Survival sandbox games aren't exactly rare, but the Norse myth-themed Rend has my attention, thanks to its intriguing structure. Similar to Ark: Survival Evolved, players build, craft, level, fight (or tame) monsters and expand. The big difference here is that the players are split into three rival factions of a few dozen players online at a time with an ultimate, server-resetting goal in sight. No getting ganked by random jerks here - you and your faction are in this boat together, and after watching some streamed gameplay (and asking the devs a few questions), this one is on my radar.
Unlike most survival sandbox games, Rend has an ending. Matches play out over an estimated month or so, with players gaining score through major cooperative or competitive endeavours. The first faction to reach the goal is crowned winner, and the server is reset. Progression within a match is RPG-like, with players ascending through several skill trees. Faction-wide research also provides growth to all members - a high tide lifts all boats. Those who do well at the end of a match are awarded points towards permanent account perks that can be carried between servers.
Developers Frostkeep want Rend's players to be thrown regularly into conflict with each other, too. Their solution is regularly scheduled battles (twice a week at present, although they may change or be set on a per-server basis) called Reckonings. There's no surprise to these, just a ticking countdown until the next big hour-long throwdown, so all three teams can prepare and make sure that their best fighters are online for a messy three-way brawl, with the winners finding themselves a little closer towards an overall server victory. Outside of reckonings, skirmishing is allowed, but faction bases debuff enemy forces, giving the home team a major advantage.
Right now, most of Rend's core loop seems to be in the early access version, but they've got a lot of big plans for the next 6-12 months of development before fully launching. A high-level underground region is one of the major upcoming features, and the developers describe delving down there as a team endeavour. The critters down there consider lone players to be tasty snacks. More creatures both surface and subterranean are on the cards, plus new siege weapons, a weapon mod system and (of course) more snazzy outfits to dress up in.
Rend is out now on Steam for £23/€28/$30, and will be in early access for an estimated 6-12 months.