Your frames and weapons in Warframe each come with a preset range of stats and abilities, so choosing a combination of those is what mostly defines your ‘build’.
However your build’s true power vastly depends on what mods you use.
If this looks like a lot of choice, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. At the time of this writing there are reportedly over a thousand different mods in the game.
What you see here is the mod-section of my level 27 Excalibur frame. The two bottom rows show all frame-specific mods I currently have at my disposal, the area above is where you slot your mods of choice into. Every piece of equipment has eight regular mod slots, some additionally have one or two for special mods. Frames, for example, have one slot for an Aura mod – I’m using Sprint Boost here – which benefit your whole squad and also increase your frame’s mod capacity.
This capacity, seen in the upper left corner of the mod-screen, is basically a measure of how much mod-power the respective piece of gear can accomodate. The more powerful a mod is the more capacity it needs, so in the beginning you have to choose between filling all your slots with very weak mods, or only using a select few better mods and consequently leaving some slots unused.
No mod is very powerful by default though because they all start at rank 1. To level them up you need to pay ever increasing amounts of credits and a resource named Endo. Since you can’t use the same mod twice stacking multiple low-rank copies of your favourite isn’t an option, so if you want to get stronger there’s no way around ranking them up. A mod’s current and maximum rank are indicated by the little dots at the bottom.
As if all this wasn’t complex enough every mod also has a ‘polarity’, shown in its top right corner. The number tells you how much capacity the mod needs, the symbol shows its polarity. Most pieces of gear have one or more slots that also have a polarity symbol. If you slot a mod with the corresponding polarity into it only half of its base capacity (rounded up) is used. Conversely, if you slot a wrong polarity into such a slot the mod’s capacity use doubles.
My personal favourite are damage type mods.
If you upgrade a weapon with only one of these the effect is pretty straightforward. The weapon deals additional damage of the corresponding type.
If you combine them, though, what you get isn’t a bit of X damage and a bit of Y damage. Instead both bonuses add up and result in a whole new damage type. Heat and cold combined, for example, result in ‘blast’ damage.
Thankfully a community member has made a handy chart:
As you can see each damage type has some kind of special effect, so this isn’t just fluff but has actual, potentially huge impact on gameplay.
All the more so as each enemy species has resistances and weaknesses to certain damage types.
Fortunately mods aren’t locked into a piece of gear once you’ve installed them. You can swap them around as often as you like and even use the same mod for every applicable weapon or frame. So adjusting your build for a particularly hard mission is very much possible – and, I assume, at the later stages of the game pretty much mandatory.
Whichever game I play, I’m usually very reluctant to fiddle around with my gear ahead of each mission because, well, I’m lazy. This system is a lot of fun though. When there’s more to it than just numbers going up it’s much more worth the effort in my opinion. I’ve already seen heat damage burn enemies to crisp and cold damage freeze them; I look forward to seeing the other damage types in action.
I’ve not even talked about mod rarities, mod sets, mods with random effects and various other bits yet, but since I’m still only scratching the surface myself I can’t speak from experience about those.
Anyhow, I like this system a lot and can’t wait to see what kind of mods I’ll discover next.