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Finding the Path to Divinity in ‘Rend’: PAX East Showcase

Rend is in development for PC

When Rend was announced a little over a year ago by newly formed Frostkeep Studios it stirred quite the excitement from numerous fanbases. The promise of a fresh take on the survival game genre caught the interest of long-time players of games like ARK, while the pedigree of the dev team, with members coming from Blizzard Entertainment, Carbine Studios, and Riot Games, acts as a sort of seal of quality. After an initial pre-alpha test last year the game went into hibernation with little in the way of additional news.

Last weekend I was invited to the Rend booth at PAX East to have a look at the latest build of the game the team had been so fervently working on. I sat down with Jake Strapko as he showcased a segment of the game and chatted about the finer details of the title and the vision they aim to realize with it.

rend logo

Ascending to a Greater Purpose

The world of Rend takes place after Ragnarok has ravaged the lands, wiping any traces of civilization along with it. The remnants of humanity begin to pick up the pieces and form three factions, of which you will choose one to join during character creation. These three factions aren’t just fighting for resources and land like in other survival games, though, they have a much grander goal in mind and herein lies the element where Rend primarily differentiates itself within the survival genre. There is an actual win condition for the game and that condition is to collect enough souls for your faction to ascend and become gods of the new world.

Progressing toward this goal is a simple enough affair on paper. You go forth into the wilds to gather materials, make stuff out of materials, slay any monster that so much as looks at you weird with said stuff, then enter the spirit world to collect their soul. Those souls can then be deposited back at your faction’s divinity stone in your faction base. As your faction gains more souls, you’ll see the World Tree in the center of the map glow more and more, giving an indication of how close your faction is to claiming divinity.

rend world treeOf course, this wouldn’t be a survival game if everything went so smoothly and other players will make sure of that. Players from rival factions can strike each other down, not only leaving their corpse ripe for looting, but the souls they gathered as well as their own soul, giving plenty of incentive for PvP clashing.

Where the PvP aspect gets interesting, however, is when it comes to raiding faction bases and stealing the souls housed within their divinity stones. Frostkeep wanted to avoid the frustration found in other survival games of logging into the game, only to find that your base was ransacked at 3 AM in the morning when you were fast asleep in the real world. To combat this, faction bases are fully shielded and impervious to attacks at almost all times. The only time they aren’t is during a weekly server-wide event called The Reckoning.

During The Reckoning, all faction base shields come down and demons spawn en masse across the world as they blitz any base in sight. Players will have to balance defending their own base from the demonic onslaught and sending others to attack rival faction bases to steal the souls housed within their divinity stones in the ensuing chaos. It’s a massive PvE and PvP event that Frostkeep promises to be a spectacle.

rend wolf howlThe timing of The Reckoning will vary from server to server and will be clearly advertised upon selection. If you work a standard nine-to-five job, then maybe don’t pick a server that has its Reckoning at noon on a Tuesday but instead the evening on a Thursday, for instance. This method will ensure the most hands-on-deck during the most important event of the game, which will be 60 players per server, 20 per faction, at launch. Jake commented that they have plans to eventually double that number but for now they want to focus on launching as smooth an experience as possible out of the gate. A reasonable priority after ARK’s rather notorious early access days and beyond of poor optimization.

Obtaining the Bounties of Nature

The Reckoning may be the coup de grâce of the game but there is plenty of preparation that players will engage in before then. While you will have to hunt beasts in order to harvest their souls that’s not all you can do with them. Every single animal in the game is also tamable, with many of them being mountable, although there won’t be any flying mounts that would trivialize traveling the world.

Taming is done via one of five methods, and any of those five methods can be used to tame any creature in the world. However, one method will be more efficient than the others depending on the creature. For example, attempting to befriend a ferocious carnivore by feeding it could take upwards of two hours, but if you force it into submission by chaining it to the ground, then that time is slashed down to twenty minutes. Jake said his team wanted to make taming more than a monotonous chore, and so each technique is a mini-game in nature that will help keep players engaged while completing them and hopefully alleviate any repetition.

rend birdsTamed animals provide more than just ease of traversal and a helping hand in a fight, they also bestow other benefits unique to each companion. Giant wasps, for example, can inject pheromones into players, attracting other creatures in the area which can be used for farming purposes or ruining another player’s peaceful walk in the woods. A pig, on the other hand, can sniff out more and higher tier mushrooms when you go out foraging, and being a survival game, you will be doing a lot of gathering in Rend.

All gatherable materials are divided into five tiers. Obtaining materials from the highest tier isn’t just about finding them in the field, but raising proficiencies in gathering that specific type. Repeatedly gathering a certain type raises your proficiency and eventually allows you to find those of higher-tiers. Having the proper companions assist, like the pig for mushrooms, expedites that process.

These tiers extend to the crafting system as well, with each player having to work up through the ranks to build better equipment. Crafting goes beyond the fifth tier, though, and into specializations. If one player really likes making bows, for instance, they will eventually become a specialist in them, unlocking further tiers past the fifth all the way up to mastercraft bows. In this sense, it behooves each faction to divvy up crafting roles to individual members in order to have access to a wide array of specialized items. It’s a system that will ideally help each player feel unique in their role within the faction and are contributing in some meaningful manner.

The End Is a New Beginning

All of this culminates into the ultimate goal that drives the game forward. One faction will ascend to godhood and the other two will not, a process that Frostkeep expects to take between one or two months. The tale doesn’t simply end with that, though, that would sort of defeat the purpose of creating a living game like Rend. Instead, the world resets back to its original state. Every player, every base, every bit of land; they all start back at square one. While this may seem like it defeats the purpose of trying at all in the first place, Rend provides that reason in the form of meta-progression.

rend mushroom forestAt the end of every server cycle, each faction will be awarded a number of meta-progression points, with the winning faction earning the most. These points can be used to give your character what is essentially a jump-start in the new cycle by allowing you to obtain higher-tier materials sooner than the previous cycle. This may potentially encourage a player to try a new build since the time cost of experimentation would be lower, or perhaps advance further in a build they were comfortable within a previous cycle.

The meta-progression system does beg the question of how the game will be balanced, however. If a single faction wins multiple server cycles in a row it’s theoretically possible that they could begin to “snowball” and become an unstoppable force the other two factions can’t do anything against. This “alpha tribe” problem is a common one in other survival style games, so it will be interesting to see how Frostkeep plans on tackling it.

All in all, Rend is showing an immense amount of promise. Frostkeep is putting a noticeable amount of effort in taking the frustrating aspects of survival games and streamlining them without making them any less rewarding. This is an enormous game; I never even got around to talking about capture points, personal base management, the thirteen biomes, raid zones, or artifact weapons (these are ex-World of Warcraft devs after all).

A lot of questions are still revolving around the meta-progression system and the game’s balance but there is so much else here to be excited about that I can safely put those worries in the back of my mind for the time being. Frostkeep Studios is gearing up to launch into a closed alpha in the coming weeks when we can finally see how all these systems come together. Hopefully, they’ll come together in harmony and from what I’ve seen, I have faith they will.

 

Written By

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world.

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