Rend Sets Bold Vision to Redefine Survival RPGs
Rend is the first game from Frostkeep Studios (official site) in Irvine, California. Frostkeep's origin goes all the way back to Blizzard in the long ago days of vanilla World of Warcraft. Then, after adventures in development with other games such as League of Legends and learning through misadventures with different games and studios Solomon Lee, Mat Milizia and Jeremy Wood have been running dark for a year recruiting a team of developers and crafting their first game, Rend. While familiar in superficial style, this multiplayer fantasy-themed shooter is anything but familiar in execution.
When the trailer was shown to me at PAX East, I was told it was dense. Watch for yourself and see if you agree.
To sum it up:
- A shield
- Yeah! Big Monsters!
- A World Tree, with a Tabard?
- Animal Hunting You, You Hunting Animal
- Spirit Animals
- Riding Animals that Look Like Spirit Animals
- More Siege
- PvP in Fire
- Bad Guys, weird and look like aliens
- Epic Fantasy Group About to Kick Ass
- Lightning Hammer... cause Hell Yeah!
- Spirit People
- Siege PvP Maybe?
- Destruction, Destruction, Destruction!
- Shields Lowering
- Bad Guys Coming
- Tree Filled Up
Dense? That frankly doesn't do it justice. This is Rend in a flurry. While Rend is the name of the game, it is also what the Frostkeep team has done to a bunch of games and genres. They've torn them apart, then put them back together into a vision that definitely feels like a compelling whole. This is no Frankenstein's monster. Rend sounds like your dream ice cream where game elements are toppings carefully selected for the player. The cherry on top is that after talking with the team, I learned that the trailer doesn't cover half of it.
“With our first game Rend, we are delivering on the fantasy players expect from a survival game while also challenging the traditional mold by introducing new experiences and solving many of the genre’s accepted player pain points,” said Mat Milizia, co-founder of Frostkeep Studios. “Our team has been fortunate to work at many of the industry’s leading studios throughout our careers so we have learned valuable key lessons along the way that we are now applying to our studio’s development philosophy and game making process.”
Frostkeep calls Rend a hybrid survival RPG, but to be more complete Rend is: a three faction, massive (enough) multiplayer, campaign-persistent, usage based skill, shooter-style combat, open world, survival, fantasy RPG, crafting, base building, epic item, timed fight and world creep game built by an experienced team of MMO creators who felt like survival games needed more purpose.
Does that sound like a lot? Yes, but let's take each one by one.
Rend has three factions. The Conclave, the Order and the Revenant. They each control a valley on the map and that valley contains at least some resources the other factions will need to succeed. This basic setup is the start of a race to the finish line of ascension.
Massive (enough) Multiplayer
Currently the game supports 20 vs. 20 vs. 20 combat. While the devs indicated they will raise this limit if the are able, the 20 person limit seems sensible. The trick will be balancing this with the total player size a faction needs to make an economy work, while keeping people happy when the timed fights happen. This will be crucial in balancing the PvP and PvE elements as well. I think this aspect is one of the greater community challenges for the Rend team.
Rend has a campaign rhythm and persistent world for the campaign run. Put another way, the world exists until one side wins. The target is a couple of months in real time. Now, lest you think that all three factions could just hunker down and piddle around forever, there is creep in the world and it consistently gets more powerful.
However, there is also meta progression which allows for points to be carried over to the next campaign, as well as custom server rules that allow for players to create, or join, a game type of their own liking.
Usage Based Skills
Use a skill, you get better at it. Simple as that.
A shooter-style combat system provides an array of weapon types, customization and improvement. This includes unlockable specialization such as long range or heavy damage but also weapon upgrades like capacity and light attachments.
Wander around everywhere...if you have the gear to survive there. This includes fiery chasms and icy hellscapes, but also a beautiful countryside and compelling fantasy details.
You start with nothing and must build or capture everything you own. Your enemies, if they are carrying their best items, are loot pinatas and so are you!
You can level and spec like every great RPG. However, if you want to be able to mine that rare element deep in the cavern you may not be able to maximize your fighting. Your faction member who maxes out fighting will likely need you to go with them to get the minerals to bring to another player who will make her new armor.
Wrapped up in a related ball is a system of skills and talents allowing for customization and specialization both for personal enjoyment and for your faction's success.
Your base, which is built by your faction, contains the faction divinity stone, player storage, refineries, crafting and research stations. Lose the divinity stone and your faction loses the game.
In addition, some areas are so fraught with danger that their reward is epic level items. Just remember, if you die in PvP then your items are free for the taking. Risk/reward is on full display.
In many survival games, your base is always vulnerable. This plays right into the hands of those who have the time to always be out destroying their enemies. Rend has chosen to use a time siege mode. This mechanic has worked well in games like Eve Online and lets players on both sides rally and organize to put their best foot forward.
In Rend, the weekly event called "The Reckoning" lowers your shields and makes your base vulnerable to creatures or creep, called the Lost, and other players. Each Reckoning brings stronger creatures in an inexorable march to oblivion or ascension.
Human enemies are not the only thing that can kill you. The creep in Rend get progressively stronger, and if the other factions don't kill you the Creep eventually will. Rend also includes day and night cycles, brutal cold and hot environments, and a level of exploration that balances risk and reward.
“We are delivering a fully developed game experience with Rend that both the community and our own team wants to play. Having players involved from the beginning is important so they can influence and evolve the future direction of the game as it heads towards full launch,” said Jeremy Wood, co-founder of Frostkeep Studios. “We will regularly be adding new content and systems to Rend throughout early access process and are excited to see how the community will respond and contribute to this new world.”
In terms of a vision statement, Rend is a bold one. The game we've seen isn't complete and Rend is just going to into Early Access. That has to be taken into account at this point. That being said, the trailer you saw above is in-game footage, and you see a lot of the mechanics active in the trailer. I think it's safe to say that Rend mixes identifiable components of successful games into a unique combination, especially in the survival and multiplayer genre.
Rend will enter Early Access in Spring of 2017, so gamers will get to see how that combination works with a wider audience very soon. To be clear though, if Frostkeep is able to deliver on this vision, they are going to make a massive dent in this genre.