Melee in Warframe is quite simply put, broken.
A half decent melee weapon that can effectively use Condition Overload and Blood Rush can and will outperform most primaries and secondaries.
This extreme disparity between weapons is down to quite a few things. The first being Warframe’s game design:
In a game where speed and efficiency are the dictating factors of a weapon’s worth, firearms just cannot keep up with melee weapons. A few mashes of the ‘E’ button are much faster in clearing away a room than aiming down sights and meticulously taking aim at approaching enemies one by one.
There’s also the pace of the game. The fluidity, speed and freedom of movement offered in Warframe complements a melee play style extensively. Why stop and shoot, when you can just swing your massive whip around as you bullet jump from one room to another.
Then there’s the huge difference between the DPS output of melee and firearms. This comes down to the sheer strength of the mods available for melee weapons.
Condition Overload, Blood Rush and Weeping Wounds are evolutive mods that make up the backbone of all melee setups.
The combo counter mechanic makes 2 of these mods absolutely broken. For reference, at max combo counter of 11x maxed Blood Rush gives 660% additional crit chance. The crit mods for primaries ‘Point Strike’ gives 150% crit chance while the secondary mod ‘Primed pistol gambit’ gives 187% crit chance.
Weeping Wounds does the same for Status Chance, providing an additional 440% at max combo. Firearms on the other hand need more than 5 mods to achieve about 300% additional Status Chance.
This vast difference is one reason melee weapons vastly outclass ranged firearms.
How DE has been consistently toning down melee’s power
Warframe revels in the obscene power it grants its players. With the sheer amount of upgrades and setups available, it truly is a game made for players wanting to min-max their gear.
With a game based on the premise of completely overpowering hordes of enemies at a time, balancing becomes a nightmare.
DE has been very smart in their slowly toning down melee’s power. They’ve managed to drastically cut Maiming Strike’s power without causing riots in the community so that’s fair play to them.
They’ve also slowly reworked melee into a state where the meta does not only consist of whips and other long range weapons. This may seem minor now but there was a time when you’d only see the Atterax, Secura Lecta and Scoliac being run around.
DE absolutely deserves credit for bringing Warframe from the brain dead spin to win meta to a slightly lesser mind numbing, melee spam macro meta.
All sass aside, Warframe is a balancing nightmare as DE have to walk a fine line between having their players live out their power fantasies as well as not reducing the game to a braindead button mash-fest.
It’s a delicate balance, tweaking power levels without causing outrage. Then there’s also the heavy impact on the platinum economy, as reworks, buffs and patches tend to dictate the prices.
Their current aims expressed by DE in Devstream 152 were to bring down the power levels of melee to be somewhat comparable to firearms. They have said that they’ll be aiming to remove some of the inbuilt staggers and stuns in nearly every melee weapon stance.
Another idea expressed was to make firearms stronger, tie in melee to have more synergy with gunfire, for example, melee kills giving damage buffs to firearms.
It’s not necessarily a big hit of the nerfhammer, but more of an overhaul, with more changes towards firearm damage.
The easier solution is obviously to just tone down the numbers of melee while making firearm numbers bigger. But that would be a poorly placed neon band-aid fix, which would only work to illuminate the glaring underlying issues of the game.
DE borrows quite a lot of ideas from its community and these have worked in the past. Be they from reddit or youtubers, there’s usually many solutions presented for the issues the game faces.
The first and foremost is the horrendous enemy AI. It has changed very little over time and improving the AI is one solution given everywhere. The cannon fodder units have very little going for them.
It’s hard to make enemies stronger without making them absolute joy-killers like the Corpus Nullifiers.
Then there’s also the suggestion of reworking combo counters, as was once done for snipers.
Still, in all fairness DE have a mammoth task on their hands. Weapon powers are relative, and you cannot make some stronger without the consequence of the others becoming subsequently weaker.
Given DE’s track record, it’s going to be an initially wonky rework, with quite a bit of community backlash, and then working over time to get it to a satisfactory state.
Melee in Warframe is lacklustre compared to the sheer diverse weapon design offered by both primaries and secondaries. So, it’s only fair they also become as viable as melee at higher difficulties.
Here’s to hoping for a decent outcome, for both DE and Warframe, as this rework will dictate the meta in the near future, and the meta is what drives player counts.