Last year at PAX East, Frostkeep Studios revealed their survival game Rend to the press and then to the public. I myself found out about the game in the most amusing way. While our Editor-in-Chief Andy ‘Zap-Robo’ Barber got the big secret off-site meeting to learn about the game to prepare an article, I’d found out about it by being invited to hang out with my industry friend Michele Cagle, coincidentally their PR rep, who was doing stealth demos in the Westin bar lobby with a strategically-placed laptop connected to a server in a backpack on the floor and a trio of devs talking about the game. I still sort of feel bad for taking the wind out of their sails as they were eagerly trying to sell me on how awesome their game’s composer Neal Acree was by reeling off his credits before the big reveal of his name and I casually noted he was a friend of mine.
What a difference a year makes. This year at PAX East, they had a booth on the show floor, a high-flying sign hanging from the rafters to make them more easy to find, a community manager handing out Popsockets, and a much more solid product heading toward release. Rend is still the same Viking-themed survival game with a vast Yggdrasil-like World Tree in the center of three primary factional zones, with bright emissive colors on certain bits of lighting that really stand out against the realistic backgrounds, but it’s much more fleshed out than it was last year. At PAX East, I had the chance to sit down with Frostkeep co-founder Jeremy Wood to see what they’ve been doing since last we spoke informally. I got to see some cool gameplay and check out the UI and see some of the mechanics in action in a pre-alpha setting.
To recap the basic concept: the three factions are racing to gather the most number of souls to return to their Divinity Stone and win that round of play. They harvest and gather resources to build shielded bases to defend their Divinity Stone against all comers. However, approximately once a week, a Reckoning occurs where the shields around each faction’s base fall, and the factions can attack each other’s bases… and the creatures of the world will also attack each base as well. The local critters keep getting stronger after each Reckoning until the full round of gameplay is complete. If a faction’s Divinity Stone is destroyed, it gets wiped off the server until the next round of play. It’s possible for all three factions to be wiped off the server if their Divinity Stones are all destroyed before they collect enough souls. A bit of ‘capture the flag’ gameplay is also available while a Divinity Stone is under attack, where the opposing faction can gather up souls that pop out of the Stone they’re attacking, and someone can run them back to their own base.
Wood explained that once a single faction achieves the win scenario of collecting the correct number of souls – this tally being visible in the entire zone as a bright meter on their side of the World Tree – then players are given rewards based on how they did, and a new round begins. This mechanic was created to prevent situations where longer-term players wind up being substantially more powerful and invincible than newer players. Rend also has the option for private servers where the admins can set up different rulesets governing plenty of features in the game to make a custom experience if they so desire.
Rend‘s basic world includes the three primary zones as well as a cave system and mechanics involving weather and temperature survival options, as well as more dangerous areas such as the Eternal Wastelands that will generate greater rewards for exploring, gathering, and defeating the creatures within. Wood said that players will get to progress to greater power and abilities to tackle stronger challenges through customizing their weapons, choosing talents that match their playstyle, and leveling up their non-fighting and crafting skills to find the right spot for themselves in their faction. Another of the key mechanics of Rend‘s systems involves the simple fact that a single player won’t be able to max out all of the skills. Wood added that they want players to make actual choices as to their character’s progression.
Players have the option of creating their own personal bases if they want, however they are riskier because they don’t have the factional shields and can be raided at any time, not just during the Reckoning. Within each faction that anyone can join, players can also create clans and create clan bases that you can lock so that other members of the faction can’t get into your stuff.
Since last year, they’ve added more environments to the game for players to discover, making a total of nine different biomes with different resources, creatures, and challenges. There are mechanics involving buffs and debuffs based on what you eat and drink (be careful if you’re forced to drink swamp water to avoid dehydration!), and some creatures can spritz you with a pheromone that makes you more attractive to others of their kind – an interesting way to change up an aggro radius mechanic. Some of the crafting and talent trees let you make items that can help with those debuffs or talents that make you naturally more immune to them.
As we were playing through the game, I asked if the UI was customizable. Wood told me that it wasn’t going to be directly customizable, but that they were going to be publishing a modkit that will allow players to adjust things as they prefer. While a published modkit was an artifact for many of the team’s previous gig on WildStar, Wood reminded me that his job when he worked on World of Warcraft for Blizzard was the UI and that opening it up to mods and add-ons was something he had a hand in. The team wants the community to feel like they’re a part of the game and are looking forward to seeing how their players change up the base game to better suit their needs.
Another new feature since last year is a taming system. Wood said that players will be able to tame creatures as mounts and pets that can provide some benefits to them, such as a wolf that can sniff out blood for tracking purposes, a spider you can ride that can help you climb up steep slopes you might not otherwise be able to climb. However, there is a deliberate decision in place to stay away from flying mounts, he added, because they felt it would take away from their game. Other new mechanics involve capture points located in all three primary zones. These points are there to encourage PVP and can be captured by any faction. Once a faction has captured a point, they can build defenses around it or set up crafting stations to craft certain kinds of armor that aren’t available anywhere else, and their faction gets some bonuses and buffs while they hold that point.
Rend is intended to encourage player interaction, either cooperatively as a clan or faction, or in opposition with the other factions via PVP. The ability to create different ruleset servers also allows for players who aren’t interested in PVP to customize the experience however they like. The maps are big enough that they had to put in teleporters to allow players to zip around from area to area and to the Eternal Wastelands. Wood cheerfully explained that the Wastelands is where all the best stuff in the game will be located, adding that there was also some gamebreaking things in there and that players who acquire those items will have effectively turned themselves into a raid boss for other people to attack. He likened the end of a particular round before a faction wins (or all three effectively lose) to times when MMOs like to host end-of-beta events where devs spawn raid bosses and go out with a bang.
Wood observed that they’re weeks away from alpha, so the team was pretty excited to reach that milestone, and that they intend to release on Steam later this year.
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