With so many different games in the battle royale genre on the market right now, it can be hard to see a new one pop up and not dismiss it. Once you’ve dived down from the sky to slowly build an arsenal once, you’ve done it a million times after all. I fully expected to feel the same way about Spellbreak, to have a few matches of it before shrugging and moving on. That wasn’t the case though. I’m very happy to say that Spellbreak is one of the first battle royales in a long time that has me excited about the genre and with some more content I’m sure it’s going to shine.
Spellbreak has you and 41 other players diving into a map to slowly upgrade your equipment and pick each other off until one player remains as the winner. The big twist here is that you and all the other players are mages, using magical spells to get around and attack. That may just sound like a thematic change, but it really changes up how you play from the traditional shooter. The most immediate change is the ability to fly in short bursts which makes traversing the map a breeze. You start off the match being able to pick one main offensive spell to use, with the opportunity to find another whilst exploring the map. Each of the spells acts like a different weapon. For example, the ice spell mimics a sniper whilst the thunder spell does high damage-per-second provided you can keep aimed at a target. Best of all, there’s no ammo to worry about as both attacking and flying work on a really fast mana meter. Each of the spell types also has a special ability that is kept on a cool down meter, such as creating a flame wall or calling down a thunder strike. These abilities can help turn the tide of battle in a pinch and all have their own intricacies to learn.
Flying around the map and shooting off blasts of magic just feels really good and is especially interesting when you realize each spell has unique characteristics that interact with the others. You can combine a noxious cloud of poison with a blast of fire to create a small explosion, or blast thunder into a whirlwind to create an area-of-effect shock attack. The spells also have other passive effects like creating a trail of ice you can slide across. If it’s starting to feel like I’ve talked a lot about this system that’s because it’s so involved and really what sets Spellbreak apart. There’s even more nuance than what I can possibly go into in-depth here.
The depth of the magic system is what keeps me coming back to Spellbreak. Although I don’t like all of the spells at the moment (boo to poison and stone) they all feel incredibly thought out, distinct, and fun to use. There’s definitely room for more spells in the future, which is a genuinely exciting prospect. The magical twist also impacts the game’s presentation. Combat is a flurry of magical blasts and explosions and the music that plays during each match could easily be something out of Harry Potter. Spellbreak‘s “3D anime”-esque graphics are easy on the eyes too, although I wish it had a bit more personality to it.
Spellbreak also has a pretty great progression system attached to it. There’s no battle pass in sight at the moment but your character levels up and the more you use a certain class, the more rewards you unlock from it. There are currently 20 levels per class but these seem well worth doing since there are some pretty cool unlockables to be earned. That’s not the only change made to the battle royale formula either. One of the objectives during any match is to find special scrolls that will upgrade some of your abilities, which means that there’s more to playing than just finding shields and health. Another element that stands out is that each time you get to the zone you gain a perk dependent on which class you chose. These passive buffs aren’t massive by any means but they do make a difference and put another fun twist on the genre. All of these little systems combine to make Spellbreak feel like a breath of fresh air in a rapidly overcrowded market.
It’s not a perfect system just yet though. For starters, 42 players feels far too small for a map this big which can make some matches feel a little too long with big empty stretches of just hinting for players. Having an increase in players or the option for a smaller map would go towards making matches feel less like a wait for something to happen. One of my only big issues with Spellbreak is that currently it’s a little barebones. What’s here lacks a certain amount of character, and it often just feels like something is missing. Although the magical spin is great on its own, there are no notable characters or locations to give the game a life of its own. Of course, the magic certainly does the speaking for most of the experience, but it’s a shame that the game doesn’t have much beyond that headline feature. This lack of character extends to the in-game shop and leveling rewards, which feel really boring and barebones too. Nothing particularly stands out.
Spellbreak‘s magic systems and fun take on the battle royale genre show that with some more time and development it’s going to be something really impressive. Whether or not it has the staying power is up to time and how much its community sticks with it but already there’s a lot of potential brewing here.
Spellbreak review done with free-to-play Spellbreak game on PS4. Champions Pack code provided by developer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Battle royale game, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Proletariat, Inc.
World news – GB – Spellbreak Review – Battle Royale Magic (PS4)