Overall, I think I’m an optimistic gent. Perhaps that’s a naive state to occupy lately, but between the kids I tutor and the college students with whom I work alongside, upcoming generations appear to be much more prepared to collaborate on amending the world they are inheriting than the online chorus of chirps and sweat-soaked headlines might have us believe.
And then I fire up Overwatch, and my ears fill up with the refrains of Hot Snakes’ “I Hate the Kids” while our team shits the bed, everyone either muted (until the end, offering their mossy commentary well beyond the freshness date), blasting tunes through their green-bean-can microphones, shouting memes, or slobbering salty epithets to the ungainly end. This lack of cohesive teamwork, or the merest gesture towards it, throttles my heart with memories of high school soccer. I was forced to play against my will at an embarrassingly late stage of adolescence and we never won a game. It honestly wasn’t too far from The Mighty Ducks with regards to personal growth, having learned the values of friendship and fun of sports despite a season that was bathed in the red. If nothing else, a ref once complimented me on my positive communication with the team while at the same time an opposing player told me to stop talking to much.
Communication is key in life, especially with Overwatch and team e/sports. Without it, the foundation of every posse is pulverized. But when the intelligence is wired and your crew appears to have omniscient battlefield awareness, the entire activity clicks. And this kind of teamwork sits at the crux of Rend, an upcoming online multiplayer game by former Blizzard devs Frostkeep studios, that aims to toss together the hottest of the day into a massive, three team/faction-based long-term cage match.
There’s a lot going on here, the minutiae of which I won’t even try to catalogue, but the cornerstone of Rend is its factions: each server will load up 60 players split into three teams of twenty. Each group is built from distinct communities from which players choose individual classes and roles, and work to secure their base while attempting to raid others during weekly scheduled events called Reckonings. A single match will last multiple weeks and Reckonings, with skill trees and miles of open wilderness filled with resources, wild animals, nine-plus biomes of hazardous wonders to explore and plunder. It truly aims to be a multi-hyphenate of game types—battle royale blended with team-based shooters and baked into a robust crafting system, with a dash of survival management for good measure. And when you join a server, you’re in the muck until the long, bloody end.
What with the Rend’s current alpha state, early but looking majestically impressive so far, and the fact that it more or less requires 60 players and tens of hours of playtime per match, it’s impossible to truly demo at a show like PAX East. But after speaking with the devs they are clearly aware of the giant bite they’re trying to take. No lifecycle will unspool the same way twice, and points are gathered and spent between them to further adjust the available options for following games. Players will shift and evolve to fill the roles that are needed. A kind of karma, or reputation is accrued based on how much you contribute to the overall success and efficacy of the group, not simply kills vs. deaths or piles of resources hoarded. Like Overwatch meets EVE Online crashing into Minecraft, Rend is an MMO sandbox RPG that requires a clan that can work together and evolve to confront not only the other online antagonists, but the toothy bite of the world itself.
On paper, and behind a dev wandering around showing me the highlights, Rend is promising a lot. The whole format hinges on your team, which may be the toughest sell nowadays, for a player like me at least. But the idea of taking my love for Dragon Quest Builders and smashing it against the occasional transcendence of an Overwatch plan well-executed is a honeyed siren’s wail. There are plans for an Early Access run sometime this year, and I’m keen to see if Frostkeep can deliver. Rend could be engrossing and potentially unique, or it could be asking too much. We’ll see if enough invested players can coordinate the effort of picking it up, and despite low opinion of most of the teamwork to be found in online games, I’m prepared to be surprised with a rally for the digital/Norse ages.
Rend’s public alpha is now live, go check it out.