PAX East 2017: Rend Preview

It was an overall very mysterious meeting that drew me into this Rend preview. I was to meet with the team at a restaurant on the Boston Fish Pier, which I had first supposed was a clue. Turns out the game I was there for wasn’t associated with fish, the sea, or sailing as I had first assumed. Instead, Rend is a game that looks to refine the survival sandbox MMO.

The devs behind the newly formed Frostkeep Studios are very good about keeping quiet up to this point, despite their pedigree; they come from the original World of Warcraft, WildStar, and the Titan project development team. It’s that experience that they hope will make Rend draw from other sandbox MMOs to create a new breed of game.

rend preview

Battle for Apotheosis

Rend takes place in a battleground where mortals battle it out to see if they are worthy of ascension. The battlefield in question is populated by three different 20-player factions, and each battle will take place over the course of two to three months.

Once a week on a set timer, the shields defending each faction’s base will fall in an event known as a Reckoning, and players will have to mount defenses against increasingly powerful waves of monsters and perhaps other players themselves. Reckonings will last approximately a couple of hours, and if a faction fails to defend itself and its Divinity Stone, they are wiped out utterly to the point where they can’t even log in.

In between Reckonings, it’s up to players to enter the wilds, hunt for supplies and resources, and create groups to explore dangerous regions all while managing their own thirst, hunger and temperature needs.

The idea, as the devs explain, is to create a game where cooperation and community are balanced with Machiavellian maneuvering while also getting players into moments of survival sandbox high points more frequently. The action-packed sequences or grandiose wars you see in trailers are intended to be a regular occurrence.

Priorities

Rend is an over-the-shoulder shooter game that will offer up a variety of different ranged weapons from classic bows to repeater weapons to a weapon that was described as a crossbow minigun. It’s the opinion of the devs that shooter combat feels better and is overall more interesting than melee.

In order to make sure shooting feels solid, Frostkeep has spent long hours ensuring they have a stable game. Their first priority during the friends and family alpha was making sure the game ran smoothly in order to keep combat crisp.

While shooting is the basis of combat, there’s more to Rend than merely dashing around firing arrows at players and creatures.

All Together Now

The demand for resources and the creation of weapons is wholly dependent on gatherers and crafters, giving those players a place in Rend. Important resources will be in dangerous places in the world of Rend, and so parties will need to form to get to these areas. The devs envision a game where player-killers and people with poor combat skills can coexist.

Considering the other areas in Rend, it becomes clear that forming parties to explore will be vital. One cavernous region features dangerous monsters and extreme heat but also houses important and rare minerals. Another zone is full of powerful demonic entities and assaulted by fierce blizzards but contains a single powerful artifact item. Even the nighttime in the open world is dangerous, with visibility reduced to nothing and more dangerous creatures on the prowl, but with powerful wisps that can be collected and used to fuel faction advancement trees or fill their faction’s Divinity Stone.

Personal Growth

Ultimately, gameplay in Rend coalesces individual efforts that work towards the greater goal of building up factional power and filling up a bar on their faction’s world tree. Players can take up one of four base roles – Assassin, Soldier, Survivalist or Mystic – which each have their own skill trees. Every action taken in the game, from shooting beasts to harvesting items, fills up that action’s progression bar, making you better and better at that skill as time goes on.

When the world’s server resets or one faction wins and everyone is brought back to square one, personal skills will also reset but players will get meta-progression points. These points can be spent on customization options or new talent trees that grant situational advantages. An example given is a person who first started mining earns a new skillset that lets them mine a rare mineral. Alternatively, if someone finds one playstyle not to their liking, they can spend points in a different tree entirely after the reset.

All Bets are Off

Getting to the end of a campaign’s life is a moment the devs are entirely excited by due to the fact that, after a certain point, they embrace combat imbalance. Players will have earned skills that make them stronger or have gained an artifact from the frozen wastes that lets them leap 40 feet in the air. Creature waves have become stronger and stronger. While everyone starts off on a level playing field and factions are balanced, Frostkeep wants to avoid homogenization and create a climax; as they put it, if everyone’s overpowered then nobody’s overpowered.

The devs will even look to the community for ideas for items and weapons, with one interviewer at GDC offering up an idea that made its way into the game. To that point, I suggested they include a Cerebral Bore-style weapon, so if that makes it into Rend you have me to thank.

Rend is set to arrive on early access this Spring with more information available on the game’s official Steam page. All of the features previewed will be included in the game’s early access build, with the access period intended to see how players operate in-game and to determine what players want to see.

Rend has an uphill battle as the survival sandbox MMO bubble seems set to burst. With that said, the minds behind it know how to iterate on existing game concepts and craft assets swiftly. It’s up to the players to decide, but the preview I’ve been shown could make Rend the new watermark for survival MMOs. Check out the trailer below for yourselves:

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About Chris Hughes

Chris is a literal wolf who has managed to learn how to use a computer. He enjoys cooking, roleplaying, writing, and reading those who do the same. You can find him staring at Twitter or read more of his attempt at humor at his blog, or in-game primarily on WildStar, Blade and Soul or Final Fantasy XIV.