How Frostkeep’s Rend compares to other MMOs and survival sandboxes

I was pretty well taken by multiplayer survival sandbox Rend as soon as I saw it at this year’s PAX East 2017, as I wrote yesterday. The concept immediately spoke to me as taking a lot of the cool ideas from other survival games while making the game as a whole into something very different. But I also entirely understand that sometimes you can look at the game and wonder what makes it so different. After all, it’s hardly the first time that we’ve had a game using a lot of the building blocks. So why am I over the moon about Rend but not its obvious inspirations and close cousins?

The answer is that in some cases, I am over the moon about its close cousins. But it’s also important to understand the distinction and the fact that Rend is not, say, Crowfall or Conan Exiles or any other game. So what makes Rend different? Not necessarily better, but how does it stack up to the obvious points of comparison?

Let the crows fall, let them tumble.

Rend and Crowfall

The first and most obvious difference between these titles is that Rend is a survival game with all that entails, while Crowfall is not. Crowfall features a lot of server-specific rules, but they’re all set from the top down; by contrast, Rend allows you to run your own servers and set whatever rules you like, which is a pretty big difference.

Another major difference comes into play when you consider timing, however. In Crowfall, servers run for a set amount of time, and your goal is to acquire as much power as possible during that time. In Rend, a server runs until someone reaches the win condition or all three factions lose. There’s no firm timer. This means that you don’t wind up with situations in which one group has become so entrenched that they are functionally unassailable, but you also don’t have a specific game clock counting down. It’s as long as you can last.

One of the situations the designers described to me, speculation-wise, was a server where everyone had communally decided to just see how long a faction could last against the escalating waves. There are no rules in place deciding how long that could be; it’s just that eventually you will get overwhelmed. But you can just as easily make that a part of the game.

The factions, of course, are another big and notable change. In Crowfall, factions are more or less player-defined. In Rend, you’re placed into a faction from the start. That means you are going to have to work with people, but it also means you have a certain degree of security built in, as bad things happening to you affect the rest of your faction. You’re not as alone.

Last but not least, Crowfall is class-based (or archetype-based, more accurately, but the core is the same for these purposes). Rend is skill-based, focused largely upon what you do in the game and how you develop accordingly. There’s no swapping back and forth between archetypes in combat; there’s what you’ve developed and how it works.

Nasty, brutish, and short.

Rend and Conan Exiles (and most survival games)

I’m picking on Conan Exiles here because it’s the biggest fantasy-based survival game out there, as ARK: Survival Evolved has a bit more of a science fiction feel. Still, the differences ripple outward fairly easily, starting with the fact that the server comes with a timer at all. That’s different, and that’s something a lot of survival games bypass pretty quickly; once you reach a certain tier of power, the game stops being about surviving against the wilderness. Having regular PvE attacks on your base with scaling intensity ensures that no matter how much you build up, you are always going to be focused on survival. It never becomes automatic.

Your focus is also different because you are automatically part of a group and don’t have to do everything on your own. Heck, you can’t do everything on your own, even if you do want to. There’s too much stuff to level, too many different options for how to play. You have to specialize rather than just being good at everything, which is a somewhat different experience right off the bat.

The game also features things which are not simply crafted; you can find powerful artifacts, and they can be a major boon, but they also put a target on your head because everyone will want to kill you and take that artifact. Yes, in other games that might be poor form, but here it kind of works: You journey into danger and can bring back some real power, but you’re also capable of losing it. So the general feeling is one that’s focused on survival more consistently, with far less incentive to simply beat the crap out of other players and ruin their stuff constantly.

We're going to fight until you're dead and your land is ours.

Rend and Camelot Unchained

Any three-faction game owes a debt to Dark Age of Camelot, and Camelot Unchained is the unambiguous spiritual successor to that game. Of course, one of the big differences is that CU is about retaining control over land rather than hitting an exterior win condition. While playing CU, your faction is trying to hold on to as much land as possible, but Rend doesn’t care about how much dirt you control if your enemy factions are collecting more souls than you are.

There’s also the timed nature of the conflict. Camelot Unchained is a place of perpetual conflict, so you still have the feeling of things being overturned, but it’s meant to be a lengthy process. If your faction coordinates well, there will not be an end point. In Rend, the doom is a constant onrushing freight train, and you will have to defend what you have on a regular basis from the start.

