An Exalted Weapon in Warframe is an ability where you summon a magical weapon and wreck havoc with it. There are different types of Exalted Weapon and, generally, they drain energy as you use them, in exchange for sheer power. But while exalted weapons are both cool and powerful, they are not always consistent. And, sometimes, there are better options out there.
Exalted Weapons are Harder to Mod
The first big issue with exalted weapons is that they are finicky to mod. They’re not consistent and can’t use all mods.
Originally, you actually couldn’t mod exalted weapons. Instead, they borrowed stats from whatever weapon occupied the same slot as your exalted weapon. For example, if you played Excalibur, his Exalted Blade would borrow stats from whatever melee weapon you were holding. Titania on the other hand would get stats for her exalted Dex weapons from her primary and melee weapons.
Later on, exalted weapons were changed so that you could mod them individually. This meant you had more freedom with your loadouts. But there has been a cost to this. Because exalted weapons can’t use specific mods. Obviously, they can’t use Riven Mods, but Acolyte mods are also out of the question, and set mods don’t give their bonuses. This is awkward because many of these mods are actually used in ‘high-end’ builds, and mods like Blood Rush are key components of many melee builds.
Exalted weapons are also forma’d separately from their Warframe owners. While these weapons do tend to start off with a handful more pre-forma’d slots, you’ll still need extra forma on both your Warframe and its weapon.
Melee Weapons are Worse than others, and Augments are Bandaids
Some weapons do better than others when it comes to exalted stats. Both Titania’s Dex Pixia and Mesa’s Peacemakers are very strong weapons, because they use the secondary weapon slot. This is important because secondary weapons overall have little use for Rivens and Acolyte mods, but at the same time, secondary weapon mods are stronger overall. The standard secondary weapon build will easily have over 200% multishot, compared to the about 120% primary weapons get.
On the other hand, melee weapons are out of luck. Blood Rush and Weeping Wounds are hugely powerful mods, key in many builds, but both of these can’t be used on exalted weapons. Normally, the only thing that saves an exalted weapon is an Augment Mod, equipped on the Warframe, but these don’t always help. Reactive Storm for Baruuk and Chromatic Blade for Excalibur help their exalted weapons immensely, by adding more damage options, as well as affecting elemental damage. On the other hand, both Hysteria augments for Valkyr aren’t particularly useful. Hysterical Assault adds mobility to an already very mobile Warframe, while Enraged adds a ton of much-needed damage, but for a very heavy downside of a long cooldown.
You also can’t use Stance Mods on melee exalted weapons, since each one has a baked in, unique stance. Unfortunately, this also means that you miss out on the extra modding capacity a stance mod normally gives.
Exalted-Weapon-like Abilities though are great
There is another type of exalted weapon that isn’t really an exalted weapon. Frames like Khora and Atlas have abilities that summon weapons, but those weapons are only summoned on the use of the ability, rather than being always present and draining energy. Funnily enough though, these temporary summoned weapons are hugely powerful. Why? Because they borrow their stats from weapons in the melee slot… the same way exalted weapons used to! And, on top of that, Riven mods and Acolyte mods work on them too!
This means that these not-exalted weapons are insanely strong, with far less limitations than normal exalted gear. Sure, you are basically giving up your melee slot to power an ability. But does that really matter when your ability does way more damage, hits multiple enemies and synergy with the rest of your Warframe’s kit?
Then you have Garuda’s Talons
If you use Garuda and unequip your melee weapon, then you get to use the cool-ass talons connected to Garuda’s arms. These are modded in the same way as exalted weapons are and have the same drawbacks. The only differences are that you can pick stance mods for Garuda’s Talons, and you can only use them by sacrificing your melee weapon.
Doesn’t sound too bad, basically means Garuda gets 5 abilities. But sadly her Talons just aren’t very good. Most claw-type weapons aren’t that good anyway (aside from the Venka Prime) but now you can’t grab a Riven mod or whatever to make them better.
How do we fix Exalted Weapons?
This is a tricky question to answer, because, well, the base stats on exalted weapons are really high. For the majority of content, an exalted weapon with minimal mods is good enough. But these weapons do not scale upwards at all. At the same time, they can easily scale out of control with just a few number tweaks. It’s easy to look at Atlas’s Landslide and Khora’s Whipclaw and just say “let’s go back to the old days”. However this is not really a satisfying answer. Just using the mods from one of your equipped weapons does nothing but limit your arsenal, and force you to bring “stat-stick” weapons that aren’t fun to use on their own.
Really, the simple solution would be to allow exalted weapons to work the same way as melee weapons. Let them use set mods and Acolyte mods, and give them the extra capacity a stance mod would normally give. Riven mods for exalted weapons make little sense. But the scaling crit and status chance that melee weapons at least can get would be a huge, easily controllable buff for exalted weapons. And the additional capacity from stance mods just brings exalted melees in line with normal melee weapons. Primary and secondary melee weapons won’t get as much of a benefit. However, this could bring about some more niche builds, especially for Ivara’s Artemis Bow.
In the mean time though, thanks to accessibility and having more options, normal melee weapons are often as strong, if not stronger than exalted weapons. Which makes no sense what so ever.