After talking with Frostkeep Studios about Rend at PAX East 2018, we are excited about playing a survival game with an actual win condition.
One aspect of survival games I often find unenjoyable is how sandboxed the gameplay can be. I am very much a goal-oriented gamer, which is probably why I am so easily addicted to MMOs. I like goals and quests and checkpoints and leaderboards. That’s why Frostkeep Studios’ iterative take on survival game mechanics mixed with fantasy RPG elements caught my interest. Rend takes a traditional, survival game blueprint and transforms it into a competitive, community-based experience. This is a survival game in which you can actually win or lose.
Players can choose to align with one of three factions during character creation: the cunning Conclave (green), the proud Order (orange), or the mystical Revenant (purple). These factions are constantly at war with each other in a fight for domination and survival. The primary goal of the game is to gather lost souls and transfer them to their faction’s Divinity Stone. Each faction’s progress is tracked on the sides of a giant World Tree in the center of the large, triangular world map, like Hogwarts Houses filling up House points.
Playing on the warring factions concept, twice a week Rend will feature a server event called The Reckoning. At a pre-determined time, each faction’s base becomes vulnerable to attack from both creatures called the Lost and the opposing factions. Bases are your faction’s home, complete with crafting and research stations, resources storage spaces, personal housing, and more. You are going to want to protect the base like your life depends on it!
This is only one way Rend brings player competition to the survival genre. The world is also populated by neutral capture points that can be taken under control by any faction at any time, reminiscent of some world PvP zones in World of Warcraft. These points can be turned into outposts that provide your faction more resources and buffs, but at the risk of having your forces spread thin during The Reckoning events.
Once a faction gathers enough souls to fill their World Tree progress bar or after enough time passes, that faction is then declared the session winner. Each session of Rend will have a set time limit of one to two months before the server does a soft reset. Players receive rewards via “meta-progression points” which can be spent on customization and progression options for new characters in later game sessions on that same server.
Rend uses a shooter-focused, third-person, class-based combat system with a heavy focus on weapons and weapon variety. Players can increase their skills in each weapon and unlock special customization paths that open up different combat styles. For example, players may customize their bow so they can play as a stationary sniper or as a quick, on-the-run hunter. Weapons can also be modified with various items like lights, scopes, extended magazines, and more. Players can further customize their characters to match their play style. Rend features four main classes: Assassin, Solider, Mystic, and Survivalist, each with their own extensive skill trees and talent systems.
The game also features a deep crafting progression system that is a big part of each faction’s community. There is no way for one player to learn every recipe, so you must work as a faction to share your crafting abilities. Recipes can be unlocked through an intricate skill tree, through exploration, or either through intrigue. Players can take gear from enemies and reverse-engineer them, or even just directly steal research from another faction’s base during The Reckoning.
This is just one way for players to contribute to their faction’s ecosystem. Like many survival games, how you play Rend is very open-ended. There is gathering, crafting, hunting, exploration, and of course, fighting. Frostkeep eventually plans to also add an animal taming system and mounts, similar to Ark: Survival Evolved. Players can also create smaller clans inside of their faction, which acts as an organized way to play together with your friends within the larger faction. Rend also plans to add private server options that enable players to fully customize their gaming experience, including limiting PvP combat.
My time with Rend and Frostkeep Studios at PAX East 2018 was completely hands-off, but I did get a first-hand preview of many of these features in the current build of the game. Graphically, the world of Rend looks amazingly beautiful. The character animations weren’t quite as polished though. The user interfaces and HUD definitely are a work-in-progress as well: the in-game health indicators were basic red bars that look like they were made in MS Paint. But again, Rend is very much a work-in-progress. Frostkeep has some tremendously interesting ideas and iterate on the repetitive nature of many survival games. And as someone who loves goal-oriented games and PvP, Rend is definitely a game that is high on my radar.
Rend is set to come out as an Early Access title on PC via Steam later this year. Frostkeep is well aware of the stigma behind Early Access survival games, and only plans to “use Early Access as it’s intended to be used.” The team is also vehemently against microtransactions, already putting them two steps ahead in terms of consumer-friendly business practices than many games these days.