Fortunately, the crafting system is really the only piece of the game where real world money comes into play. You can succeed quite well in Warframe with your starting equipment thanks to the mod system. As I mentioned before, enemies will drop mods in addition to materials, and these mods can be applied to everything to help boost their effectiveness. Some mods will increase the amount of bullets in your gun’s magazine, while others will turn your bullets into incendiary rounds that set your foes ablaze. Yet another mod will give your Warframe more health or shields, or grant special abilities to your sentinel - a little robot friend that can help you out after you, of course, craft one for yourself. Even a Warframe’s special abilities are mods. There is a catch, though. Each mod has a number on it and an arrow going up or down. A down arrow and a number means it takes away that many mod points from your equipment, while an up arrow (which is rare) adds that many mod points. Mod points are acquired by levelling up your gear, which is done by basically using it. So while you’re grinding away for materials to craft a new weapon, you’re also earning “affinity” for the current one you’re using and increasing its mod points. It’s worth noting that if you change your Warframe, any levels you’ve gained with a weapon remain, but you will have to gain levels with your Warframe all over again. If you change weapons, then you’ll have to gain new affinity with that weapon.
The words “free-to-play” have, for me, always invoked images of a game that is perfectly playable up until a certain point, and then becomes an atrocious slog through a never ending grind of samey enemies and levels unless you’re willing to pay to put an end to it. It’s an idea that seems counter-intuitive to gaming. You pay to have fun and escape into the game. You shouldn’t have to pay to escape FROM the game itself. Warframe took me by surprise. There’s a lot of depth in its mechanics (even if they can be a tedious grind) and engaging gameplay, and the ability to feel like a badass space ninja is never a bad thing. Yes, that grinding element is reminiscent of some of the worst parts of MMORPGs, but it also encourages more of the pay to have fun behavior than paying to escape from monotony.