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So. The Vaykor Hek.

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Vay Hek has been a thing for… a bit more than a week now, I think? I’m a huge fan of original-flavour Hek, so this one has been on my list for, oh, a little over a week. Now.

This is a syndicate version of a weapon that already had a syndicate mod. A really good syndicate mod. A syndicate mod that made Hek the only practical shottie before the recent shotgun rework, and which elevated it to the king and eternal overlord spot on a lot of people’s rosters once the buff had been accomplished. And a mod that’s getting a lot of flak for apparently instigating a crisis of faith in the multishot system.

Pictured: subjugation

Pictured: subjugation

See, multishot basically doubles your damage. Your total damage. Most mods only operate on the base damage*, or the damage modified by said base damage mods**. Multishot magics new bullets into existence, and each new round has the full plethora of mods applied. The mods are expensive points-wise, but once you have one or two pure damage mods applied, multishot is easily the biggest point-for-point damage increase in the game.

Vaykor Hek, naturally, can’t use its non-syndicate sibling’s syndicate mod. This lead to calls of uselessness, which has coincided with the dev team taking a good hard look at multishot’s mechanics. Which is generally accepted as “we’re gonna nerf this so hard you’ll never see 60 minutes in T4S again“.

Despite the reaction, the Vaykor isn’t without its selling points. For one thing, it’s the first shotgun in a very long time with a semi-decent crit chance, which means it gives one the opportunity to haul out the previously useless Primed Ravage, if you’re into ranking expensive mods that are only useful on a single weapon. This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but critical hits actually have a similar total-damage-increase effect to multishot, making them less reliable but equally – or even more – devastating on a weapon that can effectively build for crit. This means that while the Vaykor may not hit as hard on every shot, on average it’ll match its little cousin, and its crits will hit much, much harder.

Vaykor also gets the syndicate radial blast effect without giving up a mod slot. Okay, so calling a straight 200% damage increase for a mere 7 points giving up a slot is a little of a stretch, but that also means you have space to slot more goodies, and you’ll have the syndicate proc from the start while levelling. For someone like me who likes making bars go up, that’s a fair deal. Not that you’ll need to spend as much time on Forma as with the standard Hek, since Vaykor comes with a bushel of free polarities. That’s three forma you won’t have to spend. Okay, two if you’re not as big a fan of the D as DE obviously are. Hur hur.

The Vaykor also has a faster fire rate and twice the ammo capacity. You want the old, pre-broken-reload Strun Wraith back? Yeah, V.Hek has basically the same feel, but with crit instead of status and damage instead of lightning reload. It even seems to have more of a chokk feel to its sound than the almighty thoom of the original.

Now, that’s a pretty big list. You might expect people to look at it and be somewhat impressed. If so, then you’d never have encountered the Warframe fanbase.

Immediate reaction to New Hek’s release was… yeah. Effectively a riot. Insistence that it did less damage, that it was a missed opportunity, that it required the expensive Primed Ravage. Even when theorycrafters proved that its sustained damage beat the Hek, the burst offered by Scattered Justice offered a fallback position for those determined to hold on to their outrage.

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This has had one pleasant side-effect: Vaykor Hek is dirt cheap compared to the other syndicate primaries. Whether because of the forum explosion or the fact that a lot of folks side with Steel Meridian as the obvious Good Guys™, you can pick up a V.Hek in trade for a third of the price of the Sancti Tigris at the moment. And that’s a great thing, because this gun kicks ass.

An 8-round magazine gives you the ability to take on great heaping crowds of enemies, and Warframe is all about the seething mobs. The handling difference is evolutionary. This is a Hek that you can be a little reckless with, because the follow-up is that little bit faster and you’ve got the ammo to spare. Yet it’s still capable of one-shotting anything on the map and most things in the Void.

Some folks are worried that spending time and forma on anything right now is going to be a waste, that the impending Doom of Multishot means they’re going to be left with a useless lump of pig iron. I say: Forma this. Rank it. Enjoy it, and savour the delicious fluids spilled forth by your enemies.

This gun is worth it, even here at the end of the world.

 

  • * Serration, Point Blank, Hornet Strike, Pressure Point – those mods that the wiki insists you put on before anything else. This is for a reason.
  • ** Elemental mods, I/P/S mods – basically anything that says +damage but isn’t in the above list.

valkboring

This is Valkyr. She…

Wait.

No.

This is Valkyr.

BLOOD AND DEATH

BLOOD AND DEATH

She was, as I’ve mentioned, one of the first frames that I built, and for a very long time she sat unloved and underappreciated at the bottom of my inventory.

