It’s been a while since I talked about the Operator, the doofy little teenage kid controlling your metal death machines from a chair in the back of your ship. I think the last time I mentioned them, I was complaining about how my Operator treated Ordis like he was nothing during the Sacrifice quest. But gameplay-wise, Operators aren’t… as bad as you think. As long as you beef them up a little.
Your stock Operator straight out of the War Within is weak as heck. That’s mostly intentional though. You’ve just realised you can jump through space and time to appear where your Warframe is, and you don’t remember the last time you actually, physically walked because the Lotus carried you into your magic chair in the back of the ship in the Second Dream and you had Ordis drop you off nice and close to Teshin at the end of the War Within. Of course you’re going to be slow and weak.
And of course there’s the whole grind that’s intrinsic to Warframe. You have to grind your way up to be more powerful. It’s not really Warframe without grind. You want power, you have to earn it. Although I would say it would be weird to give you a newfangled thing to play with, fully leveled up and all that, but they DID give us Excalibur Umbra, fully leveled up with reactors and everything, at the end of the Sacrifice. Still, you gotta grind.
The default Operator is insanely weak. With just 100 health, you can easily be killed even by enemies on Mars and Phobos. You’ve got your Void Mode, which turns you invisible and immortal, but before you finish Saya’s Vigil (the quest for Gara’s blueprint) and visit Onkko in Cetus, that Void Mode shares an energy pool of 100, alongside both your magical hand beam, your shitty knockback ability that can disarm a total of one type of enemy AND your Void Dash. You can get extra health (from 100 to 250) by visiting Onkko and initiating in his Quills syndicate, but 250 still isn’t a lot of health – less than even glass canon frames like Loki and Octavia.
A vanilla Operator really doesn’t have a lot of options until they start leveling up.
But with Operators, leveling them up isn’t easy. It’s not just leveling up, shoving in forma and slotting in mods. You’ve got to unlock Focus schools, level those up by running around getting experience in already-leveled-up items with Focus Lenses on and then you’ve got to make yourself an Amp if you want to do more than tickle some enemies.
Everything though is tucked away in little corners and shoved behind massive grinds. Admittedly, the grind isn’t as bad as it used to be, with Focus Lenses being more readily available in the Plains rather than being Sortie rewards, Focus costs being reduced, lenses giving more Focus and earning Focus in general being slightly easier, but it all does take a long time, as there is a daily cap of Focus that can be earned in a day, and you need a LOT of Focus.
Sure, it’s only 50,000 Focus to unlock a school (doable in about 2-3 sets of Elite Sanctuary Onslaught up to zone 8), but the numbers only go up, with some abilities requiring around 900,000 Focus to max out – that’s before you unbind them with 1,000,000 Focus so you can use an ability in every school. But that’s also forgetting that you need to spend Focus standing on capacity to actually use these in the first place, which also quickly adds up.
If you only want specific abilities, then you can earn all of this over time and it’s not too bad. In fact, that’s probably for the best because some Focus abilities are mediocre at best and energy-wasting most of the time. But if you really want to earn everything… it’s going to take you forever due to the cap on Focus earned in a single day.
Putting Focus to one side though, the other ways to make Operators stronger are via Amps and Arcanes. These are slightly more reasonable, but they’re not really mod-able. You can either spend all day with the Mote amp that the Quills give you or you can grind the standing and components needed to build a better one, level it up then gild it and level it up again. You don’t really need to do anything else with an Amp and the only way you can make an Amp stronger is to stick a Virtuous Arcane into it. An Arcane available from, uh, the Quills.
But after you’ve put some effort in, it’s worth it, right?
Yeah. It’s worth it. Being able to do 7 Void Dashes at once is cool. Having 800 health on my Operator is pretty neat. Having way more energy for Void Mode is definitely useful. My Amps are kinda alright but they fall off against Sortie-level enemies. Operators become more of a utility for you to use, another tool in your arsenal. But they’re optional tools that require a lot of maintenance and work.
Operators are like buying and repairing an old classic car. It’s long, hard work but when you’re done, you look back at it all and feel proud. But at the same time, you worry about taking it out in case someone dinks it and you spend too long wondering if it had been cheaper just to get something else.
Oh and they still say stupid shit. No matter what, it’s so much better to have a muted Operator than a chatty one. Even Ordis giving you tutorial tips on loop is more tolerable than the shit those Operators say.