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The Ember problem – Warframe

Warframe Ember

So, I’ve been playing Warframe on and off since 2013; while I’ve quite a bit of experience with the game, I’ve never really been one of those “hardcore” players who blow up level 300 enemies for breakfast. Most of my play revolves around standard level content, i.e. level 1 – sortie.

As much of a dirty casual as I am, I don’t believe this status serves as a detriment to what I’m about to say – which, for anyone wondering, is Ember is bad and has kinda always been bad. If anything, I think I have a better idea of what the average tenno’s experience looks like. The game is not balanced around extreme high-level content because it’s not meant to be. Not since the removal of raids. You’re not supposed to go up that high and any balance related arguments based around such content might as well be irrelevant.

Besides, with Ember being barely able to handle sorties, this kinda talk will not appear in this post regardless.

Now, with that outta the way, let’s talk about Ember.

The Problem

I want to first clarify that when I say Ember is bad, I don’t mean it strictly in terms of game balance. I think Ember’s power level is in a decent position right now, as the single most efficient trashmob clearer. While she’s by no means high up on the list, she’s got a role to fill and she fills it perfectly fine. The problems I have with Ember is mostly in terms of her playstyle and design. Her power level is only a matter of stat tweak (and making fire a good element).

With her being so good at filling her niche, there are plenty of Ember players running around and only running around, but I don’t think I’ve met either one of the Ember mains. Mostly because hardly anyone can stand the spirit ascending, qi cultivating, sainthood acquiring level of boredom that comes with using such a non-engaging kit on a regular basis. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’ve actually fallen asleep playing ember before. What ember truly need is not a power buff……..well, not JUST a power buff anyway, she’s also going to need a Saryn style mechanical rework.

So, before I start overdesigning the rework, as is tradition with these sorta posts, let’s examine her current kit right now.

  • Base stats: mediocre armour & shield & health. Thicc Energy pool, Rage viable with quick thinking & equilibrium/life strike.

Overall decent, the high energy pool means she can mostly ignore energy costs with a rage build. The lack of a built in heal is annoying but easily made up for. Equilibrium would be much better if life orbs dropped ever, but they don’t so it’s not.

  • Passive: Regenerate energy when set on fire.

Status: Useful only in theory, so it’s useless. There are some self-harm builds around but they’re fiddly and requires a purposefully low damage weapon. Not viable in high level, not needed in low level.

1: Fireball

Status: completely useless. Coz WoF is a thing.

2: Accelerant

Status: the butter bit of bread and butter, but it only applies to a single (not very good) element. Still, it’s the best she’s got. Works as panic button, but since WoF is always on, you don’t really need it.

3: Fireblast

Status: completely useless. Coz WoF is a thing.

4: World on Fire

Status: the bread bit of bread and butter. Is a thing. It’s basically 80% of Ember’s kit and 100% of her identity. Turn it on and leave it on.

So basically, her kit consists of her bread, her butter, and 3 instances of wasted development resources.

Her core playstyle can basically be summed up with this shitpost Helpful guide. She can be played in other ways, obviously, such as with fire weapons and acc spam. But let’s face it, you use her to rush low level missions and afk defense. Besides there are plenty of frames better at those other play styles (giggles in Saryn).

The main problem, if you can’t tell, is that her 1 and 3 are completely redundant. The damage, status, and CC are all covered by WoF and Accelerant, and taking into account their energy investment and poor scaling, they’re not worth using at all. The pushback on her 3 is literally a detriment and its buff is a worse version of Toxic Lash. What’s left of those abilities are some of the least engaging in the entire game. Accelerant and WoF aren’t opportunistic like many of the “oh shit pause the game” ults, nor do they have a requirement for casting besides energy, which ember never has to worry about. There’s always a reason to have them on, and never really a reason to turn them off. This means you’re essentially playing a regular shooter without all the skills, except everything die before you shoot them. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. Furthermore, she drags everyone else in her squad down with her into the purgatory of boredom. Her kit is one that ruins the experience for basically everyone. Nothing feels worse for a new player, or anyone, than going into a mission only for someone to kill everything before they’re even in sight.

