineer, a matriarchal race of militarized and deteriorated human clones built upon metal, blood, and war; the Corpus, a mega-corporation with advanced robotics and laser technology built upon profit; the Infested, disfigured victims of the Technocyte virus; and the Sentients, a race of self-replicating machines made by a long-dead transhuman race known as the Orokin. The Lotus guides the Tenno through difficult situations, as well as gives hints which help the player defeat enemies. To fight back, the Tenno use bio-mechanical suits, the eponymous Warframes, to channel their unique abilities.

All of the factions encountered in the game, including the Tenno, were created by or are splinter groups of the old Orokin Empire, which the Tenno learns was an ancient fallen civilization and former reigning power in the Solar system. Although most of them are long dead by the time of the Tenno’s awakening, their lingering presence can be still be felt throughout the Solar system. Before their fall, the Orokin had attempted to conquer the galaxy and sent out colony ships through the Void, a trans-dimensional space that enabled fast travel between stellar systems. None of these residential ships returned, and those they had loaded with Sentients returns with the Sentients now decided to wipe out the Orokin, leading to the Old War, the creation of the Tenno, and finally, the collapse of the Empire.

In the game’s “The Second Dream” quest which was introduced in December 2015, the player discovers that the Lotus is a Sentient, rebelling against the others to protect the Tenno knowing of their importance. The Lotus’ father, Hunhow, sends a vengeful assassin called the Stalker to Lua (the remains of Earth’s moon), which the Lotus had hidden from normal space, to find its secret. The Lotus dispatches the Tenno there to stop the Stalker, arriving too late as the Stalker unveils the entity that the Lotus had protected: a human child known as the Operator, who is the real Tenno controlling the warframes through the course of the game. The Operator is one of several Orokin children that survived the passage of the Zariman Ten-Zero residential ship through the Void, the adults having all gone mad from its travel. When the ship returned to the Orokin Empire, the children had all been put to sleep for thousands of years, outlasting the fall of the Empire, to be found by the Lotus and becoming the Tenno (Tenno short for the “Ten-zero” of the ship’s name). The power of the Void gave these children the power of Transference to be able to control the Warframes from afar, making them the powerful weapons in battling the ongoing forces in the Solar system. From this point forward, the player can then engage in quests both as the Warframe and the Operator.

Warframe is an online action game that includes elements of shooters, RPG, and stealth games.

The player starts out with a silent pseudo-protagonist in the form of an anthropomorphous biomechanical combat unit called ‘Warframe’ possessing supernatural agility and special abilities, a selection of basic weapons (primary, secondary and melee) and a space ship called ‘Orbiter’. Only later, in the course of the game, the player gains direct control of the ‘Operator’, which is the true Tenno protagonist in physical form (and no longer silent). The Operator is able to physically manifest themselves in the environment by projecting out of the Warframe, and disappear by resuming control of it (a process called ‘Transference’), and possesses abilities of its own. Subsequent to that, the Operator is able to Transfer into a larger, purely mechanical combat unit called ‘Necramech’, which is the technological precursor to Warframes. Players can engage in space-bound combat using an auxiliary combat platform called ‘Archwing’, mounted on a Warframe, which comes with a new set of abilities. Necramechs and Archwings (in space combat) don’t use Warframe weapons, but heavy ranged weapons called ‘Archguns’. However, the player can make an Archgun wieldable even by Warframes. Late in 2019, an update named Empyrean was introduced to the game letting players pilot and manage a distinct space ship called ‘Railjack’, which is a combat vessel unlike the Orbiter. This was designed as a co-op experience with up to four people working together, doing different jobs to keep the ship operational while destroying enemy ships. A Railjack-focused update is planned for mid-2021, including expanded content and a new skill tree aimed at making solo play more accessible.

Through the Orbiter’s console, the player can select any of the available missions to them. The main set of missions requires players to complete certain missions across planets and moons in the solar system, to be able to access junctions that they can progress to other planets or locations, and complete storyline quests. Other missions rotate over time as part of the game’s living universe; these can include missions with special rewards and community challenges to allow all players to reap benefits if they are successfully met. Aboard the ship, the player can also manage all other functions for their Tenno, including managing their arsenal of equipment, customizing their Warframe and weapons, crafting new equipment, and access the in-game store. Missions can be played alone or with up to four players in a player versus environment cooperative manner. Each mission is given a ranking that indicates how difficult the mission is. Missions are generally played on randomly generated maps composed of “tiles” of map sections. Missions have various objectives, such as defeating a certain number of enemies (Exterminate), collecting data from terminals without activating alarms (Spy/stealth), rescuing prisoners (Rescue), or defending points on the map for set periods of time (defend). Later updates have added three large open-field environments where numerous bounties can be completed.

Players can use their weapons, special abilities, and a number of parkour style moves to navigate through and overpower forces within the mission. Downed players may choose to revive themselves up to a maximum of four times, or can be revived by other players an infinite number of times. Once complete, players are rewarded with in-game items, as well as in-game currency and items picked up while exploring the map; failure to complete a mission causes these rewards to be lost. In addition to cooperative missions, the game includes player versus player (PvP) content through the multiplayer “Conclave”, which also rewards the player for placing high in such matches.

Players and their equipment also gain experience and level up from missions; equipment with higher levels support more ‘Mods’, abstracted upgrades (presented as cards in the game’s UI) that can be slotted into the equipment to change its attributes or provide passive or negative bonuses and abilities. Mods are dropped by enemies during missions and may be part of the rewards, and are generally given out following a rarity distribution, with more powerful mods being more elusive to acquire. The most advanced weapon mods called ‘Rivens’ have randomized stats, based on a prefix/suffix system characteristic of ARPGs. Alongside mods, players have other means of improving their equipment, including conditional upgrades called Arcane Enhancements and, in some cases, fusing an item with another of its kind to get a superior version. Another type of reward is equipment blueprints, which can be used to construct new Warframe parts or weapons; blueprints and their resulting equipment may also be purchased directly using in-game money called Platinum, a premium currency that can be traded for with other players for rare items in-game, or be purchased via microtransactions. Players need to have specific quantities of construction materials (found from missions and their rewards) to build these items.

Warframe is designed to be free-to-play, and has avoided using pay to win elements; all Warframes, weapons, and other non-cosmetic equipment can be acquired in-game over time through normal gameplay, which may involve grinding. Spending the in-game currency can simplify and quicken the process. New weapons, Warframes, equipment, blueprints to construct such equipment and cosmetics like skins and capes (called ‘Syandanas’) can be purchased in the market, using either Credits, which are earned in-game, or Platinum. Some cosmetic items can only be obtained through in-game payments. However, some indirect upgrades can only be bought with platinum, such as arsenal slots for Warframes, weapons, and certain other equipment.