Confession time: while I can objectively appreciate the intricacies and design of the better survival games, such as Ark: Survival Evolved or Rust, they were never really for me. The gameplay loop of wandering around to find materials to make better stuff while hoping and praying that a better player won’t stumble across my area and leave me as so much fertilizer for the foliage was never appealing. The grind and rewards make perfect sense and I can tell the difference between a survival game that is well done and one that doesn’t “get it,” but these are not the types of titles that I would pop on for my own personal enjoyment. This preface is important to understand the significance of the following statement: Frostkeep Studios appears to have found the secret sauce needed to finally get me into the genre with their upcoming title, Rend.
On the base level, Rend looks like just another survival game, just with (much) prettier graphics. The player is expected to run around, find materials, build a base, and protect it from monsters and other players. There’s a twist to this one, though, and it’s a big one. The best way to think of Rend is a team based, competitive survival game. The player starts off choosing one of three factions before being tossed into the world that is dealing with the aftereffects of Ragnarok. Using a simple to use, but extremely flexible interface, players in each of these factions are assigned an area to build a fortress that is protected with a forcefield that enemies cannot bypass. This means that it’s safe to sleep in real life without worrying about being ransacked in the game.
Except, that is, when it isn’t. Depending on server settings, but usually twice a week,the Reckoning will occur. The shields will drop and the base will be invaded by AI enemies, intent to render the team’s hard work into so much rubble. Players will need to work together to defend the base. This is also when enemy players can create the most havoc. As it takes a few hours for the forcefield to regenerate, this time period can be used to make the other two opposing factions miserable, introducing some heavy player versus player to the chaotic mix. The end goal is to accumulate points, which are represented on Yggdrasil, the world tree that dominates the center of the huge map. The first team that accumulates the goal wins, and get to ascend as gods. A typical match can take around two months, but that, and more, can be changed via server settings.
While it might seem frustrating to put in a couple of months of work just to lose, and the expected length is a long time for a single match, players can earn permanent perks that carry over to subsequent matches, always allowing for a sense of progress. This is in addition to having a chance to fiddle around with new character types and skills through Rend’s robust but easily understandable RPG progression system. Each player can take a role on the team, from tanking enemies, focusing on gathering materials and equipping the rest of the team, and more. The “choose a perk” system when leveling up allows for a heavy amount of specialization to be the best darn whatever possible. Since players can change moods, taking on a new role while retaining progression earned previously is so much less frustrating than creating a new character.
It makes sense that there are so many moving parts to this game that fit together in such a breezy fashion. The people building this have titles like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, League of Legends and WildStar in their backgrounds. These are developers that know and understand design and how to make a rewarding title.
They also know how to make a really great looking one, too. One hesitates to use the word “cartoony” to describe this, but the artists are making use of the color spectrum and bold design to create a stylistic title that just looks fantastic. It draws on elements of World of Warcraft, but it adds a Nordic twist due to the mythology. The animals that pepper the landscape are full of personality and unique flair, the equipment the player can wear looks both colorful and badass, and the mounts all manage to be something my wife would love and freaking awesome for the fantasy nerd in me. A personal favorite was the lumbering giant tortoise that has a high carrying capacity and defense in exchange for lowered traversal speed.
I wasn’t expecting much when I agreed to see Rend, but it seemed like something that should see some coverage. Professional duty calls. I kept a sleepy eyed poker face throughout our meeting, waiting for the piece of information that would relegate the title to the “admire but never touch” section of the gaming pantheon. That piece never came. Every design aspect of Rend seems tailormade for both the survival enthusiast and players that haven’t enjoyed the genre yet. Mixing the best of cooperative teamwork and screwing over the other guy, Rend appears to be poised to become the next big thing, the next major step forward for the genre. Keep an eye on this one when it hits Steam Early Access later this year.