Following its full reveal at Gamescom 2020, Spellbreak is here as of September 3rd. Now, as someone who pretty much despises battle royale games, this one stood out and grabbed my attention. Even though everyone and their nan has tried their hand in the genre, after seeing Fortnite destroy the wallets of parents everywhere, the trend still hasn’t ended as more developers jump on the never-ending craze. Thankfully, with this latest entry into the BR scene, I have a little more optimism than I did previously towards this populated genre.
Spellbreak is made and published by Proletariat Inc. and does a few things to try and stand out from the pack. It’s third-person instead of first and rather than finding big weapons and relying on vehicles to get around, in this world you’re mages that use different elements to cast spells at your opponents. Similarly to Apex Legends, it’s a class-based BR and having a good mix of classes will be key to victory. To call it just a BR is a little detrimental as there are more modes incoming soon but as of right now it’s just the BR trio mode that’s available.
We were lucky enough to get the Champions Founder Pack to get the full Spellbreak experience, let me tell you all about it!
Return of the Packs
With the Champions founder pack, you gain access to a few exclusive skins and badges. Amongst these is the legendary Keymaster outfit, which has become my go-to skin with all of its shiny glory. Along with this, there is a bug-hunter outfit, some patchworks and some in-game badges to wear with pride as you attach them to your profile.
The biggest part of the pack, however, is the 15,000 gold which you can use to purchase skins, emotes and victory celebrations as they cycle through the store. Having this freedom to choose the skins you want is brilliant if you’re someone who cares just as much about how good you look as you do about winning. There’re some great looking skins that make you stand out from the other players and there’s a ton to buy, giving you a lot of unique choices.
Personally, skins in games have never bothered me; I haven’t ever spent money on a free game but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the choices on offer in Spellbreak to make myself stand out. It’s all about the emotes and celebrations for me though, seeing wizards doing weird poses is just something that makes me laugh.
Would I say it’s worth the money though? No, I wouldn’t. It may be better if you were one of the people who bought the pack before the deadline in January, which gave you access to a private master’s Discord channel, but as of right now, I can’t really justify the money. If you were to buy 13,500 gold in the store, it’s £79.99. The champion pack is £99.99 which nets you some skins and 1500 more gold. When you consider that purchases in-game are usually around 800 gold, it doesn’t feel worth the extra £20 to me. Neither does spending that much money on a free game. That’s a lot of money!
Spellbreak has a very pretty and colourful art style that makes the battlegrounds feel like they’ve been ripped right out of an anime. The medieval settings of castles and stone villages suit the game brilliantly and it looks war-ravaged but also beautiful. There’s deserts, mountains and even swampy areas that all stand apart from each other and allow you to begin to learn the map by using these distinctive layouts. It’s not quite as simple to learn as other BR games, due to a lack of unique monuments and landmarks, but it’s not too much of an issue as you won’t go too long without being in a fight.
The map also isn’t anywhere near as large as other BRs due to the highest player count only being 42, but it works well and generally seems to be paced long enough to explore but not too long to get bored between fights.
The sound design is what really helps though. Each class has distinct sounds that you instantly recognise so you know which elements you’re coming up against. These sounds allow you to adjust your playstyle appropriately, so if you hear a frost bow behind you, you know it’s best to get as close as possible to them.
Master the Elements
So, what’s the actual game like? To start off with you’re dropped into a tutorial and taught the basics of spellcasting and protecting yourself. You’re then free to drop into your first match. As with Fortnite, that other colourful BR no one has heard of, you can pick up and store health potions and shields to recover in between fights. The game also fundamentally works the same in terms of its rules. As time progresses, the “circle” gets smaller in which you can live in without taking damage. In your group of 3, you must battle to be the last team surviving.
So how does it all work? Similarly to Apex Legends, you choose a class of spellcaster before each game. Each class has different elemental powers and specific attacks you can use. For example, I’ve tried all the classes but have been favouring the ‘frost’ class. With that, you can summon an ice ring around you or you can use the frost bow to damage opponents from far away. When you fire, your arrow also creates a frozen path on the floor, allowing you to slide along it and cross the distance quickly. The variation in classes is amazing. There are 6 classes to choose from and each of them feels very distinctive in their play style. The Frostborn class favours distance but there are classes that have the opposite and everything in between. The tempest (wind) class, for example, is another favourite of mine. It is better for up-close battles with a tornado that traps enemies inside or with a rapid flurry of attacks than can inflict good damage on those who get close enough.
It also goes a bit deeper than that with a mechanic that is really interesting and new to the genre. As each ring/storm/circle (whichever you prefer to call it) closes, your class levels up. With each level that goes up, you learn a new ability that can give you little bonuses that aren’t drastic but can definitely turn a situation in your favour. Obviously, everyone gets their own bonuses, but it’s an interesting mechanic that allows for a bit more depth in terms of you mastering each class. Get to grips with each level upgrade and you will be dominating the competition.
