For those who are unfamiliar, the game takes place in a beautiful but brutal fantasy world and focuses on team-based gameplay, with three factions warring for dominance. Players must fight to help their side retrieve lost souls and return them to the Creator, filling a massive meter in the middle of the map taking the form of the World Tree. Once their meter is filled, victory is achieved, and the server ends. Collecting souls can be accomplished in a variety of ways ranging from harvesting to combat, meaning no matter the playstyle, there is always a way to contribute to the overarching faction goal.
As the game goes on, players will find better gear, and as a result have access to different parts of the world. One of the unique aspects of Rend is the way the world is cordoned off. From the very beginning, players can go wherever they want, but it’s a matter of being able to survive when they get there. Each zone has very specific environmental conditions that force players to either adapt or die. For example, at PAX the developers showed some of the hazards associated with building in a swamp area. Throughout the game, players are constantly managing survival resources (e.g. thirst, hunger, etc.), and in the swamp, there is oppressive heat, causing dehydration to occur quicker. While there might be water everywhere in this zone, it comes at a price. Players who drink the water are given a debuff called swamp fever that gets worse the longer they keep drinking it. However, as players spend more time in the area, they can develop skills that make life easier. The developers at Frostkeep want to make it a challenge to survive there, but also allow players the option to skill up and specialize to inhabit those areas.
While the swamp might seem like a bad place to put down roots, one of the new environments shown at PAX made it look tame. Nidavellir is a new zone being added to Rend that can only be reached by portal. The dark, twisting caverns with ancient dwarven architecture and the deadly creatures that inhabit it, make it feel like a mix between Moria in Lord of the Rings and the movie Pitch Black. When players enter Nidavellir, the first thing they are going to notice is just how dark it is. Even with torchlight, there isn’t going to be much illumination, and there’s plenty hiding in the dark to make this zone terrifying. In this area, one of the primary resources players collect comes in the form of glowing blue crystals, but in a sinister design twist, most of the creatures in the area also have pulsating blue adaptions, so players never really know what they’re in for. That glowing light at the end of the tunnel might be a precious resource, or a disgusting giant maggot in disguise.
Maggots are going to be the least of players problems though. As all of Rend’s open areas are PVP, it’s easy for players to lie in the dark tunnels of Nidavellir, waiting to ambush. Fortunately, this sneaky strategy also comes with an associated risk. To hide from other players means sitting in the pitch darkness and waiting, but not all creatures in Nidavellir have glowing orbs to distinguish them. A terrifying, spiderlike, Pan’s Labyrinth-esque, creature colloquially known as ‘The Creep’ by developers (new name incoming) hides in the darkness. These monstrosities scuttle through the tunnels with no light, meaning that players may never know what is waiting beside them as they plan their ambush…
Stepping away from the pitch blackness of the dwarven tunnels, a new, far less stealthy creature awaits player’s in Rend’s snowy mountains. The Jötunn, or Frost Giant, is a massive creature with horns, spikes, and a bad attitude. In the demo, I was shocked by the sheer size of it, and couldn’t even begin to think of how to attack it. Players are going to have to work together to take down these beasts and will be rewarded with some pretty sweet loot if they do so.
In addition to new creatures, the developers have also designed some new loot in the form of Artifact sets. These pieces of armor come in varying rarity (and levels of badassery) and can be found by taking on some of the game’s more difficult zones or enemies. The items may be difficult to obtain, but the higher the rarity, the more insane the perks are going to get. One of the benefits of Rend’s server reset upon victory mechanic is that late-game items can get a little ‘broken’ without fear of completely unbalancing the game. As players lose all their items when the server resets, the teams won’t be unbalanced for long. Typical games will last about a month in length, and while players will lose a certain degree of progression, the team at Frostkeep has ensured that there are reasons to keep playing.
After a server is reset following a faction victory, or time-limit being reached, players are awarded meta points which can be spent on a perk tree that is separate from the server-specific skill progression. These perks allow players a leg up when starting a new server, ranging from easier resource collection to the revival of pets from previous games. As with the robust skill system, the meta perks allow players to specialize in how they want to play the game and what is important to them.
As of July 31st, Rend has officially entered early access on Steam and the developers are constantly hard at work adding new features. While some early access games feel incomplete, Rend has a lot to offer even in this early state. The world is gorgeous, the skill tree is extensive, and there’s plenty to explore. I’ll be hopping into early access and providing beginner guides as well as more early impressions starting this week, so keep checking Gizorama for more information. See you all on the battlefield!
Huge thanks to the team at Frostkeep for taking the time to meet with me at PAX West!