Spellbreak Review: A Refreshing Take on Battle Royale (PS4)

Released by developer Proletariat in September 2020, Spellbreak is a new Battle Royale multiplayer experience which allows players to conjure spells and channel the elements in order to defeat enemies. Although Spellbreak has its rough edges and is still no doubt in development, it produces a very unique Battle Royale experience which many players will find refreshing and fun.

Spellbreak Review: A Refreshing Take on Battle Royale (PS4) Cover

Unlike titles of its kind, Spellbreak take on features from classic MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games such as Smite and, of course, League of Legends, whilst seemingly maintaining a true Battle Royale experience. It offers a fantasy take on a genre some may say is fatiguing, clearly appealing to those who are more entertained by MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) and genres of that nature, rather than the typical FPS (first person shooter) player. For those looking to take a break from the more intense, tactical Battle Royale’s of Call of Duty: Warzone and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Spellbreak offers a more relaxed tone, yet still provides a competitive manner and level of complexity to which both serious and casual players can get to grips with. 

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Spellbreak - Official Launch Cinematic Trailer | PS4

Story – MOBA Influence

In Spellbreak, 42 players drop into the map and fight for survival, with classic Battle Royale rules: the last team or player standing wins. Players go face to face, battling it out with elemental gauntlets that have a variety of attack moves and play-styles. Keeping within the MOBA comparison, as well as containing “line” and “AOE” (area of effect) attacks, Spellbreak features a mana bar which essentially controls your movement and the amount of spells you cast, a reminiscent mechanic of MOBA games. Players will have to pick up the Amulet item during a game in order to increase their mana and therefore sustain their attacks and movement. The mana bar is an interesting addition to the Battle Royale genre, providing a skill gap between players who are paying attention to its depletion and to those who are aimlessly spamming abilities and movement.

Loot

Spellbreak does a good job of incentivising players to loot, with essential items such as boots allowing players to run faster, and runes, which are similar to the hacks in Ubisoft Montreal’s Battle Royale, Hyperscape. Spellbreak is fast and vertical, with every player having the ability to hold their jump and fly up until their mana bar is out, as well as perform various mobility-based runes such as flight and teleportation. However, the most important items in Spellbreak are the elemental gauntlets, which fundamentally act as your loadout. Players are able to possess two gauntlets, however they may only pick one to start with before entering a game, the other must be found when looting. This is where I believe Spellbreak really thrives, as the various playstyles offered by the way in which each elemental gauntlet interacts with one another is truly where I found the game to be both rewarding and comprehensive.

Spellbreak's looting

Spellbreak’s looting

Gameplay – Elemental Fun

The cartoony art style and punchy colours work well at distinguishing each elemental class, one of which you will pick before you search for a game. Classes to choose from include: Frostborn, Stoneshaper, Tempest, Conduit, Pyromancer and Toxicologist, all of which have their respective abilities and bonuses. I won’t give all of these classes and their abilities away, as I do think learning what classes offer each player is a vital component of its unique gameplay. Having said that, I will touch on the combo of classes I am currently running to convey the variety of options Spellbreak provides in combat. The two classes I personally enjoy and think combine well together is Frostborn and Tempest. Frostborn is regarded as the “sniper” loadout of the game, while Tempest is the opposite, being considered the “SMG” class. The combination of these gauntlets allows one to get their damage in at range and then rush in with fast fire to finish the opponent.

One vital element of this combination, however, is the added mobility the Frostborn class gives the player if chosen as the primary gauntlet. In doing so, a shot arrow will subsequently leave an ice trail on the floor below it, which the possessor and their team can use to quickly skate across terrain in true Frozone fashion in order to finish a kill, evade the storm, or even escape from enemies. It’s these added features of each individual gauntlet that provides depth and comprehension to the gameplay, not to mention each elemental class also having a special attack. Discovering creative combinations of attacks between the differing gauntlets and finally pulling them off in game, whether combining your own gauntlets, that of a teammate’s, or even an enemy’s, is exactly why Spellbreak is refreshing, original and rewarding, especially as a Battle Royale.

Spellbreak's elemental classes

Spellbreak’s elemental classes

Graphics & Audio – Nothing Magical Here

Spellbreak features a smooth, cartoony art style which further provides that sense of fantasy. The colours and design work well at portraying an elemental based game, even reminding me of popular animation Avatar: The Last Airbender, especially when I’m bombarded by a tornado. The main criticism I have of Spellbreak however is the lack of significant POI’s (point of interest) and overall dullness of the map. Although the gameplay and animation are bright and bold, the map design does seem to lack fondness and individuality around the differing locations. In fairness, there is variation in the terrain, with a dessert biome, grass lands and a foggy swamp; however, I do feel as if the buildings and places of loot could be much more extravagant and daring, rather than simple ruins or small castles and forts.

As for the audio, I do also feel as though a better distinction could have been made between opponents’ footsteps and that of your own teammates. However, apart from that I am able to distinguish certain elemental gauntlets from one another and identify faraway battles through the audio, which to me performs fairly well.

A dull map to fly into

A dull map to fly into

Spellbreak was reviewed on PS4.

Summary
Ultimately, Spellbreak is clearly still going through its paces; think about the drastic changes we've seen in games like Fornite since its release in 2017. Thus, I do believe this title will age nicely and continue to develop and evolve as time passes. This does seem to be the case, especially as the game has also adopted Fortnite’s successful formula of being free-to-play, as well as containing an in-game cosmetic store. Nowadays, this a tried and tested format for Battle Royale titles, and it works well for Spellbreak, making it accessible and playful, as well as offering dedicated players something to spend their money on.
Good
  • Great combat
  • Easy to pick up
  • Effective looting system
  • Impressive gameplay depth
Bad
  • Dull map
  • Early in development
  • Hard to distinguish footsteps
6.5
Fair

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