In terms of playstyle and abilities, she reads like Joss Whedon’s wet dreams. Originally a different design, the original Valkyr was captured by a society of scientists who literally worship profit. She was experimented upon – hence the restraints and semi-exposed internals of her frame – and, when she was freed, came out of it with a bloodthirst second to none and the melee skills to tear apart enemies much larger than her slight, if athletic, build.

Tell me that somewhere Whedon didn’t just feel a tingle in his special place.

There’s been some discussion over whether professional genital-stabbing* was the “original” River Tam Valkyr’s skillset as well, or if the experience twisted her sufficiently to alter her void imprint and thus her powerset. It’s the sort of lively debate that can never really be settled and will flare up forever through the community, so naturally the developers have no pressing desire to answer either way. At least it keeps the little bastards from crying for more buffs, right?

The thing about Valkyr, though, is that she’s fairly mod-heavy if you want to squeeze the best out of her. Here’s my build – it’s not perfect, but it works pretty well.

It's distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

It’s distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

I go with Armored Agility rather than fan favourite Steel Fiber, because while the extra armour is nice to have, more speed on a melee fighter is its own reward. She’s also the only character that I build without a shred of power efficiency, despite the abominably high cost of Warcry. Rage feeds back energy whenever anything’s dangerous enough to do significant damage, and that energy fuels Hysteria, which gives healing along with its plethora of other effects. Warcry’s aforementioned cost becomes moot with a little added duration and Eternal War. I do wish that the added duration came in the form of Primed Continuity, but I wasn’t around for that one, so Narrow Minded is the order of the day and my group (if any) can take their chances at being in my initial Warcry radius.

The biggest thing on there, though, is power. Not quite all of the power, because Transient Fortitude has, shamefully, yet to be fully ranked, and that Blind Rage really should be rank 6, but I have to fit these mods on other frames as well and re-formas go slow when you rank up all over the starchart instead of leeching on Draco.

Anyway… power turns Warcry into the difference between a turbocharger and a JATO rocket. With a Berserker build melee weapon, you’ll be slotting Spoiled Strike just to get the speed down to where you’re capable of clicking fast enough. It is glorious. Hysteria can compete with a flying Scindo, of course… but only just. Cleaving Whirlwind is particularly rewarding, because the spin2win combo hits really easily at high speed and the stagger when you screw up and spin too far is hilarious. Oh, also damage or something. Probably important to someone.

I don’t see very many Valkyrs out there. Might have something to do with how they’re supposedly not very good at endgame – defined nebulously as Defense wave 40 or 60 minutes in Survival – but my theory is that, like me, a lot of people built this slightly odd-looking**, mechanically unusual, mod-heavy “edgy” frame, then discarded it as unsupportable. Turns out that going back with a fresh eye, a better idea of the game’s synergies and a whole pile of rares makes her a completely different animal.

 

  • * Link is work-safe, I swear
  • ** This is the only frame on which I use a purely cosmetic helm, because her default helm is an atrocity. And I use Kara rather than Bastet, because ew, you got your catgirls in my techno-organic sci-fi dystopia.
Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Sometime before the most recent Great Disappearance, I tried getting into Warframe for a bit again. That… didn’t really work out, and I quit. Again. But since a couple of months back, I’ve resumed playing.

Again.

Or perhaps Once More, if you’re as bothered by the overuse of the term as I am.

Anyway, yeah. My biggest barrier to jumping back in last time was the fact that a lot of the cool new stuff was locked away in Clan research. That was resolved by the developers spending some time adding gear to the market instead. Sure, there were still some new shinies in the Dojo, and my beloved* sword and shield were locked in the Tenno Research terminal, but at least there was some stuff that I could invest in to get started.

Also helped that, on the second day of logging in, I got my first ever 75% discount offer. Totally not a transparent attempt to encourage investment, but hey, it worked. That plat got sunk straight into a new frame because I didn’t feel like kicking off with a grind, and what a grind I did bypass… by buying Mesa.

To be honest, I bought her because she looked cool and her theme was “gunslinger”, and at first I thought she was a bit mediocre because I didn’t know how Peacemaker worked. Bear in mind that at this point I was still avoiding the forums – step 1 in any plan for maintaining satisfaction with a game.

Also to avoid things like this when... questioning the wisdom of the game's creators

Also to avoid things like this when… questioning the wisdom of the game’s creators

So yeah, it turned out that I’d bought the current faceroll frame of killing everything, bypassing a grind that’s kept people farming her parts for some months now, depending on their fortune**. And of course I was Doing It Wrong. She’s actually some sort of super-godmode priestess of death, praying for war and decimating the enemy before her party members can have any fun with righteous fury.

What I’m saying is, she’s pretty fun to play – less so in her aspect as a turret of instant aimbot death, but equally capable as a self-buffing nigh-invincible mobile destroyer.

