Battle Royales are a hot topic right now in the gaming community, with titles like Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends, Fortnite, etc. becoming the go-to multiplayer staples of many gamers. This genre revolves around a massive multiplayer population, gathering in lobbies to bout for the title of ‘last man standing’, a la free-for-all. However, once you explore the realm of Battle Royales, you’ll find that most of these video games are shooters–that’s when Spellbreak comes in to redefine this seemingly niche genre.
What is Spellbreak?
Spellbreak (2020) is the sophomore title of its developer and publisher Proletariat, Inc. It is a fast-paced, fantasy-themed battle royale of spells and sorcery, as opposed to your usual guns and grenades. After being in an ardent beta-phase for almost a year, Spellbreak was released on September 3, 2020 as a free-to-play game in the Epic Games store. Even during its teaser and early access, it already garnered the talk of many avid battle royale enthusiasts as it became a distinction from the plethora of shooters that existed within the genre. Not to mention that being an element-wielding sorcerer might have piqued the interest of Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, as well (and if that isn’t enough fanservice fantasy for you, the developers have admitted to taking inspiration from the series itself).
After its initial release, there became no doubt that Spellbreak was a worthwhile game with at least 4 out of 5 stars in ratings across Metacritic, PCMag, The Washington Post, and many other reviewers. During its first week open to the public, the action-spellcasting battle royale had managed to welcome around 2-million players in total, and has now maintained a sizable population within the online streaming community with an average of 5,500 weekly views (as of this article’s publication) on Twitch. Now that the preface of Spellbreak’s hype is out of the way, let’s delve into the gameplay itself.
Players enter the game in either Squads, Solos, or Duos, and begin combat within its unique map called ‘The Hollow Lands’, dropping off from the sky and opting where they would want to land within its vast landscape. While it does introduce a new playstyle of battle royale, the game does not stray from the well-known elements of the genre that make it so homely to play for its audience. It has all the things that make battle royales what people know them to be: a readjusting arena to force players into eventual encounters, loot boxes scattered across the map, and a diverse arsenal of weaponry to choose from, among many others. Although, just as you would expect from a game of fantasy and magic, the sky’s the limit for what you can do in Spellbreak (literally the sky; you can fly in this game and even fight while airborne)!
Dedicated gamers from the UP Alliance of Gamers have put in a decent amount of time within the Hollow Lands just to see how Spellbreak reinvents the titular genre of battle royales. Like any other video game, players are introduced to a tutorial level and are basically taught all the basic mechanics in order to start playing. However, there are a lot of things that the game does not readily teach players from the beginning.
Beyond the Tutorial
What catches the eye of most players that have reviewed the game is the elemental combination mechanic currently unique to Spellbreak. Some of us within the gaming community have always fantasized about wielding the elements and combining them to bring about an awesome magical effect, and this game delivers that concept in one of the most satisfactory ways any game could have ever done, called Elemental Interactions. As taught in the tutorial of the game, you have primary and secondary spells that are dictated by the type of Gauntlet that you use–these are your guns, if you decided that you wouldn’t pay attention to that part of the tutorial.
Want to surprise your enemies with a fiery tornado? Grab your wind and fire gauntlets, then. Opting to swap to another gauntlet? Take off your wind one and grab the toxic gauntlet, and this way you’d be able to create a wall of poisonous flames. These are only a few of the many elemental interactions available in the game, with many others left for you to explore yourself. This brings us to the things that the game doesn’t teach you from the get-go, and may require a bit of reading that isn’t necessarily as fun for most players: Classes and Talents.
