On June 25th, the Steel Path was announced for Warframe. Simply put, the Steel Path would be an extra option on every single node with added difficulty. Instead of, say, going to E Prime and fighting level 5 enemies, the Steel Path would let you fight level 105 enemies. According to the recent blog post, the Steel Path allows access to higher level enemies. And, of course, there’s a few rewards thrown in. And, amazingly, some mastery. But it’s been clearly stated that this is not an “end game”.
In the conversations I’ve seen though, there’s this weird talk about how the Steel Path would enforce a meta. And I’d like to talk about that.
Where the meta exists in Warframe.
In general, there isn’t really a meta for items used. The real meta is via the mods you stick on every item. Most guns will use the same few mods, outside of Riven Mods and a handful of niche uses. You can play most of Warframe’s content using any frame you want and the majority of the game’s weapons.
The weapon and Warframe meta tends to come later on, with specific activities. Most of the time, you will want to consult a meta for harder missions or long-duration missions. The meta for Eidolons for example is typically a Volt and a Chroma for damage, a Trinity to heal lures and an Oberon or Harrow to protect from magnetic procs. Meanwhile, Profit Taker has a strict meta of Chroma and as many elements as you can get on your weapons. On the flip side, Profit Taker’s sister Exploiter Orb has nearly no requirements except for not dying and shooting Raknoids.
But even then, you can still use non-meta alternatives. Your results will just be less efficient.
In some places, a meta is unavoidable.
Because of time constraints though, you do sometimes need a meta. If you want to kill multiple Hydralysts, then you need a strong team and weapons to do so. Why? Because night time is limited on the Plains and you have to wait if the sun rises. Exploiter Orb has a 5 minute auto-fail timer on its last stage, and if you want to spend hours in survival missions, you NEED good gear. Scarlet Spear often required a Limbo and a Mesa simply because they made a long, boring mission less tedious.
No matter what, someone will find the most efficient way to do a thing. It’s guaranteed, simply because Warframe is a game about grinding. If you can do a task more quickly to get loot more quickly, why wouldn’t you?
I don’t think the Iron Path will create or enforce a meta.
After all, these missions are just going to be normal missions, but with level 100 enemies. Sure, you can’t go in with your MK1-Braton and an unmodded Excalibur (granted someone will try it though) but the target audience should be able to play these missions without issue. The only metas we’ll see are things that people use anyway. After all, a Limbo makes Mobile Defense easy and Ivara trivializes Spy missions. That won’t change with level 100 enemies.
If anything, we might even see a wider meta, since players will have an easily accessible chance to try out loadouts! Currently, only Sorties, Liches and Arbitrations offer regular high level enemies. But Sorties and Liches are one-off missions and Arbitrations have shitty nullifying drones everywhere.
The meta argument at the end of the day is in the wrong place.
The problem isn’t that we have a meta, especially when it comes to Warframes. Most Warframes right now are in a pretty good spot. There’s only a few outliers who could do with some more work. The real argument is that most weapons are NOT created equal, and many weapons are hugely inferior to whatever new stuff is released.
After all, the meta is mostly defined by who does the most damage in the shortest amount of time. And the majority of weapons, even if they’re in the hands of a fully-buffed Chroma, simply don’t cut it when it comes to higher and higher level enemies, or even existing Warframe challenges. We have all these weapons and most of them don’t get used after the initial leveling up.
The question is, are the meta weapons too strong or the underused weapons too weak?
There’s no real way of knowing.
It’s less about meta and more about balance. What is too good and what is too strong? Some weapons and frames do take the challenge out of Warframe because they are too meta. But most items are in a good spot right now, especially Warframes themselves.
But for those wanting an uphill struggle and huge amounts of challenge, well, I don’t know what to say. Because, outside of redesigning everything in Warframe, completely changing how weapons, Warframes and enemies work, I’m not sure if the challenge some people want can even be provided.