That got me involved, and sort-of solved the other issue I had – how to get at those shiny weapons without being a free-riding leech. The clan that I’m with at the moment has most of it’s research done, but I’ve been quietly contributing to clan decorations and new research so as not to feel like a leech.

It’s the new research that has me worried, though. We’ve just come off one item for a niche playstyle that required pretty heavy resource investment, and now the clan is faced with another utterly ludicrous resource grind for the same niche. Usually donations don’t take all that long, but for this one, well…

Clan chat has gone quiet. I’m not sure if people are waiting for a nerf on the resource price, or just waiting it out, and maybe I’m projecting, but that big Tellurium sink in the Dojo just feels like it’s making people guilty. That’s killing the social aspect of the clan, and it is piss-poor design – especially as it seems to be a punitive measure to counter some exploit that a few people used to get large amounts of resources. Most players didn’t know about the exploit until it was patched, and fewer still used it, yet DE is comfortable punishing the entire playerbase with this bullshit? Yeah, seems fucking sensible to me.

Apart from DE’s slow drift out of touch with their playerbase, though, it’s still pretty fun. And there are compensations to be found when running out of bars to fill as well. I’ve rediscovered Valkyr, and my beloved Excalibur has been turned from a fairly solid frame into a water-walking, feed-the-masses, table-flipping avatar of the divine.

Here's to magic ninjas in space

Life’s pretty good out among the stars

I’d say I’ll talk more about those later, but let’s be honest – Odin alone knows when the next update will be.

 

  • * Beloved until I discovered that the stats are absolute ass, at least…
  • ** The RNG on Mesa’s parts is three layers deep – and that’s after completing the quest that even gets you the blueprint to make the boss key. Good luck, have fun.

 

A previous edition of Attention Deficit Gaming established that the new interface for Warframe was pretty awesome, everything looked good, and running and gunning against comically outmatched opponents was still hilarious. And thus it was that I resolved to play for a while longer. How’d that work out? Not really as well as expected.

See, one of Warframe’s selling points for one such as myself is the crafting and levelling of a myriad of strange and fantastical weapons. And also a bunch of very generic ones, which tend to be fairly reliable and effective. New toys are released on a very nearly weekly basis, so there’s always bars that need to go up. But here’s the thing; while I’ve been away, a bushel of shiny new items have been released. That’s good. Predictably enough, I’ve also been booted from my clan due to inactivity. That’s bad. Very bad.

See, with the exception of a couple of sidearms and a poisoned dagger, all of the new releases are locked up in the clan tech tree. Not a bad thing, if you’re playing regularly; not a bad thing if you’re working toward them as a newbie. On the other hand, this arrangement is an atrocity to a returning player. What this means is finding a group of players that will let the returning player copy their hard-earned blueprints while occupying one of their limited clan slots.

Excalibur can't believe this shit either.

Just offscreen: a flipped table, spinning end-over-end into the infinite void of space

If leeching off the work of the players who’ve spent the time and mats on unlocking sounds like scumbag behaviour, congratulations on possession of an only mildly tarnished soul. Sure, it’d be possible to set up a personal clan, farm up the mats and unlock the weapons that way – if one felt like spending months doing so. This is not the sort of goal in which one heartily engages when casually playing while evaluating a possible return, and it seems a poor design to encourage the thought.

The choice then is rather bald-faced: take advantage of others, grind for months or spend real cash. Unfortunately, weapons are a poor value prospect; the same enormous variety means that the inordinately high price of items in the cash shop looks like a bit of a joke. Naturally, this is intentional; it encourages running content to acquire shiny rewards rather than buying one’s way to boredom. So, then, there’s the implicit fourth option: quit once again. Find something else and play that instead. There’s no lack of ‘else’ on my desktop, and so for now Warframe takes its place back in Limbo once more. Which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to trying out that flame-blade and shield combo they’d just introduced.

Lights out.

Lights out.

So, what to do when, after quitting WoW, one realises that most single-player games are bug-ridden piles of dreck? Why, start playing a new MMO, of course!

Small because for some reason my connection's giving me hell with uploads. QQ.

Small because for some reason my connection’s giving me hell with uploads. QQ.

Weeelll… MMO might actually be stretching it a bit at this point. Face-to-face player interaction is pretty much limited to missions and clan halls.

The game is, at its core, a competent and rather pretty third-person shooter. It adds a few gimmicks like wallrunning and there’s a melee combat system that the devs promise will be getting some polish Any Day Now™. The main divergence is in the classes.

By now it’s pretty much no secret that I’m a raging altoholic. That means when I want to play a game, I want something where I can fire up a different character and have it play like nothing else in the game does. Warframe mixes up the shooter base with unique abilities based on the player’s titular Warframe – that being some sort of bizarre and usually slightly creepy bio-tech combat suit.

