Spellbreak Review: Arcane wizardry in a Battle Royale?

Spellbreak is a magical take on the battle royale genre.


A mage in Spellbreak casts a fire boulder.
Spellbreak allows wizards to do battle on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.

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, and the titans of battle royales (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 and the party battle-royale, Fall Guys.

The lines between what is, and what makes a battle royale are beginning to blur, but this is for the better, as we get standouts like this month’s Spellbreak from Proletariat. Distributed by 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 too seriously.

Proletariat’s Spellbreak adds some refreshing twists to the done to death BR formula.
Players launch spells at their 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, and on several different platforms, to join in battle. Dropping from the skies onto an island, battle commences in manageable yet hectic 42-player matches. You’ll launch spells at your foes from elements including fire, ice, wind, stone, lightning and poison. It’s certainly got Avatar: The Last Airbender like vibes.

A mage combines wind and lightning to cast an electrified tornado
Tempest and lightning abilities can be combined to launch a “shocknado”.

What is most enjoyable about Spellbreak is the fluid combat. Levitation is one of the fundamentals of movement when you’re not running on the ground. This adds an interesting dynamic of play, as during the most heated battles you not only have to try to hit often aerial targets, but you also must take care not to lose track of them.

A mage casts a fireball.

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-style flight, frog-like double jumping or invisibility. 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 set ablaze a cloud of toxic poison gas? You can do that, too. There are several “builds” and strategies you can utilize and your creativity is rewarded.

The combat is hectic, fast and fluid. Spells are colorful and easy to spot across the map.

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 higher quality World of Warcraft, adding to its charm are vibrant cel-shaded visuals and color tones. This also allows it to be one of the select BRs that the Nintendo Switch can actually 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 comfortably in bed, with The Office or Rick & Morty in the background on my TV. If playing on the Switch, be prepared for longer load times and dips in framerate.

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, an abundance of dilapidated 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 its opposite end on the other edge of the world. Right now, however, it works. The environments aren’t meant to be awe-inspiring, they’re meant for you to pick up some quick loot before you go to battle, or quickly dispatch a stray mage or 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 still, these items are actually pretty scarce, especially near the final rounds. Third partying (rushing in to clean up combatants already engaged, or 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.

Spellbreak, a mage uses shockwave while another mage levitates.
Third partying is pretty rampant in Spellbreak. It’s easy to spot a lightning tornado on the map and spells are very loud and flashy.

Often, this is how you will engage in battle, as well. A core tenet of most BRs is to listen for enemy footsteps or gunshots to gauge how close would-be attackers are to your character. In Spellbreak, you can use audio cues to your advantage, but often I’ve found I’ll realize I’m about to be in combat because I’ll hear spells when I am casting none, then realize as my health is depleting, “Oh, someone is attacking me.”

It can be rather confusing when playing with teammates because sometimes they may randomly cast spells for fun or in-between combat. Was that whoosh of wind you just heard your teammate leaning too heavy on the trigger button, or is another player on top of those ruins pelting you with mini-tornadoes?

Some tips for beginner’s joining the arcane madness of Spellbreak.

In any case, once your health is depleted you become “disrupted” in team modes turning into a golden orb of light, if playing solo, you simply die. A disrupted player can still move at a snail’s pace, your only chance of survival being through restoration by a fellow teammate.

Should an enemy player get to your little glow ball of a body first, they can exile you resulting in your permanent death, and no, you cannot be respawned (unlike several other BRs). The one upside, though, the exiling process takes several seconds while your executioner stands perfectly still, an ideal opportunity for a teammate or a third party to destroy someone mid-exile. The reverse is also true, while killing someone or restoring a teammate, you must be acutely aware as you also leave yourself in a highly 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 in alpha (being play tested) as early as last year. I certainly did not even notice the game until it was featured on Nintendo Switch’s new release news board and the game still says it’s an early game preview, 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.

You can catch footage and my live streams of Spellbreak and many other games on Twitch and Youtube.

Apex Legends cross-play doesn’t arrive Sept. 15th

Fans of Apex Legends theorized the release of cross-play today, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.


Many Apex Legends enthusiasts expected a new update to be released today, hopefully enabling cross-platform compatibility, or even a Nintendo Switch release. Unfortunately, neither came to being today.

Apex Legends Season 6 splash banner.
Many thought cross-play would be released today. Fans will have to wait a bit longer…

Apex Legends is currently hosting it’s September Soiree, an event similar to the Christmas themed Grand Soiree early this year, an event that saw the game hosting a new and different LTM (limited-time mode) every day during two weeks of January. Some notable modes released were the Winter Express, which saw combatants trying to dominate a Christmas train with preset weapon loadouts and unlimited lives. Third-person mode was also quite unique allowing players to play the entire game in a third-person mode similar to Gears of War.

Apex Legends Kings Canyon

This year’s September Soiree brings back several of the modes from last winter, including Kings Canyon After Dark and Armed and Dangerous. Other modes are expected to come to the battle royale for the rest of the month, and at some point this fall, Apex Legends will enjoy cross-platform functionality as well as a release on Nintendo Switch. We’ll be watching for any new updates.

Dirtybird’s Scavazza drops Shake Your Hearts – EP

Dirtybird’s Scavazza drops the “Shake Your Hearts – EP” with two slick original tracks and a remix from Harry Romero.


Scavazza’s Shake Your Hearts is a downtempo progressive track with some deep melodies.

Dirtybird has been busy lately. Doing numerous live sets throughout the week, recently Scavazza and Harry Romero played an enjoyable set to help give all of us stuck at home something to bop to. Scavazza opened with his recently released track “Shake Your Hearts” which couldn’t help but immediately catch my ear.