The Fix?

Now before I fire off any ideas, I know some people will oppose any changes that threaten her role as a trashmob lawn mower. To those people I will sincerely suggest fucking off. This is a video game. Video games are fun. Ember’s damage aura isn’t fun. So it should be changed.

I understand players’ tendency to gravitate towards maximum efficiency when it comes to farming simulators like Warframe, but at the same time, we have to understand that maximum efficiency is antithetical to the whole purpose of video games. A game, in essence, is the act of reaching an end goal with interesting, conquerable obstacles along the way. As of now, Ember’s playstyle is stuck between ignoring most obstacles and being blocked dead. It’s not healthy, and fixing it requires sacrificing efficiency. Kicking a ball repeatedly into a net from a meter away is efficient, but it’s not fun, and can hardly be called a game of soccer.

DE has done this before, with the changes to Mesa’s ult and Excal’s ex-ult. And while those decisions were met with oppositions, they were in the end accepted. At the sacrifice of efficiency, DE ended the era of AFK defense missions and macro farming. Warframe turned into glorified cookie clicker back then due to players having access to maximum efficiency.

These changes to Ember will undoubtedly make the game more grindy (as grindy as low level content could possibly get), but that’s another problem to solve entirely. It is still important to make sure Ember’s kit is fun to use. If you hold onto Ember’s ironically cold utilitarian play style so dearly, perhaps it’s time to find a new hobby; clearly you’re just going through the motions with Warframe at this stage.

Ember can and deserves to be more than your low level rush machine.

Besides you’ll always have equinox.

With that rambling outta the way, suggestions.

My goal with these suggestions is to make Ember’s kit more engaging while adhering to Ember’s assigned personality. The main focus would be fixing the constantly on status of WoF and giving 1 and 3 actual reasons to be used.

  • Change 1: Buff the damage of fireball and fireblast. Since one of the goals was to make them actually worth using, they need to actually be able to kill anything at all. Fireball should be one shotting level 40 trashmobs unmodded, at least, which is about 4000 something. And for anyone thinking that might be op, Gara and Khora can already do that.
  • Change 2: Secondary resource. Making WoF a not boring ability is a two-parter. The first part, implemented by the first suggestion, is to make Ember less reliant on WoF. The second is to restrict WoF’s usage itself. Since her theme is fire, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to give her a heat meter, which build up as she sets enemies on fire, either with her weapon or abilities. At maximum, it sets her on fire (yay reliable way to proc passive) and increases her ability strength. Recycle the effects of overheat if you wanna. WoF is made either uncastable without being overheated or suffer from significantly reduced damage which makes it not worth the energy. WoF releases the heat. This makes her an active caster frame and gives her a buildup-release dynamic, more like a escalating wildfire and less like a constantly on oven.
  • Change 3: Make fire blast a toggle, or anything else besides a timer. Please. Even with the current WoF there’s not much reason to put any amount of duration on ember. having only one ability that actually need duration to work well is extremely awkward and is one of the reasons it’s never used.

If these changes are implemented, will it make Ember viable in high level? Probably not. Ember’s power problem is shared with all of the older damage frames – enemy armour scaling and all base elements being trash except toxin. Without altering those Ember’s big wall can at best be moved to a different level zone. But will it make her kit less boring and more healthy? I’d say so. Her gameplay would at least be more fun than that of tour guide simulator.

After a full essay on this, it’s unlikely DE will read any of it, far less take it into account. Honestly, if I can just make the Ember problem stand out a bit, I’m happy. Her problem is not about power, it’s about kit design. Even if DE were to buff her stats, she’d still be boring to play as. If I can just make DE more aware of this problem, and potentially make her rework come a little sooner, I’ll be happy.

TLDR: Ember boring, WoF borest, make other abilities useful plz. Efficiency != fun. Penguins deserve voting rights. Here are some overdesigned ideas that are probably a pain in the ass to implement. I dun even care I do dis for awareness.

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