PAX East 2018: Frostkeep’s MMO Rend has come a very long way in just one year
My experience with Rend last year felt a bit like stepping into a faerie circle and slipping into another world, sneaking up to a rather secret meeting in a restaurant on the Boston pier and seeing this game that at once seemed like a very obvious take on a familiar formula while also being immediately appealing to me personally. So it was a given that I would go back, and I can confirm that the fish restaurant itself was very real; I had some fried fish. It was tasty.
Of course, by that point I had already seen Rend again because it had a booth on the show floor showing off what it had on offer.
I didn’t get to actually play the game on the show floor this year, but I did get a guided tour through all of the things that the game had gone through in the year since I had seen it. As I was told repeatedly, when I saw the game then, it was the work of five guys crammed into a basement working on something. Now, though, the game is approaching something much bigger, better, and brighter.
The biggest change, across the board, was just that the game has more of itself in place. It’s not that any of the core concepts have changed from what originally made the title so appealing to me, but just that more staff has meant providing more stuff for players to enjoy and more fun variations on the same core themes.
For example, one of the fun bits of new environment that I got to see was the new swampy biome. The swamp, as you might expect, is a fun place to be. The water there will give you a nasty case of swamp fever, the heat and humidity drain your stamina, and you’ve also got potent pheremones sticking to you the longer you’re there. That means swamp denizens will come after you from further and further away, rendering the whole place even more inhospitable.
Also, it features wasps that struck me particularly far on the Do Not Want scale. They looked like flying maggots the size of a Shetland pony. They were gross.
But for all of that horror, there are rare materials that are useful within the depths of the swamp. So you’ll need to take some time to be able to survive in the swamp, but there’s a reason to go in there. And it’s not a case where you’ll have a hard time surviving in the swamp because roaming gank squads will just murder you; said gank squad will also need to be able to survive in the swamp. If you can and they can’t, the swamp could actually be a safer option.
If you really wanted to fortify yourself, you could even build a personal base within the swamp for just this purpose. Personal and clan bases have been added to the game and allow you to place something down for your own use as you need it. The advantage is both personal ownership and access to the comforts of a base far from your main faction headquarters; as mentioned, for example, you could have a personal swamp base that allows you easier access to the swamp.
Down sides? These extra bases aren’t protected by the same shields as your faction base, so there’s nothing stopping the other factions from breaking in and messing up your shiz. So there’s an added risk and reward, and there’s similarly risk and reward when it comes to attacking these side bases.
We also got a look at some valuable nodes and treasure chests that can show up on maps. The treasure chests turn into mini-gold rushes; something drops from the air and everyone sees it, making it a rush for the chest and what it contains while trying to ensure that the other factions don’t get anything. Nodes, meanwhile, can pop up and offer options like otherwise unobtainable crafting enhancements, regular resource fountains, and the like.
Obviously, nodes also make great spots for additional bases. But they’re also prime opportunities for capture by the other side. And the effects of these nodes only persist so long as you have them; a magic anvil for crafting enchanted armor means that the armor loses its enchantments once you lose the anvil.
In other words, there are still lots of things pushing you into a supercollider with other players as well as lots of reasons to avoid exactly that. So there’s a constant pressure on both sides, but it also extends to feeling like you have to tally risk and reward. Just killing someone because they’re out in the world doesn’t net you much of anything, and you’re far more concerned with getting something useful than you are with just smacking people.
Replayability was also stressed. Since the game has a definite end point, there will always be more talents and abilities than players can unlock on a single go through the game. Meanwhile, things like nodes won’t always spawn on every given run. You have to think about your overall strategy and how you want to play, and each given playthrough is going to produce a different experience for players.
There are other features that unfortunately weren’t ready to be shown off; one of the goals for future design, for example, is to have almost every creature in the game be an option for taming. Tamed creatures can be everything from mounts to hunting companions, and they’ll all provide you with different bonuses. A wolf, for example, can smell and track blood, making it ideal for hunting; some larger mounts might be able to carry more, and so forth. Picking your pets is also a tactical choice.
I was informed that the wasps will likely be tameable. This was not something I wanted to hear, but there it is.
There are also more biomes than the ones that I saw. Aside from the gently rolling grasslands and the swamp, there was the highlands (which I got a peek at), but there were also the desert-like badlands, a fungal nightmare zone to serve as an even more challenging region, snowy mountains, and so forth. Some of the various talents and abilities weren’t ready for viewing just yet, although many others were implemented and working in the demo build.
When I saw Rend last year, I walked away from it impressed with the scope of its vision and the prospect for what it could be in the future. The last year of game development as an industry seems to have gone in the other direction, with bubbles of battle royale encouraging short-term building without long term investment.
It would have been easy for Rend to shrink itself down, and I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t. Quite the opposite; it’s kept growing larger and more engaging, and I find myself more curious than ever to see what it offers players as it continues moving through development.
Maybe we’ll even get rid of those wasps. Those things are really gross.