In Warframe, you have both health and shields. This is common in a lot of games, but not every game allows you to increase one or the other or both as you please. But not everyone has the capacity to slap a fully leveled health or shields mod on their Warframe. Maybe your Warframe hasn’t reached level 30 yet? Or maybe you don’t have any aura mods or means to increase capacity? Or maybe you simply don’t have room for both mods and have to pick one or the other? So which one do you choose? That’s what I hope to answer in today’s article.
Unfortunately, it’s not an easy question to answer. It depends on various variables, such as how much base health and shields a Warframe has, how much armor they have and how much space you have in general.
Shields are just shields. Health is affected by Armor, and the more armor you have, the less damage to your health you take. The mods Redirection, Vitality and Steel Fiber, all increase your stats by a percentage based on your base stat, which means that putting a fully leveled up Steel Fiber on Mag and Valkyr will have very, very different results.
Most of the time, health is better than shields. The main reason why health is better is because if something does more damage than your total shields and destroys your shields in one go (common during sorties), then your health will end up taking the rest of that damage. But armor gives you damage reduction. This means that, if you have 500 health and 500 shields and take 1000 damage, depending on how much armor you have, you won’t instantly die, you’ll survive with a slither of health.
On top of health being inherently stronger than shields, when you’ve completed most of the solar system, you have access to mods which enable you to heal with ease over time. Mods like Medi-Ray for your sentinels and Life Strike for your melee weapons offer easy ways to recover health. The Hirudo, a sparring melee weapon, can heal you, as can a dedicated mod for the Furis. Focus also offers a way to heal via one of the Schools, but requires a LOT of hard work. The two shields-less Warframes Inaros and Nidus both have ways to self heal, and some also have other ways to heal – for example, Valkyr has built-in life steal for her scary claws of death, meaning she can heal while she’s invulnerable.
But this doesn’t work on everyone. Characters like Loki, Volt and Trinity for example only have 15 armor and low amounts of armour in general, which means giving them 100% more armor only increases that stat to 30. Basically nothing. Combined with small health pools, that armour doesn’t often go very far. On the flip side, these characters all have alternatives to avoid taking damage directly – Loki turns invisible, Volt has high shields and Trinity is a fucking overpowered healer who can get 75% damage reduction and almost infinite energy somewhat easily.
In the case of these characters, armour doesn’t help them at all. Their best bet is to get a little bit more health if they can via Vitality and Vigor and rely on Medi Ray and other external sources of healing, and hope that nothing will instantly kill them.
In early levels though, the better option is weirdly shields. Low level players will almost certainly not have access to things like Medi Ray or Life Strike, they won’t have access to health-replenishing pads and the only other source of healing they’ll have are energy orbs, which are uncommon drops from enemies and containers. Unless you have a Nekros around, health orbs are not a reliable way to protect yourself.
At the same time, enemies tend to deal a lot less damage. Damage accumulates over time rather than being all in one go, so it’s much easier to recover via shields than it is to lose health. This applies up to about level 30 enemies. After that, damage tends to increase dramatically, not from normal enemies but from uncommon ones like Napalms, Scorches and Bombards, and Eximi units tend to become more common.
But you can still take low-health, low-armour frames into high level content. The question is, how. When it comes to the aforementioned Loki, who has some of the lowest defensive stats in the game, invisibility means that enemies simply won’t shoot at you. You just need to be careful for accidental damage, and keep away from team mates causing too much ruckus.
There’s something else though. Sentinel and Companion mods can really save the day. Companions have mods that heal you when they damage enemies, and Sentinels have the Sacrifice and Guardian mods. The Sacrifice mod will revive you and kill your Sentinel, but Guardian is the real show-stopper. It basically acts as a shield gate, instantly refilling your shields should they be depleted, with a 30 second cooldown. This has saved me more times than I can count.
To conclude, shields are better for low level missions, but armour and health are better for high level missions, but both are usable all the time, depending on how you mod your Warframes.