Spellbreak is a new free-to-play battle royal, but the twist this time is everyone is a mage. Rather than shoot guns, everyone has spells in various classes. It’s fast-paced, feels good and it’s left a good first impression on me in my first few hours of playing the game.
Spellbreak pretty much came out of the blue, initially announced during once of the Summer presentations, it’s come out on pretty much every platform. I believe it’s been in early access for about 2 years and the first release is available now, and it’s free! Similar to other battle royales, you fly into a big map either solo or in a squad and it’s a battle to the death with the last mage, or team, standing.
As you’re a Mage, you don’t need guns. This is all about different gauntlets that you can collect and then combine with secondary elements. When you first boot up a match you get to choose which is going to be your primary element – you can choose from Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Electricity and Toxic. You have two attacks from your primary element (light and heavy) and then you have to run around the map looting chests to build up your armoury and defences before jumping into battle.
A nice feature of the game is the combination of elements. If you start out as a Fire Mage, but you equip a Wind gauntlet as your secondary, then you can create Fire Tornados. If your main is Toxic and you create a gas cloud and your secondary is Ice, then you can freeze the toxic cloud to create the cover. The combinations of elements are pretty much endless and when you throw in a whole team into that equation, then you can have some very powerful team build capabilities.
There’s other gear on the map too. You can pick up health potions, shields, boots and gauntlets. You can collect runes that give you a special ability like invisibility or a teleport. The gear comes in uncommon, common, rare, legendary and epic which is a similar system to other games, so there’s an instant familiarity there.
Spellbreak takes advantage of the vertical nature of the map too with hops and jumps. Each mage can hover on command, which lasts for a few seconds and helps you get out of tight situations. You feel very mobile in this game, and if the going gets tough you can just run away from the battle, whereas in other games like this if someone finds you, you’re generally dead on sight. Here you have a little more room to play with and you can escape if necessary.
At the moment matches only have about 40 players in there meaning some games can feel a little empty, as the map is quite large. Some players have the ability to quickly traverse the map, for example, if you are an ice mage you can spray the floor with ice and then use it to skate along. If you’re a long way from the circle then sometimes hopping to get there can feel a little dull. The map is fairly generic, although I do like the height element here. It’s not quite as tall as Hyperscape, but in battle, you’re going to be flying, dodging and using the skies to your advantage with your runes will help you survive some of the more intense battles.
There’s a progression system in Spellbreak too. As you use your primary element you’ll rank up a mastery level on that element to unlock passive perks. There are missions like open 15 chests or do a certain amount of fire damage, a system which is tried and tested among other Battle Royales. There’s also the talents: Mind, Body and Soul. You have 6 points to spend and the stronger talents cost more points. Stong talents also come with weaknesses too, so spend those points wisely.
As well as the progression side of things there’s also a vast cosmetic system (which is a given these days in a free-to-play game). There’s costumes, badges, emotes and other things too. At the moment there’s nothing major in the stores that really makes me want to buy anything. I’m pretty happy with my standard mage rags at this point, unlike when you check out Fortnite’s latest Season and you see an Iron Man or Thor costume in there. If there was a Harry Potter tie in, then I might be inclined to get the wallet out, but until that time I’m cool with the base cosmetics in this game.
There’s a cross progression in the game so if you start out on PC and want to move to Nintendo Switch, everything will follow you. There’s also cross-play too, plus it being free-to-play means there’s always plenty of people to play. The game seems solid too, benefiting from the 2 years of early access. I didn’t have any performance issues or encounter any bugs, the game feels very smooth. The only issue I had was getting out of the tutorial, the UX for jumping into the battle royale mode on the main menu felt strange and I ran through the tutorial a few times. I checked online and it seems like a few people had this issue too, so maybe the UX could do with a slight improvement. But that’s a VERY minor gripe in an otherwise excellent first impression of the game.
The graphics are bright and it’s somewhere between Fortnite and Breath of the Wild in terms of graphical style. Apart from the main menu, the UI is clear, and the player feedback is good when it comes to picking up gear. Chests open with a familiar endorphin rush and the Mage battles, especially when you’re getting into the later parts of the game are super fun and very chaotic.
There was a moment that made me shout out loud in disbelief the first time it happened, and that’s the exile system. When you die you turn into a little orb and you have approx 100 seconds for one of your teammates to revive you. I was floating around, trying to find one of my teammates when suddenly another mage appeared and seemed to grab hold of my orb in some kind of Ryu ‘Hadoken’ manoeuvre. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, then my orb exploded like a pinata of loot. I had been exiled and exploded. I was like “wait, what are you doing…. NOOOOOOO”. It was a funny moment, but watch out for that. If you are in an orb state, try to find a buddy or hide!
Spellbreak is instantly fun, accessible and easy-to-pick-up. The first few games they ease you in with bots, but it feels to me that it’s going to be a hard game to master. I like the unique take on the battle royale genre – it’s 3rd person, no guns but has all the action and tension of a regular battle royale game. As with others before it, Spellbreak is entering a crowded market but it seems to have started well and given it’s free-to-play across all platforms I’d say it’s worth jumping in and giving it a try.