Rend, if you remember, wants to make the survival sandbox RPG not suck. If PAX East’s showing is any indication, I suspect that Frostkeep is well on their way to this goal. While still in alpha (with a new testing phase coming up very soon), there’s a whole lot of of new content - 9 new biomes, over 30 new monsters, entirely new player character models, new progression and skill trees, personal bases/housing, clan bases/housing, and on and on and on...
Rend wants to be the most “MMO-like” of the survival sandboxes. While its games can still be “won” by a faction every 60 days or so (think A Tale in the Desert), the servers persist, characters get boons when they ascend to Valhalla, and then the whole cycle begins anew. It’s an intriguing idea - the world may end, but your character gains some (as yet) undisclosed permanent perks, visual signifiers, etc. A server is only able to hold 60 players at once, 20 players per faction, so Frostkeep expects larger clans to spread their “reach” out over multiple servers, while the more casual explorer type players will wander from server to server and use several different characters.
One new biome of the NINE they’ve added to the upcoming beta is the swamp. That may not sound like much, but when you see it, you realize how decayed and morbidly pretty it is. What’s cool is it’s not just a “look”. The swamp is a harsh place to live. You’ve got to dip your toe in when you arrive from earlier areas of the world, collect materials to craft the kind of gear that can protect you from its environmental effects. If you want to spend a lot of time there, you’ll need to learn how to purify the water, how to defend yourself from the pheromones the local wildlife let off. Yep, the more pheromones that you get affected by, the more likely it is you’ll be bum-rushed by a swamp of poisonous giant wasps, or tunneling hammerhead landshark lizards.
Rend still has four basic classes to choose from, but gone are the simple skill trees of before, replaced now by three branches in each class, that range from DPS to tanking to support roles on each class. The trinity is softly in place here, letting players pick the roles and classes they want, and mix and match two of the four to make unique hybrid classes too. While the UI is still placeholder, it’s a sharp looking system that puts a lot more MMO-styled progression in the survival sandbox, which already piques my interest more than most games in the genre.
It’s worth noting too that while there will be plenty of official Rend servers, the team is fully supporting mods and moddable servers, so that you can make your own servers, tweak the game completely, and host it for everyone to play. They fully expect new game types to spring up out of this freedom, though their focus will always remain on core world and three-faction warfare of Rend.
One final thing they showed off was a feature inspired by the likes of H1Z1, PUBG, and so forth (don’t roll your eyes, it’s a good thing). Throughout your gameplay, meteor strike “gifts from the gods” will crash down on the surface of the world, some big some small - but all lucrative. Massive pillars of light will signal their landing, and then it’s a race to converge on the viking cache chests which will almost always contain valuable resources, and at least one rare or epic item to equip your character with. It’s a good way to get players to converge, meet, and yes - sometimes attack each other.
Rend is looking to take a lot of the good stuff about survival sandboxes, and a lot of the good parts of MMORPGs, and mash them together to make a really fun game that’s never the same when you log in. Look for the public alpha to begin within weeks, and the Early Access period (which will last 6-9 months) later this year.