It’s time for a new kind of battle royale.
The battle-royale wave some argue has been rode to death. The genre is ever popular without many signs of slowing down, but the titans of BRs continue to dominate. New entries to the field have been hit or miss. Games such as Hyperscape have proven to be…mostly hype, while more games are simply incorporating BR elements, like Vigor, a survival looter-shooter fairly recently released on Switch, and the massively popular Fall Guys.
The lines between what is, and what makes a battle royale are beginning to blur, but that’s probably for the best, as we get standouts like this month’s Spellbreak from Proletariat through Epic Games. Spellbreak fits somewhere between a lite BR and largescale arena combat. The result is fresh, fast and fun gameplay with visuals that don’t take themselves overly serious.
“You launch spells at your foes from elements like fire, ice, and wind…it’s certainly got some Avatar: The Last Airbender like vibes.“
Fatigue of first-person shooters is understandable these days, especially when it comes to BRs, but Spellbreak livens up the playing field by encouraging wizards around the globe, on several different platforms to do battle. Dropped onto an island, with manageable yet still hectic 42-player matches, you launch spells at your foes from elements including fire, ice, wind, stone, lightning and poison. It’s certainly got some Avatar: The Last Airbender like vibes.
But, what is most enjoyable about it is the fluid combat. Levitation is one of the fundamentals of movement when you are not running on the ground. This adds an interesting dimension of play, as in the most heated battles you not only have to try to hit often aerial targets, but you also must not lose track of them.
Fight like a wizard, think like a wizard.
Escaping a firefight… err, spell-fight is often just as viable as winning one. In addition to your array of spells, runes located throughout the map can enhance your movement allowing teleportation, Superman-esque flight, or frog like double jumping. Spells can be combined as pickups, known as gauntlets, allow you to use an additional element in combination with an element you initially choose. Want to turn your tempest tornado into a firenado? You can. Want to blow up a cloud of toxic poison gas? You can do that, too. There are several “build’s and strategies you can run and your creativity certainly can be rewarded.
The whole formula is a refreshing change of pace from more grounded titles like Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends, and is slightly reminiscent of Fortnite (without the building mechanics). Graphically, the game resembles Fortnite or a high quality WoW, but this adds to its charm. This also means it one of the select BRs that the Nintendo Switch can handle. So far, I’ve tried it on both Xbox One and the Switch, and while it certainly handles better on the Xbox One, nothing says convenience like being able to play a BR in bed, with The Office or Rick & Morty in the background on my TV.
Spellbreak’s environments are a tad bland. Aside from combat, Spellbreak isn’t really doing anything new.
Spellbreak’s environments are a tad bland. There are castles and fields, some desert and swamp areas and many destroyed coliseums, but there aren’t really hot POIs. The locales of the game aren’t really going to stand out in your mind and one edge of the island is almost indistinguishable from it’s opposite end on the other edge of Spellbreak’s world. Right now, however, it works. The environments aren’t meant to awe-inspiring, they’re meant for you to pick up some quick loot in before you go to battle, or in case you run across a stray mage of squad of mages looting just like you.
As far as BRs go, aside from the mage combat, Spellbreak isn’t really doing anything new. You loot health potions and armor potions (shields) like many other games in the genre, and worse, these items are actually kind of scarce, especially near the end-game. Third partying (rushing in to clean up combatants already engaged, and weary from battle) is easy to do. If you don’t run into an enemy player while flying around like Superman, you’ll likely see them from afar when they detonate a bomb of lightning or hurl a tornado at someone.
Once your health is depleted (if you’re not playing solo), you become “disrupted” turning into a golden ball of light that can move at a snail’s pace, and your only chance of survival is being restored by a teammate. Should an enemy get to your little glow ball of a body first, they can “exile” you which results in your permanent death, and no, you can’t be respawned (unlike several other BRs). The one upside, though, the exiling process takes several seconds while your would-be executioner stands perfectly still, an ideal opportunity for a teammate or a third party to destroy someone mid-exiling. The reverse is also true, while killing someone, you must be aware as you put also put yourself in a very vulnerable state.
Spellbreak still claims to be in an early release “phase”, but it certainly looks promising.
The game released earlier this month, and limited pre-release builds were being worked on and played as late as last year. I certainly did not even notice the game until it was featured on Switch’s new release news board and the game still says it’s an early release beta, but it certainly looks promising. Proletariat’s roadmap for the game seeks to include more arena style matches, 9v9s, team deathmatch, and eventually new elements and loot. Players can dive in solo, duos or in three-person squads and the game supports cross-play as well as cross-progression.
Spellbreak is free-to-play on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.