I don't like survival games; in fact, I actively avoid them. So, I was a little wary going into our appointment to check out Rend at PAX West. Boy, am I glad I went. I went from being less-than lukewarm on the idea, to I can't wait to try out Rend myself. Frostkeep Studios has a good idea on what can turn some people off to survival games, making Rend much more appealing to people like myself. It's an online survival game in a fantasy setting with three factions and "matches" that last a couple of months, with one faction winning the day in the end, wiping the server after their victory. It's all about cooperation, has PvE and PvP elements, and plenty of things to do solo. There's a lot of information here, but I encourage you to take a look, because I think Rend is an exciting game to keep an eye on.
Rend is made by Frostkeep Studios, which is full Blizzard veterans who have worked on plenty of games there, most notably World of Warcraft. The influence of World of Warcraft's early days, and much of what made it a blast to play, can be seen in Rend. Namely, the idea of a "server identity" knowing the people you're playing with, and seeing the fruits of your faction's (guild's) labor coming together after a lot of work.
Curbing Survival Game AnnoyancesJeremy Wood, co-founder of Frostkeep Studios, and Jordan Leithart guided us through their vision for what Rend will eventually become, while showing us examples in a server they had ready to go. One of the first things Jeremy told us is that they wanted to curb some of the more annoying elements that can come with survival games. If you've played a survival game where you can build up your own base on the persistent servers, chances are you've gone to bed or not played for a couple of days to only return to see it destroyed. Rend does a few things to discourage that.
There are personal bases in the game you can build up, and yes they can be destroyed. However, the cost to destroy that base will be way higher than the cost it would be for that player to rebuild. The explosives necessary are expensive, so unless you really hate that person, it's not really worth the potential mayhem.
That doesn't mean there isn't a reason to do things at someone's base. There will of course be chests to loot and items to steal, but there are other interesting things to do as well. For example, crafting will play a big part in Rend and there are crafting skill trees you progress through and recipes to find. That is done at your base at a big crafting table covered in papers. If you break into someone's base and make it to their crafting table, you have the chance to steal some recipes and progress your own crafting to get some good things.
The other thing to curb your bases getting blown up or just steamrolled by a big group of people as soon as you start a game are the three factions. You start a game, join a faction, and you're already part of a larger group (right now factions are 20v20v20). That faction is already friendly with you and you have someone you can look to for help or other things as you play the game. You can make your own clan within your factions too, if you want a group specifically with your friends.
Factions play a big role and the way Jeremy and Jordan talked about them made them seem pretty central to Rend. They are the support system for players (like having a cache of weapons/armor for players that may have been killed and lost everything), it is the faction working together that actually wins the game (more on that later), and the most exciting events in Rend will see factions right at the center of the action.
Faction WarfareThat's true in the central, big events in Rend when The Reckoning occurs. Once a week, the shield protecting your faction's base from being damaged goes down for a set period of time. At that time the Lost (NPC enemy creatures) attack each faction's base. The Lost get more powerful with each Reckoning as well, so you'll have to be even more prepared each week. The shields don't return when the Lost are dead, either, so you have to watch out for attacks from the other factions as well.
Jeremy said the feeling of preparing for these Reckoning events will feel pretty similar to preparing for raids in World of Warcraft. Each server will have an advertised time the Reckoning will happen so players can choose a server that best fits their schedule. They also set up scheduled times for epic clashes to happen between the factions, unlike other games where that can be pretty random and some players may never get the chance to experience them. Instead, the Reckoning has a set time that all players on the server know to be around for, and it's also the best time to go after another faction's base, so it should create some epic moments.
Why would you want to attack another faction's base? Well, there is of course the loot and glory of it all, but your faction will also want to hamper other factions' progress towards winning the game. The object of the game is to harvest and collect souls, which are then deposited into your faction's Divinity Stone. When attacking another faction's base, you have the chance to steal some souls from a Divinity Stone to bring back to your base.
Once your faction hits a certain number of souls, you win. A neat aspect of the souls is that each faction's progress is tracked in a unique way and all players can see it. On the world map is a pretty big landmark, the World Tree. The World Tree is a good navigating point when running around the world, but it also serves to show the progress of the various factions. On three sides of the World Tree are progress bars, and once one is filled, that faction wins. And once a faction wins, the server has a brief time after it is up as a bit of a grace period before it is wiped completely to start over.
A kink thrown in the mix of this faction warfare are capture points. Throughout the world are points your faction can capture that offer some buffs or other benefits to a faction. For example, one capture point may just periodically deposit some souls in your faction's Divinity Stone. These are not protected by any shield, so enemy factions can attempt to take them over at any time if they wish. Also, the Lost come to attack capture points during The Reckoning as well. It's just another thing to consider in Rend.
I think, personally, that having three factions instead of just the regular two a lot of games would have is pretty genius. Something like The Reckoning would be pretty straightforward with only two factions—kill your Lost, then attack your enemies. However, with three factions you now have to consider what two enemies are doing. You can't really commit to just attacking one, which would open you up to the other faction. It just makes players have to think about a whole other set of issues with having another group thrown in to mix things up.
One of the things Jeremy and Jordan talked about, too, was wanting to create a server/faction identity. For anyone that experienced the Vanilla or Burning Crusade server forums of World of Warcraft, that's the sort of thing they are trying to recreate. They said they have seen it happening in the Discord channels they have for testing. Once they introduced the factions, which are simply different colors and nothing else, intense tribalism began immediately, creating a fun air of competition and one where you'll really get to know the people you play with and play against.
Progression and "Gamebreaking" WeaponsProgression in Rend happens in multiple ways. There is the progression that comes with skill trees related to crafting, but there is also personal progression to your character. You will gain experience and level up, with talents you can put in four class talent trees: Assassin, Survivalist, Soldier, or Mystic. Of course, when you die in Rend like any other survival game, everything you're carrying becomes susceptible to your enemies but you not have to start over on personal progression.
Another thing that Frostkeep is calling "meta-progression" is that at the end of a server "match," certain players will get rewards. Those haven't been finalized completely yet, but something like the person that was the most helpful to their faction may get rewarded. The rewards will be something to add flexibility for a player, so something like access to a new class, not just a straight upgrade to their power.
Just like in vanilla World of Warcraft, too, there is some progression attached to your faction working together. The best items in the game are in the Ethereal Wastes, an area that is difficult to get to and also contains the most difficult NPC enemies in the game. There are also some Tombs in the Ethereal Wastes that contain the most powerful weapons in the game. So powerful, they were described to me as "gamebreaking."
The idea of these gamebreaking weapons, as seen above, is that they will take so long to get that the life of the server will be almost over, one faction will have almost won already. To get them, you have to do a bunch of work to get a key to open up a tomb (I'm not quite sure what all that entails, but it seems like it will take a lot of cooperation within the faction) and then fight and kill the boss inside. The boss will drop that weapon, which only one person can use, to absolutely destroy enemies. You can see some of those in action in the trailer at the top of the article.
While some people could get frustrated by the idea, Frostkeep sees the potential for epic battle moments on the server where taking down the player with that powerful weapon will be quite an event. There's also some risk involved, too, as if that player dies and another faction loots that person's body and acquires that weapon... well, it's there's now and all that effort could then be unleashed on you.
The final thing to mention is that Rend plans to fully support mods and private servers that you can customize as you see fit. So if you want a server where factions are bigger than 20v20v20, go ahead. There will be a lot of options to make the game as you want, and of course official servers to use as well.
Rend will be coming to Steam's Early Access sometime next year. It will be a one-time purchase that, as of now, has no plans for microtransactions.