Spellbreak (Switch) Review
The Battle Royale genre of games has taken many forms. Spellbreak may not be the first fantasy game in this space, but it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable. With the Marvel season currently taking place in Fortnite, I have jumped back into playing that, the last time I played was well over a year ago. Switching between the two, I’ve found despite the juggernaut that is Fortnite, there is still space for a game like Spellbreak.
Spellbreak takes part in the Hollow Lands in the world of Primdal, where Battlemages fight for supremacy. With the help of magical gauntlets, you take control of the elements; fire, ice, earth, lightning, wind and toxic/poison. It all sounds like Avatar: The Last Airbender, in a good way. The Battle Royale staples are here – you can choose where you drop onto the map, there are timers, and the ever-approaching storm. You can play in a squad, in duos or by yourself, but initially, only squads were available. It’s good to see the game opens up more as developer Proletariat adds more to the game. The hook to Spellbreak is that instead of guns and building structures, you’re using magic. It may not sound like much, but I’ve had a lot of fun slinging fireballs around. The combat is what makes this game stand out in a crowded genre, the magical attacks and hovering around the battlefield is a blast.
Before a new round you can choose what element of Battlemage you want to be, each of them having quite different playstyles. What it boils down to is each element acts as the different classes of firearms. Ice allows you to snipe your opponents, lightning is rapid fire like an SMG, and using fire is like a grenade launcher. You get a primary attack that you can fire off as fast as possible, and there’s secondary attacks with a cool down timer that do more damage. Some elemental gauntlets feel uneven, although being able to carry two of them means you can offset this. Regardless of the elements you choose, they all are fun to use in their own ways. The earth attacks are solid and leave a trail of destruction. Charging up an ice lance to hit someone and using the ice trail left to speed along is fun. Given you pick what type of Battlemage you want to be from the beginning, you’re never left unarmed or stuck with a crappy weapon. I found this means that you feel ready to fight as soon as you hit the ground, no frantic running around only to find a pistol.
While you choose one element to start with, you can pick up another gauntlet during the round. Different combinations of the elements make for some deadly attacks. Launch a wind tornado and hit it with a fireball, it becomes a fire tornado for extra damage. You can also ignite toxic clouds or make a meteor. By yourself you can mix it up a fair bit if you can find the gauntlet you need. Working with others you can cover each possible combination if you really want to go to the effort. While it was great to see one of these combination attacks work in a fight, wailing on enemies with the basic elemental attacks can still make short work of them.
Throughout the Hollow Lands you can also find Runes. You can equip these for an extra power. Sneak around with invisibility, take off to the skies with flight, or let off a howl that detects any nearby players. Runes aren’t hard to find in the chests or even out in the open, they’re worth tracking down for the extra edge in combat. I was a fan of using invisibility to scout areas where I could hear fighting. Along with the Runes you’ll also find equipment/armour to help provide you with some shield, and improve your other stats too. If you find and read a scroll you can give your powers a boost. Even as you move around to the safe zone from the storm you level up, making everyone stronger the smaller the storm circle gets.
One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the game so far is the smaller number of players in each round. Each round can have up to 42 players all descending down to the arena. It’s a fairly big arena too, which I’ve found means fights are far and few between until the last five players. It feels like I might see someone only by sheer luck, the Hollow Lands are just too big for the number of players. As a result the world feels empty. I would spend most of the round being able to upgrade my gauntlets and equipment to the highest levels without seeing anyone else. This isn’t because there aren’t people playing, there’s just not enough of them in the round. The majority of the time I found myself easily getting into the last five mages. It did make me curious if I was just that lucky or if CPUs are also used.
The other issue that having such a big map creates is that there aren’t enough notable landmarks, or anything memorable really. There are different areas, there’s a few different biomes to duke it out in. Only within these areas there’s nothing that makes them stand out, there’s random castle remnants strewn through every area. Here’s hoping updates change up the map and give people a reason to check out the different areas. Or at least give the players a reason to visit locations.
Being able to levitate is something that should be in every Battle Royale game, it was hard to go back to Fortnite. It made getting around the map much easier, and made showdowns even more exciting. It hasn’t felt this good to move around in a multiplayer game since Titanfall 2, and that’s high praise.
As you increase your Mage and elemental ranks, you unlock badges, cards/nameplates, accessories and gold. There are also ‘talents’, these are perks that you can equip with you to give you a boost in battle. The talents are selected before each round, you have a certain amount of points to allocate to what talents you can take with you. Some can give you a second wind if you get knocked out when with a squad, some help tag enemies, and some just make you a little more powerful. With a perk system like this there is the risk of overpowering the more experienced players and putting new players at a disadvantage. So far the different elemental classes are more uneven, and the initial talents also seem easy to gain for newcomers too.
Developers Proletariat are also going to be adding Chapter updates, currently the Chapter section is inaccessible. I am curious to see what form this takes. Will it be events like Fortnite that change the map on a regular basis? From their own site it reads like the world will evolve over time as the lore is revealed. While it might not be a game I play every day, I have enjoyed my time enough that I want to jump in and see how the game changes over time. For now, there is accomplishing the challenge tasks which are the same as daily goals in other games. They’re achievable and without a Battle Pass to keep throwing extra challenges, it’s all there is for now.
Like other Battle Royale games, there is an in-game store. Use currency you earn as you rank up, or you can purchase some with real money. The store is filled with cosmetic upgrades, no pay-to-win nonsense here. I found the store didn’t have that much on offer, days apart I found the store still had most of the same items. For now at least there’s no ‘Battle Pass’ equivalent, so whatever you earn can be spent on sprucing up your character or your profile.
Spellbreak is also available on other platforms, fortunately it already runs pretty well on the Switch. The draw distance isn’t the best, although I had the exact same issues with Fortnite on the Switch too. I never had any issues with getting online and if there was any lag I didn’t notice it.
I’m very interested in seeing what Spellbreak becomes given a little more time and extra features added in. The combat and levitating make the game enjoyable already, hopefully, the player count per round can be increased to make use of the big arena. If you’re after something a bit different from Fortnite, Spellbreak is a good alternative. Even better is that it’s free, and perfectly playable without spending a cent. If you want a game that allows you to fight with the elements like Aang and Korra, Spellbreak might be the game for you.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
To celebrate the launch of Spellbreak we’ve got 10 codes to give away for the game, it’ll give you a bunch of items and in-game currency. The items include
- Keymaster Outfit
- Bughunter Outfit
- Sword Protector Oufit
- Master Badge
- Battlemage Badge
- Mage Badge
- 15,000 in-game gold
You’ve got a few days to enter!
+ Combat and moving around the map is enjoyable
+ Lots of promise
- The 42 player limit has each round feeling sparse
- The map isn't very memorable at the moment