Each ‘frame has its own advantages and disadvantages. The starters are Excalibur, a sort of swordsman-type frame with a powerful AoE blind; Mag, a caster-type with magnetic abilities; and Loki, who really has little business being offered to new players, as he’s an advanced tactical stealth frame who really comes into his own once the player has acquired a few mods and knows their way around the game.

Mods? Mods. Mods are basically cards that slot into your frame and various weapons to give bonuses or abilities. All equipment levels up, from frame to melee weapon, but only the frame gains stats as it levels, and ten only at an incremental rate. The real strength unlocked by levelling is that it allows a larger budget for mods on an item. Mods also gain levels from fusing with other mods, and higher levels cost more points. This means that, while levelling, one can either equip a few levelled-up mods, or can diversify and equip several different bonuses.

There’s a polarity-matching system et cetera that’s a bit tedious to explain, but the net effect is that one has a surprising amount of leeway in build.

When starting out, one picks a starter from the three frames above. Other frames with different abilities can be crafted after gathering their parts from the relevant bosses and building them based on a blueprint from the Market. The player doesn’t have different characters for each class; instead everything is shared, and the player merely equips a different frame for the alt experience.

All of this is great. I’m glossing over a lot of depth here for the sake of an overview, but trust me, it’s there. But the frame collection system leads to the inevitable monkey under the rug: this game is free to play. Dun dun dunnn!

Penny Arcade approaches Warframe with their usual tact and nuance. Frames pictured: Excalibur and god alone knows what that other thing is.

Penny Arcade approaches Warframe with their usual tact and nuance. Frames pictured: Excalibur and god alone knows what that other thing is.

As with most F2P games, you can if you like buy most of the weapons and frames available, along with a host of cosmetic contrivances. The difference is that most F2P games don’t make absolutely everything that impacts gameplay available ingame. All platinum buys you is time… with one stark exception. Inventory space reserved for frames and weapons is severely limited, and extra slots can only be bought with plat.

One does get a starting allowance sufficient to buy a few slots, and the slots certainly aren’t expensive, and moreover there’s a thriving ingame economy based around trading Void mission keys and mods for plat, so a player determined not to spend a cent can quite conceivably attain everything in the game. My personal philosophy is that if I’m enjoying the fruits of the developers’ labour, and – importantly – it doesn’t feel mandatory, it’s fair and right to pay for the privilege.

That point about mandatory spending is crucial. I understand that developers produce these products as a business venture, and that at the end of the day it must make money. Too many games thrust this crass commercialism into one’s face, though, with gating of content and grinding for anything worthwhile. What makes Warframe for me is that I don’t feel any of that pressure to ‘donate’, and perhaps perversely, that ensures that I have already made a small purchase and will doubtless make more in the future.

This is more or less what you'll be looking at most of the time, barring maybe all the darkness. Not my screenshot, since apparently I suck at snapping pics while anything interesting is going on.

This is more or less what you’ll be looking at most of the time, barring maybe all the darkness. Not my screenshot, since apparently I suck at snapping pics while anything interesting is going on.

Well, that might be a bit strong. What really makes Warframe for me is the setting. It’s popularly described as being about ‘space ninjas’, which conjures up nineties-era cartoon images. Personally I feel the experience is more like playing a highly agile space commando slash superhero. Reawakening thousands of years after a war which the Warframes – or rather the Tenno – supposedly won, but which left the solar system largely uninhabitable, the player winds their way through the planets and moons now occupied by distinctly posthuman factions. Not a lot is known about the war or those who fought it, since the Tenno apparently can’t remember and those who created them are all dead.

There’s a fair bit of very suggestive backstory, but not a lot of definitive lore. Players can explore the infested derelict ships left behind by those who made the Tenno, and can travel to the Void using special keys to take on the better-preserved structures left behind. What exactly the Tenno are is still a mystery, except that they were cast into the selfsame void as a drastic measure and came back afflicted yet powerful, and were bound to the Warframes as living weapons.

Perhaps this sounds a bit cheesy, but to me it echoes the maxim “Endure. In enduring grow strong.” That’s a pretty good trope to use as a hook, and I’m very interested to see where the story team takes this game.

As far as gameplay goes, some of the early-game is a bit rough – Earth in particular is a massive jump in difficulty compared to the two preceding planets – but it’s being ironed out with some feedback from the community. Despite being a release title for the PS4, officially the game appears to still be in extended Beta, and changes come thick and fast. Some mechanics are a bit rough around the edges, and  there are balance issues between frames and weapons, but overall that doesn’t prevent the game from being fast-paced, frenetic fun in nice manageable segments of 5-20 minutes.

Expect to hear more about it here in coming weeks.