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Soulframe Hands-Off Preview: Dark Souls Meet Warframe

Here are our early impressions of Soulframe, the new f2p MMO-lite from the developers of Warframe.
Soulframe Hands-Off Preview: Dark Souls Meet Warframe
Digital Extremes

Soulframe, the new free-to-play MMO-lite from Digital Extremes, feels like an amalgamation of FromSoftware's SoulsBorne titles and the studio's looter-shooter Warframe. That was my initial impression after an early look at a few minutes of its gameplay ahead of TennoCon 2023. 

Over the years, the Soulslike subgenre of games has skyrocketed with groundbreaking titles like Nioh 2 and Dead Cells. However, there have not been any Souls-like MMOs with a similarly intense atmosphere and complex gameplay mechanics. 

I would be lying if I said I haven't thought of an Elden Ring-style game that continuously gets updates like Destiny 2 or Warframe, and so far, Soulframe looks to be just that. I'm cautiously optimistic when I say it's not just Warframe in a fantasy setting. There are a bunch of cool ideas here combined with subtle improvements from Warframe, and I'm very curious to see how it all comes together in the final product. 

Soulframe is "Slow and Pensive"


The Soulframe demo kicks off in the same forest area with lots of yellow and brown, as seen in the game's reveal trailer and the gameplay footage from early this year. The overall visuals still look like from early development, but the main character's armor seems pretty intricately designed. I'm not surprised, especially since armor and cosmetics could be what gets monetized.

One thing that immediately struck me about this game is the voice work of NPCs, which is significantly better than Warframe, at least from the base campaign and the earlier expansions. I recently went back and created a new character, only to be put off by Vor's dialogues in the opening moments. It feels underwhelming compared to other modern f2p titles like Genshin Impact. 

Thankfully, Soulframe seems better in this regard. The first NPC you meet in the demo sounds way better than anything I could recall from Warframe. It's a step in the right direction.


Another thing that piqued my interest was the game's clutter-free HUD and the UI. Warframe has a relatively clean HUD, so it wasn't completely surprising. However, the UI immediately reminded me of Oblivion. You may be thinking, what a strange comparison. Well, there's more than one reason for that. It's the color palette, the font, the way you manage your inventory and skills, all of it screams Oblivion to me. Any game that reminds me of Oblivion is a good game in my opinion. 

Speaking of Oblivion, there seems to be a lot of flexibility in Soulframe's gameplay. You can select Virtues, which are skills that favor different playstyles. For instance, the Courage Virtue is for melee and fighter build, whereas Spirit is for Magic and Grace is for Stealth. 

In addition to Virtues, there are also Classes that further separate Soulframe from Warframe. You pick a starting class. For example, the character in the gameplay presentation used something called 'Fey.' You can also select a different class later, but it's not clear how that would work. I'm also curious to know if there will be a dual-class system or not. 

Soulframe features a slower-paced, more methodical gameplay compared to Warframe's fast-frantic shoot-slay style approach. There's a parry system much like Dark Souls. You can also kick enemies to break their guard and roll out of harm's way when necessary. The attacks land slowly, but you will find fewer enemies at a time on screen when compared to Warframe, where it's always crowded and chaotic. Although, I should add that the combat feels a bit clunky in this footage. 


Soulframe is still pretty early in development, so things could change and improve in the final product, but I think it's important to point out that I didn't walk away impressed seeing the combat in action as much as I was impressed by the combat systems. I did like the option to throw weapons at enemies, and it made me wonder if there will be more creative ways to slay enemies in this game. 

Soulframe also features something called the "Souls System" that could enhance the attribute associated with your preferred playstyle. It consists of things like Archery, Blades, Arcane, and Athletics. It's not clear how the Souls System works, but it seems like using Swords could improve your Blades and maybe unlock new perks or passive bonuses to use in the Souls System. It's all speculation on my behalf, but the Souls System could flesh out the overall gameplay.  

Another SoulsBorne-inspired feature in Soulframe is the camp system. It's not necessarily common to this genre, as plenty of live service games have similar systems in place. In Soulsframe, your camp is called the Silver Sea. It's a place that will continuously evolve as you meet more characters out in the world. I don't know the scope of the Silver Sea, but I do know that you can interact with NPCs and change your gear there. 


With all the systems and mechanics in place, you could be wondering how the overall story and gameplay loop works. Soulframe is, after all, a f2p live-service game like Warframe.

Interestingly, the storytelling and character interactions will work similarly to Warframe. You could expect new story missions and activities with each new expansion. Do note that Soulframe features a seamless open world, unlike the hub-based world of Warframe. This should also influence the mission structures and other in-game activities. 

Speaking of activities, Dungeons will be part of Soulframe. These will be procedurally generated, so expect to explore plenty of similar-looking areas for loot. There will also be a replayable activity called "Wandering Souls." It shouldn't be surprising if there are more replayable activities in the game since f2p games require you to farm them for resources.

So far, I'm intrigued by everything Soulframe has to offer. It has piqued my interest with its combat systems, its Oblivion-style UI, and the overarching Soulslike vibe. While I'm not entirely sold on the flow of the combat, Digital Extremes has proved it can be trusted to make high-quality and fun f2p video games, and everything I have seen so far of Soulframe suggests it's in the right hands.