Spellbreak Review

Published: Friday, October 9, 2020 - 11:00 | By: Alex Verdini
Developer
Proletariat
Publisher
Proletariat
Multiplayer modes
Online
Platforms
PC, PlayStation 4
Monetization
Premium Currency
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
PlayStation Store Epic Games Store
Magic Enters the Battle Royale Genre

Another day, another battle royale. Enter the magical version this time. Spellbreak hits the standard battle royale mechanics: circles, looting, and being the lone survivor in order to win. The formula continues to work well for Spellbreak, but the small players per server and pacing slow the game down compared to others in the genre. Yet, if you enjoy charming character art and innovative magic combat, this may be a welcome new entry to the battle royale genre.

There’s nothing that quite hits the thrill and randomness of a good battle royale, but Spellbreak certainly deviates from the standard “loot & shoot” mechanics of the genre. Everything about Spellbreak focuses on you as a magic-user. Prior to the start of each match, you select your primary magic elemental class, known as a gauntlet. You’re stuck with this initial pick of magic, but over the course of the match, you can pair your primary magic with one additional type of magic. This is where, well, the magic really happens.

 
 

A Good Combination

The world burns around you the player who casts a fire wall
Battle can be absolutely chaos at times as the world around you burns

Combining multiple types of magic is what really makes Spellbreak a unique battle royale. Fire a stone boulder through a wall of fire? That’s now a giant boulder on fire. Add lightning to your poison cloud? Enjoy an electrified gas cloud. Playing with friends really ups the ante as you’ll be able to strategize with them to create unique magic combinations.

Some magic types like lightning or frost require high aim skill to use, but they deal massive damage if you can line up your opponents. Other magic types, like fire and wind, are more area of attack. A few magic combinations are particularly more dominant than others at the moment though, which can lead to some unbalanced play. Fights are incredibly inconsistent at the moment because of the balance issues, as some fights you will almost instantly die, while others take minutes to finish. It's frustrating because the combat is genuinely interesting with the different spell combos, but with the inconsistency of each engagement it makes it difficult to find a groove over the course of a match.

Much to Learn, Young Mage

Combining of two magic types, acid and lightning creates a new combo spell
The ability to combine spells, like acid and lightning, lead to new magic combos like the acid lightning cloud

The tutorial does a great job of breaking down all the various upgrades, which is good, because there’s a lot of them. Each gauntlet of magic has tiered upgrades, ala Fortnite, on top of that, there are tiered runes, which grant movement abilities like flight, teleportation, and dash. Some balancing might be needed here, as flight and teleportation seem incredibly strong for getting out of fights to heal. I’m a big fan of fun mobility, particularly in battle royales, and these rune movement abilities add a lot more variety than a clunky vehicle you might find in other battle royale games.

Talent trees make an appearance at the start of each match where you can modify or change your abilities in three different areas: Mind, Body, and Spirit. A Body talent could be increase spellcasting speed or jump height. Conversely, an increased Mind talent could mean more charges on your rune (movement) spell or more spell damage when at full mana. Throughout a match, you can also find scrolls that upgrade each category too. There’s a lot of choices, which is always a plus in battle royale games as you can mix-and-match prior to the match by tinkering with your talent trees.

Respect the Pace

Ice arrow flies toward an opponent
Some spells require precision and do massive damage, like the ice bow, but make fights feel inconsistent

Pacing is a huge factor in keeping a battle royale active and interesting over the course of a match. Too many players hot dropping and dying early contributes to long downtime between fights. Right now, this is the biggest area where Spellbreak lets me down as a veteran battle royale player. The genre has continually improved on increasing the pace and action through mechanics like teammate revival after death, but Spellbreak seems to take a few steps back from its peers in this regard. Call of Duty Warzone, one of the more recent battle royales, doubles down on this pace with multiple revive mechanics. It’s difficult going from that pace and “you always have a chance, even if you’re dead” style to a one-and-done method in Spellbreak

Adding to the pace issues, the map is generally uninteresting with no major points of interest that add “wow” factor or force tactical decisions to be made. Unlike almost every other battle royale, I really feel no attachment or need to land in a particular spot as the entire maps feels a bit generic. It’s an absolutely massive map that houses only forty players currently, which really hampers the pacing of the game. In solos, I’ve gone multiple matches without seeing an opponent until the final ten players converge at the end of a game. Pacing detracts from what could be a more enjoyable experience, and it feels as if Spellbreak would really benefit from a smaller map or new game modes that take it out of the battle royale genre entirely. Adding more players seems like the obvious fix, but with the general chaoticness and inconsistency of fights I'm not sure that's the right answer either.

On the other hand, Spellbreaks art style is absolutely fantastic. In the introduction to the game and the tutorial, you get an anime-art style with a captivating introduction. You’re described as an oath breaker, as someone who uses magic against the will of the vow keepers. It’s an interesting bit of lore, and I would love to see it expanded in the future. Spells, and in particular, spell combinations look gorgeous and really brighten up the game. In-game cosmetics via the shop are already alive and kicking, but there’s no conventional battle pass yet. Instead, you can unlock various cosmetics by leveling the different class types, which is an interesting method and is currently free to all players. It’s a nice little touch to reward players while letting them showcase their preferred magic type.

Spellbreak Review | Final Thoughts

Spellbreak has many of the elements you hope to push the battle royale genre further: a new style of combat, talent trees, and new abilities. Yet, it falls short in a few areas. A bland and massive map for only 40 players makes it generally feel empty. When hitting a group fight through, it quickly turns to complete chaos that often leaves you wondering what even happened. Still, for its first week, Spellbreak looks to be in solid shape overall and should offer a good change of pace from the standard gun-based battle royales. If you’re not a fan of the standard loot and shoot battle Royale, it might be worth hopping into Spellbreak to give it a chance.


TechRaptor reviewed Spellbreak on PC using a copy freely downloaded by the writer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Review Summary

7.0
Magical combat is a new take on battle royale, but inconsistent battles and match pacing disappoint

Pros

  • New Magic Combat Completely New to Battle Royale Genre
  • Magic Combinations Lead to Creativity in Each Fight
  • Beautiful Art Style and Lore in the Early Game

Cons

  • Inconsistent Fights Due to Balance Issues
  • Map Feels Bland and Too Big for the Number of Players
  • Pace Slows Each Match Down Considerably

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A picture of staff writer Alex A. Verdini
Staff Writer

A gamer since his earliest memory, Alex enjoys practically every video game genre known to humankind (with a particular favoritism toward shooters and RPGs). He's been a long time Dungeons & Dragons player, and he has a fondness for board games and tabletop RPGs.