STAFF REVIEW of Spellbreak (Xbox One)

Friday, September 11, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Spellbreak Box art The premise for most Battle Royale games is quite simple; place a bunch of players in an ever shrinking play arena where the last one, or team, standing wins. This simple premise has spawned many insanely popular games, not just limited to Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone and the latest Fall Guys. While I’m not normally a big fan of Battle Royale’s, there’s something great about being a battlemage, slinging all different types of elements at my enemies, even making lethal combinations as I hunt my enemies down across the Hollow Lands.

In this unique Battle Royale, you’ll weave your spells into different combinations as you try to vanquish your enemies and be the last battlemage standing. Very simple to pick up and play, it will take some time to master all of the smaller intricacies that really give Spellbreak some strategy depth to earn those wins. While Battle Royale is its only mode currently, there are plans to bring other types of modes in the future, so Spellbreak is going to evolve over time. The best part? It’s free to play, so there’s very little reason to give it a go and see if slinging spells is your forte.

Like most other Battle Royale’s, the map begins off quite large, but there’s an ever shrinking circle that you must stay within or you’ll start slowly taking damage. The circle starts to shrink quite quickly after the match begins too, so you’ll never know if you chose a good side of the map or not, where you’ll have to rush to reach the borders. As each new safe zone completes you’ll level up, earning you a new skill to fight your foes with. The final circle is so incredibly small and can create a frantic play area that usually ends in a matter of seconds with every player throwing whatever spells they can into the minimal space.

You queue up games as solo, duo or a squad (three players), aiming to defeat all other battlemages and be the last one standing. When playing in duo or a squad, if you manage to have your health depleted to nothing, you’ll turn into a lighted wisp, allowing 90 seconds for one of your teammates to revive you and get you back into the fight, though you’ll only revive with a portion of your health. Enemies can exile you as well, which means you’re completely out of the match, so make sure to work and communicate as a team if you’re not playing solo.

The basic gameplay is quite simple to understand, as you can jump and levitate around the stage, which is built suit vertical gameplay as well; you are all battlemages after all. You have a set amount of mana which can be used to shoot your spells and activate your abilities, but also levitate for a short period to reach higher areas as well, so there’s a balance of offence and defense as you wait a moment for your mana to recharge. Do you go on the offensive making it so you have no mana left to levitate or escape quickly, or not play as aggressive and leave yourself some mana to get to some high ground if needed?

Before you jump into your first match you’ll need to choose your class: Conduit, Pyromancer, Toxicologist, Frostborn, Stoneshaper or Tempest, each of which essentially starts you with one of the elements as your ‘main’ attack. You can freely swap your class before each match, but they all individually level and each have their own progression, and each has their own playstyle, so play around with each to find what suits you best.

You control the elements with powerful gauntlets. While you can’t change your main element/class, you can pick up a second gauntlet during the match and swap that one freely whenever you find another if you want. There are six different elements you can control: Frost Lightning, Stone, Toxic, Wind and Stone. So while you’ll begin with your match with your classes element gauntlet, you’ll get to pick up another gauntlet for your other hand, allowing you to combine elements for some crazy results.

For example, with my lightning abilities I can electrify any puddles or ice on the ground, make toxic clouds or even turn tornados that are filled with lightning. With the different elements there are a ton of different combinations that can create some unique strategies. Each element has its own strengths and weaknesses, allowing for different playstyles. Some are better for damage over time attacks, close range, long rage, burst firing and others, but it will take time to learn each’s intricacies and counters to one another.

While spell slinging takes the forefront of the gameplay, there’s a lot more that goes into winning a match of Spellbreak, such as equipment, runes and talents, adding another layer or strategy. Equipment is just that, pieces of gear you’ll pick up from downed enemies, scattered throughout the map and from chests. You can pick up Amulets (increases maximum mana), Belts (maximum armor), and Boots (run speed). Gear comes in different tiers of rarity as well, and it’s quite simple to quickly see if an item on the ground is an upgrade or not as you stand nearby to pick it up.

Runes are a special ability that can be activated after a cooldown that are meant for more mobility or strategic options. Runes will vary from abilities that allow you to dash, teleport, fly and more. Some like the Wolf’s Blood Rune are meant for more combat options, granting a temporary run speed boost and seeing enemy outlines through walls, or a rune that allows you temporary invisibility, allowing you to flank or escape quickly and setup a new attack. Runes also come in varying rarities, with the legendary version allowing you to fly, jump or stay invisible for much longer than common tier.

You also have a four slot inventory that can hold two potions in each, for a total of 8 consumables. Potions come in two types; health and armor regen but also in small or large versions. Health potions will regenerate your HP bar slowly, and armor ones your Armor bar, obviously. It took a while to get the hang of these being regen consumables and not instant, so it takes some strategy to know the best times to use these when in combat.

Talents are how you customize your build even further, beyond what runes and gauntlets you’re using. Divided into three categories of Mind, Body and Spirit, you’re given six points you can spend on one talent per category. So do you spend 3 points on one of the best abilities like an auto resurrection, leaving you with less points to spend in the other trees, or do you use others that give you a more well-rounded build? Your talents are usable and activate at the beginning of the match, but can be upgraded by finding and reading scrolls you find throughout the arena, improving that categories talent specifically to a third tier.

Chests are scattered throughout and one way you’ll find some of the best equipment, gauntlets, runes and more. There are different sizes of chests, with the bigger ones netting the higher tier gear. Mana chests appear on the map and are the best chests that will give you Legendary rarity gear, but they slowly open and takes twenty seconds for them to spill their treasures, leaving you open for an ambush as it is easily heard from nearby if someone is opening one of these loot boxes.

Your battlemage improves over time, earning experience points for matches completed and how well you performed. You’ll earn ranks for your current class you chose at the beginning of the match and your overall Mage Rank. At each new rank of class and mage, you’ll earn new bonuses or unlocks, usually gold for the store or new cosmetic items. Yes, as a free to play game there are microtransactions but it appears to be for cosmetic items like costumes, banners, icons and such for now.

The best part is that even in its early state, not only is Spellbreak Crossplay, but also Cross Progression. This means you can play anyone else on any other platform (and team up with), but also freely swap from one to another and keep your progression, stats, unlocks and more. Kudos to Proletariat for including these features so seamlessly this early on in its lifespan, as I never once had an issue populating a game with cross play enabled.

While the Battle Royale genre is oversaturated at the best of times, Spellbreak manages to carve its own niche with its wildly unique battlemage gameplay and extremely colorful visuals. With the promise of more modes to come, I’m excited to see how Spellbreak evolves over time, as it already feels decently balanced in its current state and a literal blast to play.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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