The peaceful repetitive piano/synth lulls you into a deep trance. The vocals chanting “shake your hearts…” possess a very Santigold feel as the track builds before the bass creeps in.

The music video seems to have been simultaneously released, and features a bit of political commentary. Scavazza is watching the news on TV, which is filled with anxiety-producing headlines, mainly coming out of the United States, and the Brazilian DJ has had enough, turning it off to go spend time outside, on the beach, in the company of real people.

Shake Your Hearts – Official Music Video

Also included in the EP are the tracks “Hey” and Harry Romero’s remix of “Shake Your Hearts”

Check out the EP on Spotify.

More from Dirtybird.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition First Impressions

My first impressions of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition are largely positive, it’s a fresh RPG brimming with character.


I know I’m late to the party, but I finally convinced myself to get Monolith Soft’s remake of its titular classic, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. This Nintendo Switch title is essentially a remaster of the original Xenoblade Chronicles released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2010.

Featuring updated graphics and character models, this Definitive Edition feels right at home on Switch, and honestly, it’s hard to believe a game this epic and on a scale like this was released on the Wii so long ago. After seeing images and a few videos of the game, I was initially reticent to pick it up. I’m in an ongoing second play-through of its sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and for whatever reason I think the look of the interface in the sequel looks more professional and polished compared to DE (Definitive Edition). In hindsight, I’m starting to feel as though the polish of its menus and the battle palette in the sequel, came at the expense of complexity and the confusing mess that is Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I’ll compare the two more later, for now let’s dig into the meat of the game.

Xenoblade Chronicles:DE begins with you in a flashback as Dunban, one of the series’ heroes locked in a battle with the Mechon, a race of machines bent on destroying the Homs, or humankind. The two have been locked in an eternal fight ever since the gods, the Bionis and the Mechonis perished eons ago as they were locked in battle. The two gods fell into a stalemate and both died where they stood. The gigantic beings, so large that their bodies essentially formed continents; Homs and organic life flourished on the Bionis and mechanical life spawned on the Mechonis. Eventually the two factions began to attack each other and wage war and that’s where we start.

Dunban happens to wield the Monado, an enchanted sword that is also one of very few weapons that can actually harm the Mechons. Its power takes a toll on his body paralyzing him as he is carried away from battle, still alive. Back in town, one year later, you play as Shulk, a young villager who studies technology. Shulk, who studies the Monado, eventually is offered the chance to use it and to everyone’s surprise, Shulk not only is unharmed by it, but gains visions of the future when he wields it. This results in him seeing premonitions when an ally is about to die, which he is sometimes able to change.

From a story standpoint, DE’s premise is far more digestible and organic than its sequels. Humans hate machines, they’ve been locked in eternal war, now we’re going to kill all those damned machines. Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s problem is it tries to do too many things at once. The story starts off slow and boring about a salvager who salvages treasures in a “sea of clouds” that is somehow also like an ocean which he needs a suit for. Shortly after he is killed, reborn and must save the world with the help of Blades, human and anthropomorphic animal-like beings that serve as weapons and low-key slaves to their Drivers. In comparison, it really is a convoluted mess.

The DE has some of the core elements of its sequel, but without Blades you fight enemies directly, you don’t need Blades to attack. The world is vast with large plains, mountains, streams, rivers, plateaus and more all with large swaths of creatures that roam around just like they would in an MMORPG or a modern open-world RPG game (think Borderlands or The Division without shooting). Towns are full of life with residents going about their day and many able to offer conversation, trade items with you or give an almost endless amount of quests. There’s a lot to do here and sometimes it seems overwhelming, but it’s a focused overwhelming, compared to this game’s sequel.

I find myself more easily enjoying my time with this game, even at the beginning, which I can’t say wasn’t true of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but I spent much more time in that game feeling lost, feeling like I could never finish everything the sequel was asking me to do. I guess I will find out as I delve deeper into this role-playing gem.

[House:] Tchami – Proud feat. Daecolm (Steffan Clay Remix)

Steffan Clay’s slick remix of Tchami’s “Proud” is uplifting and powerful.


Proud (feat. Daecolm) [Steffan Clay Remix]

Check out this slick remix by Steffan Clay of Tchami’s “Proud” as featured on the remix EP for the song.

[Throwback:] Milk & Bone – Natalie

Today’s throwback comes to us from the soundtrack of Life is Strange 2, Milk & Bone’s “Natalie”.


The end of Life is Strange 2’s third episode.

Today’s throwback is a calming alternative tune by the name of “Natalie” by Milk & Bone. While going through my music library today and reorganizing it, cleaning my house, generally bustling about, as soon as this song came on, I froze in place, sat down, and just began to feel.

“Natalie” was used as the ending theme in Square Enix’s choice-based adventure game Life is Strange 2. Without spoiling too much, it’s usage in the game comes right after one of its most chaotic scenes, save for the ending. The Life is Strange (LiS) series has always been well known for it’s soundtrack, often using songs that heavily correlate or allude to in game occurrences. Both games are coming of age tales of young teens just trying to survive in today’s modern world, both also featuring strange weird supernatural events that play into the story lines. The series has won several awards for it’s story telling, voice acting and music.

The first entry in the series, set at a hip art school in Oregon showcased a lot of soft alternative indie rock, perfect for the mood it was trying to set. The second game in the series was a little less pronounced with its musical choices but was still solid, mixing songs like this one with “On Melancholy Hill” by the Gorillaz.

“On Melacholy Hill” by the Gorillaz was used as the intro for Episode 2 of LiS2.

If you like video games and are a fan of good stories, I highly suggest checking out the original Life is Strange or Life is Strange 2. Both are available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC and both let you play the first tale of their episodic journeys for free.