And what are you defending from? Wisely, as a game focused on the strong moments of PvP conflict, CU is all about defending from other players. That’s what you’ll be fighting, always. If no one attacks, you don’t have to defend. Rend has a PvE element to it naturally; you have to defend against NPCs no matter what happens. Indeed, the core of the game’s PvP is also about working into the corners of those NPC attacks, swooping in when the other faction is busy defending against an attack. Of course, that means your own base is more vulnerable, so you have that tension. You are only making major attacks when you realize that you are at your most vulnerable, there are no two ways about it.

Last but not least, CU is also class-based, much like Crowfall. So your specialty is determined more by what you pick at the start than what you do.

It’s worth noting that I haven’t listed a single game on this list that I actually dislike; all of these games currently provide or promise to provide interesting takes on multi-way PvP and online gaming. But if you’re unclear on how they’re different, it’s useful to know what the differences actually are. They’re all more interesting than any titles promising to let you do whatever you want against a backdrop of constant open ganking.

Sure, there’s always PvP, but in all of these titles it has a purpose. And those purposes and mechanisms vary in ways both subtle different across all the games under consideration.



7 Comments on "How Frostkeep’s Rend compares to other MMOs and survival sandboxes"

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Avi Eisenberg

Honestly, I’d say Rend feels like someone finally taking a shot at bringing some logic to the survival genre. ARK, Hurtworld, etc. so much chaos and pointless murder. It’s not an FPS so why is the PvP in survival games always as arbitrary as an FPS. ARK is so bad. It’s either petty drama driving people to attacking each other or just feeling like it. Feels like Rend is bringing some real objective gameplay to the survival genre which is beyond a breath of fresh air. Can’t wait to see how it goes.


Rend is 20x20x20 player, so not a MMO, not even remotely.
And it takes just a couple minutes to reach the other faction settlement, because the map is so small. So it is some kind of “Tower Defense meets Capture the Flag” campaign game. Once you have the soul tree filled or all settlements are destroyed forced game over and start again.

Ps: I don’t think you can log in/join AFTER the campaign has started. So afk logins to get a spot don’t make much sense. But it is easily possible that people just leave the campaign if they don’t have a chance to win or that people will – similar as in Don’t Starve Together, where teamwork is really critical and you suffer tremendously from bad populations – become tight, closed-off groups of players where you are screwed if you are casual and looking to join a campaign.

Stephen Donohue

My major concern is server size/player limits. I was reading on another site that each faction has a max number of players (I think they said 20) that can be on during the weekly PvE attacks. This raises two problems:

1. People are going to get annoyed very quickly if they can’t be on for the big “defend you base” event. If the solution is just “log in early”, you’ll end up with a bunch of afk/macroing players online all day not actually helping your team.

2. What’s to prevent people logging a bunch of troll accounts onto an opposing faction during these events and sabotaging the other team by simply not participating?

That said, I really like the concept and hope this does well, as the standard survival game experience is quite stale for me.

Avi Eisenberg

I was concerned about that as well. Coming from ARK where I’ve had a couple servers I played on wherein I got stuck outside of the server at annoying times. What I know so far is that they are going to show how many people have registered for each faction on a given server. That way you at least know your risk of being blocked out of your server when you join it. :)


multiplayer survival sandbox

Stop this. It’s like the mid 00’s all over again where everyone wanted to be WoW except now it’s survival sandboxes

Dug From The Earth

to add to this… “Survival” isnt a game… its a gameplay mechanic/feature. Its only part of what makes up a full game.

Its like saying “Open World”. That alone isnt enough to make up an entire game, but all these devs are sure as hell trying to make it be that way. Then they tack on the “Sandbox” keyword to help explain why these games lack depth, direction and any actual real content or gameplay beyond the “survival” mechanic.

Lights and Music

Super skeptical of this one – lots of vague ideas being thrown around:

The veteran, however, will have options that the other one doesn’t. The comparison was made to a game that lets you start with a few classes to select, but after a few wins you can select from several other classes which aren’t more powerful but do have new options. You get more traits, more potential paths, but no more raw power.

I’m not sure how this would work in practice – this is like claiming someone that only has the free-champion rotation available in League has the same opportunities as someone with every champ unlocked…I mean…sort of? But not really?

Once per week, at a scheduled time, the shields will fall and monsters will begin attacking all three faction bases at once.

Concerned this would become a guaranteed zerg-fest once a week, unless there’s some sort of mechanic to counter that…

And of course, you’ll be able to run custom servers which tweak the rules to your preferences.

Sounds like it could be fun, or it could fragment the community into a million pieces…this game could be fun, or it could be yet another survival dud (how bout that Early Access tag…) Call me a pessimist, I suppose