Spellbreak is a free to play battle royal game available on the Epic Store, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard PlayStation 4 console.
Spellbreak puts a pretty unique spin on the battle royal genre. Instead of running around looting guns for an hour. You super jump, fly, and teleport while looting magical gear and casting spells.
Spellbreak is a much faster paced Battle Royal than most. You are in and out of games quickly, and the signature enclosing circle of doom boxes players in at a steady pace. You fight by casting a variety of elemental spells that have various interactions with each other, making for some really interesting situations.
While I reviewed the game, it only featured squads of three, but duos and solos are coming soon. (Solos are supposed to go live on September 7th, today!) Interestingly, Spellbreak is cross-play on all platforms, though you can disable the feature if you wish.
Yer a Wizard Harry
While Spellbreak features some familiar trappings of the genre, it’s spell system really sets it apart. Before each match, you choose from one of six classes, your choice dictates which primary gauntlet you start the round with.
Each gauntlet features two spell attacks, you can’t get rid of your primary gauntlet during a round, though you can upgrade it. You can, however, loot and acquire a secondary gauntlet of a different type.
Your choice of primary does matter though, you level up as you play, and your primary gauntlet starts with, and acquires some extra boons. For example, if you choose Frostborn as your class. Your frost shard attack leaves a frozen trail behind it, allowing you and your team to skate across it quickly.
If you pick up a Frostborn gauntlet as your secondary, you wouldn’t get that effect. I’d be lying if I said some spells don’t mimic guns in some way, but its how the elements interact that is a real game-changer.
Your spells can combine with other spells of any source, and there is a lot of combinations in the game. A toxic cloud from the Toxicologist gauntlet can be exploded by fire, electrified by lighting, or frozen solid by ice.
A whirlwind created by a Tempest gauntlet can toss aside giant boulders thrown by a Stone Shaper, but it can also sweep up fire and gas, turning it into a deadlier tornado. That ice trail I mentioned can burst into steam with fire, or be electrified as it melts. If a Pyromancer casts a wall of flame, you can blow it out with wind.
The combat is all managed by a mana bar. It recharges quickly, but every spell you cast drains it as does levitating around. One of the keys to doing well in combat is managing your mana bar.
You need to jump and levitate around to dodge attacks, but being sloppy about it will result in being unable to cast a spell in a pivotal moment. The system works well. It makes you manage a balance between your movement and spell-slinging while encouraging well-placed spells rather than spam. Yet it also recharges quickly enough that it doesn’t become a grievance.
The elemental system in Spellbreak adds a lot of skill and strategy that other battle royals lack, especially combined with the high vertical movement. Winning a duel with another wizard takes more than just good aim, but an understanding of the elements and how to use them.
It’s further augmented by Runes you can pick up. Runes grant you additional powers, it might be abilities such as flight, invisibility, or teleportation. All of which can help define every encounter you have with other players.
If a player goes down, they become a floating orb and can be revived by teammates. However, an enemy can stop and take time to exile you, sort of like an execution but much less violent. Wizards aren’t killed in Spellbreak, they are exiled. A nice change of pace.
The elemental spell system, high octane movement, and fast pace keep Spellbreak interesting and fun, but I can’t help but feel that its true potential isn’t realized in squads. There are only six gauntlets, and every player ends up with two. When two squads of three wizards meet in battle, it becomes pure elemental chaos with spells of every type flying in every direction.
There is so much going on that a lot of the strategy goes out the window. You cant think about using most combos or how to duel another wizard when there’s six of them slinging every elemental spell around. I feel that this issue may be rectified in Duos, and especially Solos. Less chaos leaves room for more precise magical combat.
As with every Battle Royal, you drop into a large map and find loot while you are slowly enclosed by a giant circle of doom. The problem is the looting is largely uninteresting in Spellbreak. You don’t have many meaningful decisions to make once the game actually begins outside of your rune and secondary gauntlet.
Before the game begins, you can choose a set of talents you have unlocked. These can alter your playstyle a bit, such as increased damage or casting speed, but you are mostly looking for straight upgrades once you are in and playing.
You can find boots that make you faster, belts that grant you armor, and pendants that increase your mana. You can find upgraded versions of gauntlets and runes, as well as scrolls that level up the aforementioned talents. In practice, you are mostly just looking for the highest tier of every item as you dart around the map.
Loot is plentiful, to the point that you won’t have any trouble finding the combo you want. If you are a Pyromancer and you want a Stone Shaper secondary gauntlet with a flight rune. You will be able to locate those things pretty easily.
This sorta makes it feel like choosing your loadout with added and unnecessary steps. Battle Royals are about adapting to what you can find, Spellbreak misses the mark here. Furthermore, the map feels like it has very little impact on the game due to the nature of the player movement.
You spend so much time in the air through high jumps and levitation that you simply go above most of the terrain features. I would have liked to have seen more magical types of terrain. Floating rocks and islands, towering spires, and other more interesting features that could also be utilized in combat.
This all boils down to the crux of Spellbreaks problem. I feel like it would be a much better game if it wasn’t a Battle Royal. I could see the elemental system working well in a variety of modes. Deathmatch, capture the flag, area control. But it’s implementation of Battle Royal that is just not that interesting.
Spellbreak’s combat system and magical flair are done really well, and the combinations of magical effects are clever and add a lot of value to the combat. Squads are fun, if chaotic, but I’ve caught glimpses of what it will be like in Duos and Solos. Wizards countering each other spells and combinations with fluid combat. Boulders being tossed aside, Firewalls being blown down, Ice trails being melted, and electrified. The potential is there.
When the combat hits it stride, it really shines and you look cool doing it. Choosing your primary gauntlet, talents and what secondary gauntlet to go for is meaningful and allows you to personalize your own playstyle.
Additionally, since Spellbreak is a free to play the game, micro-transactions can break it, but Spellbreak’s are all cosmetic, which works great in a third-person game.
Yet the Battle Royal portion is uninteresting and holds back its potential. Spellbreak is one of the most unique Battle Royals on the market. But I’m not sure the genre was the right choice for the combat system.
The fun of Spellbreak is in the wild wizard duels, not looting upgrades of the same three pieces of gear. Besides, the loot is so plentiful there are no meaningful choices to make between the loot anyway.
The combat and movement alone are still worth diving into. In many ways, it feels like you are playing a battle royal version of Avatar The Last Airbender. Since it’s free, you lose nothing by trying it out.
That said, Spellbreak didn’t win the Battle Royal genre any points from me. It only further convinced me that the genre does more harm than good, because Spellbreak would be a much better game without it.
A founders pack key was for Gideon’s Gaming by Proletariat Inc for the purpose of review.
You might also be interested in checking out my review of Citadel: Forged with Fire.
- Fluid and fun magical combat and traversal
- Numerous spell combinations for a variety of effects
- Talent and primary class choices for each round are meaningful
- Nice art style and visuals
- Cross play on all platforms
- Squads are a bit too chaotic, Solos and Duos weren’t available at the time of review
- The loot is plentiful and completely uninteresting
- The map is dull and mostly irrelevant
- The Battle Royal aspects harm the fun, not enhance it