The last thing that really spices things up is the ability to have a second class equipped at any given time. This is where things get really interesting and makes Spellbreak feel really unique. On the class you chose, you have to stick to that on your “main” hand. However, on your second hand, you can change that class to whatever you want as long as you find the gauntlet for it in each game. You may favour a long-distance class, but it’s always helpful to have that option to have a shorter one too so you can properly defend yourself. As you explore, you can find different rarities of gauntlets which are colour coded in the usual pattern of video game colour coding. So, if you find an epic gauntlet for each arm you’re laughing and will have insane damage output.
The movement in this game feels fantastic too. You can fly in bursts (jetpack style) and hover while you aim to take shots. The map is surprisingly vertical in places which adds some strategy to positioning and to the classes, so learning to fly properly is a must. The movement mechanics are made even more fun by the addition of runes that you can find on the battlefield.
For example, there is a flight rune that allows you to soar across the sky with a much higher speed to gain or close the distance, or there is also a rune that allows you to jump high into the sky as a position gain or as a quick escape. Of course, there are many more options too, some not movement-related but I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself (the wolf’s blood rune is particularly useful).
It’s just another layer that adds to the experience and makes each match feel different and exciting.
Having a good mix of runes in your team is very helpful. The downside to all of these abilities is the controller layout. I’ve experimented with all of the controller options the game provides you and while I’ve settled on one, it still doesn’t quite feel natural. There’s a lot of buttons to remember and on a controller, it just doesn’t feel the same as it would on a keyboard. It’s worth playing around with them to get your own preference sorted while training, as it takes a while to get familiar with. Flying, controlling two gauntlets with two abilities each, moving, and having a rune all at the same time is a lot for a controller to handle.
So, what about your team? That’s where it gets even more exciting. The elemental powers that you use can be used to create a sort of fusion of elements. Thrown a huge toxic blob at the opponents? Why not have your teammate set fire to it with their pyromancer class? Have a tempest in your ranks? Even better, have them cast a tornado to trap your enemies inside your new monstrous creation. Now you have a toxic-fire-blob that can do immense damage-over-time to your opponents while they’re being whipped up by a tornado and can’t move.
That’s where Spellbreak really feels at it’s best. When everyone is using their favoured classes to combine elements and create powerful combinations to defeat everyone else. Some elements cannot be combined but there are enough variations to not feel limited and it makes for a truly shocking, whirlwind battle royale (yes that was in reference to a thunder-tornado that you can make).
If you do down an enemy, you have to approach their orb that remains on their body and “exile” it before a teammate revives them in the same way. Everything about Spellbreak encourages team play, which is fantastic and hopefully encourages people to stick together. It’s definitely worth telling your friends to download the game and getting in as a three-person team, just to see what combinations you can pull off it nothing else. If you’re worried about random teammates flying off from you when you spawn (unsure as to if you’re friend or foe), there’s a way to handle that here, you can force allies to spawn with you so there’s no confusion, a feature I absolutely love.
What I will say though is there are a few undeveloped parts that could do with improving. For example, there’s a ping system to communicate with your team but it’s very limited to a simple point, marking either a location or an enemy, so using voice chat is definitely required. You also cannot revive your teammates after they have been exiled, which can be frustrating as this is a game that fully requires team play. There won’t be any 1 v 2 or 1 v 3 wins in Spellbreak, you will get destroyed. The lack of these two features are a big let-down and I’m hoping they get added in some capacity in the future.
In Warzone, for example, you can buy teammates back and in Apex Legends you can collect your buddies’ beacon and use it to bring them back at spawn points. Without these features, you’re left with an experience that feels a bit incomplete – but this could easily be rectified with future updates. They don’t have to copy other BR games, just use their successful aspects as inspiration to make their own game better, which I genuinely think Spellbreak could be.
New battle royale games seem to be coming out every week – just this past month we’ve also had Hyperspace. That being said, Spellbreak is the most fun I’ve had in the genre since I first tried Fortnite. It still has a long way to go to prove itself as the best BR out there, but I think it’s starting out as the strongest one on day one so far. Its gameplay is fast and fun, the team-based attacks and gauntlet system are innovative and satisfying, and the class systems add a ton of reasons to replay and practice. It’s a really solid game that feels it’s at its absolute best when playing as a team, which isn’t always the case when it comes to BRs.
Spellbreak does enough to truly stand out in the genre and is probably my favourite battle royale out there right now. Go give it a play, who knows, it might just be the refresh in the genre you’ve been looking for.
If picking up the game on PSN (and you have PS Plus account – as F2P games don’t require a paid account on the PS4), you can grab a free PS Plus Bonus Pack HERE.