Spellbreak’s class system is the flavorful mechanic of the game that spins your playstyle every time you drop off to play a lobby of Spellbreak. Before you start playing in the Hollow Lands, you’re prompted to choose which class to use for that game; simply put, you decide which elemental gauntlet you want as your primary. You aren’t allowed to change your primary gauntlet for the entirety of the match, which is a restriction only loosened by the growing ‘Skill Levels’ of each class. These skill levels gradually progress as a match goes on, granting your primary element an upgrade each time you increase a level. For example, the Stoneshaper class, whose primary gauntlet is stone, gains the Avalanche bonus when its skill level reaches max–Avalanche grants your sorcery an extra charge, allowing you to utilize it twice in an instant!
The game is user-friendly enough that it provides for the player an informative breakdown of each class and their respective level perks before they enter a lobby, so it should be easy for new players to read up on which one they fancy the most. Another thing that should be mentioned is the Talents system. Besides the upgradeable equipment and gauntlets scattered across loot boxes in the Hollow Lands, Talent scrolls are also an additional progression mechanic that Spellbreak offers per match. It allows for further diversity of playstyle, giving each player passive bonuses split across three categories: Mind, Body, and Spirit.
These are all explained in the tutorial level of the game, but the system is more substantial than how it’s introduced. Levelling up your talent is virtually similar to how a class progresses, but unlike the latter, it does not get stronger just as the match goes on. Players are able to pick up talent scrolls from loot boxes that are tied to one of three talent categories, and doing so will boost the level of that talent by one step higher.
But what does upgrading each talent really entail? Each talent has a unique, passive enhancement to further hone each player’s specific playstyle. You can take the Escapist talent from Spirit to run faster when in danger, or if you don’t like running you can opt for the Thirsty talent–allowing you to drink potions faster and therefore stay in prolonged combat–among many other options. There are 15 total talents currently in the game, split into 5 for each category. This way, players can mix and match the kind of bonuses they’d like for each category. Aside from the three that are available to players in the beginning, you can unlock all the other talents just by playing the game. Spellbreak offers this array of customizability right before starting a match, granting players full agency on how they want to be playing their spell-slinging mage.
Like all battle royales, it all boils down to strategy when attempting to snatch the win against dozens of players. A lobby in Spellbreak consists of 42 players, and in order to win you’ll have to eliminate every other player that’s not on your team; this is termed ‘Exiling’ in-game. The game takes after many other battle royales before it, using a revival mechanic with a flavorful touch to its fantasy theme. When you deplete a player’s health bar, they aren’t automatically exiled. Instead, they’re ‘disrupted’; Spellbreak’s own spin in a knocked-down state. While disrupted, players become completely impotent, save for the helping hand of an allied squad member who could revive them. On the other hand, if an enemy happens upon a disrupted player, they could choose to take the time and exile them on the spot, or leave them be and wait for them to be exiled after a certain time period. Although one alternative would be to disrupt all the members of an enemy squad–doing this automatically exiles everyone on their team!
In a match of Spellbreak, players clash in a fast-paced combat that’s not always predictable due to the level of customization everyone has at their disposal. This makes Spellbreak’s encounters riveting and non-repetitive, allowing everyone to fully enjoy a match and expect a different experience in the next one.
The Verdict: Worth Trying Out
If the Battle Royale genre interests you but you aren’t interested in guns and the feel of tactical shooters, then Spellbreak may just be the perfect cure for your gaming itch. It has the essence of a battle royale that you’d find with any other, except that it’s unique in how the mechanics are executed. The game ensures that it won’t alienate those that are already invested in other battle royale titles, but also welcomingly invites anyone wanting to try out their first of the genre; not to mention that it caters to a large audience that looks out for fantasy-themed, spellcasting games. In addition to that, with how much modification you can bring to your playstyle–something that Spellbreak’s class and talents system should offer–it’s guaranteed that a player would have a good time even just exploring the variety at their disposal. If all this and otherwise, we still suggest that you try out Spellbreak; it’s free-to-play, has a fresh and continuously increasing population of players, and most importantly: why not?
That’s for this month’s GG Fridays. Spellbreak is available to pick up for free in the Epic Games store, so we hope to see you in the Hollow Lands!