“This is a high-damage Warframe perfect for players looking for a potent alternative to gunplay” is part of the flavour text for when you preview Volt, either in the Warframe market or via the codex. But for the longest of times, this sentence was completely wrong.
Firstly, when it comes to high damage, Volt actually kinda lacked in that. It wasn’t until Update 22.12, when two new Eidolons were released and we could steal Dargyns from the Grineer, that Volt’s damage was uncapped. Before then, most of Volt’s abilities actually didn’t do much damage at all, and his main damage dealer, Discharge, had a cap on it! With the cap removed, Volt has become a great choice for Sanctuary Onslaught, and genuinely does deal a lot of damage if there are lots of enemies around.
But the second part, “a potent alternative to gunplay”, is still completely wrong.
In fact, I’d argue that Volt is the complete opposite to a potent alternative to gunplay. He is a REALLY good frame to use if you like using guns.
Shock is great for stunning enemies while reloading your weapons, and doesn’t interrupt reloading either. Speed increases your reload speed as well as your running speed. Electric Shield blocks incoming bullets while also increasing the critical damage on anything you shoot through the shield and adding electric damage. Discharge is probably the only ability that doesn’t affect shooting things, but shooting stunned enemies is easier than shooting moving ones, right?
Clearly, Volt is better at enhancing gunplay than he is being an alternative to it.
But who IS a “potent alternative to gunplay”?
I say probably because he’s one of the very few frames you can use, all the way through a sortie, without firing a gun. His abilities rely on gaining mutation stacks by hitting enemies with infested goo, so you spend most of your time either casting Virulence, or casting Larva to group enemies together so you can cast Virulence at all of them at once. With every mutation stack Nidus gains, his Virulence does more damage. He also regains energy for hitting enemies and his other abilities, Parasitic Link and Ravenous, use mutation stacks as fuel, meaning Nidus won’t instantly run out of energy.
There’s a problem though. While Nidus meets the criteria in theory, he’s not actually that fun to use if you insist on never shooting. Because most of the time you’re only ever casting Virulence and the occasional Larva. Sure, you totally can play Nidus and never use a gun, but the 1 key on your keyboard will quickly get very tired. It works, but it’s not the most fun gameplay around. And sometimes, shooting things is simply easier.
The reason why is quite simple. There’s only so much you can do with only 4 abilities, without making every ability reliant on every other ability, or having one ability outshine all the others, or having everything be required on one ability. Even if you give each ability multiple sub-abilities, the way Equinox works with her two forms, there’s still a lot that needs to work around an ability-only kit, such as the energy costs and energy pool required to use a Warframe’s kit.
But at the same time, you also need to keep in mind that Warframes have guns and swords and stuff as well. So we have to balance having super powerful Warframes alongside having super powerful guns as well.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying that it’s harder than it looks. You need to find something that scales up as enemies get harder, with some sort of energy-based sustainability so they can actually cast their abilities and a way to actually kill and protect themselves. But at the same time, you don’t want to have something that scales too hard, instakilling even at high levels, you don’t want your energy sustainability to be too weak or too reliant, ending up with no energy or always full energy and you need to tie this up with the modding system so players aren’t forced into certain builds. This is hard to apply to existing Warframes.
Right now though, we only have one “potent alternative to gunplay”, and it’s not Volt. It’s Nidus. And even Nidus is a bit of a button-spamming mess…