As one of the 7 people in the world who never really got into the whole battle royale genre, I felt like I had the benefit of ignorance going into Spellbreak. There were no old habits from other games in terms of tactics, controls or muscle memory that I had to shake off, and with Spellbreak being such a unique game (no mean feat by itself in such a crowded genre) that lack of previous experience actually felt like more of a help than a hindrance.
So what makes Spellbreak worth your time? Basically, it’s the magic. Instead of arming yourself with a range of weapons, rifles and miscellaneous explosives, you choose your class of wizard and cast magic spells at your opponents, all while spending as much time in the air as possible to make yourself harder to hit. It’s a world away from hiding in buildings, picking off enemies from afar and hunting for that elusive long distance scope; instead the speed ramps up and you’re charging head-first into a mass of chaos and destruction while combining spells to lay down some serious carnage on anything stupid enough to get too close to you.
Ah yes, the combining of the spells. Quite possibly my favourite part of the game is experimenting with spells from multiple classes (which you can grab and equip during matches) and seeing what they do when you unleash them together. Fancy adding some flair to your usual tornado air attack? Well, here’s just the thing: fire. Combine these two spells and you’ve got yourself a fancy little tornado of fire going on. Maybe combine a stone-based boulderfall spell with a fireball, to create flaming meteors that explode when they land. It means that by the second half of the game those players still in the game will most likely have entirely different abilities up their wizardly sleeves, so if you’re expecting a predictable and easily countered set of attacks, think again.
One thing I really like, that really put me off these games before, is how quick things move. There’s no time to wander round for 15 minutes looting stuff before you see anyone. The magical storm moves in quickly, and with your character zipping along at a good pace as well it’s not long at all before you’re spotting your enemies and taking to the skies or sending a barrage of magical madness in their direction. So if, like me, you like your games to wake up quickly and get started ASAP, there’s another box ticked off by Spellbreak.
It looks very decent as well, with bright colours emphasising the spell effects and the frame rate remaining pretty solid throughout. My main gripe would be the lack of variety in the map though; it’s a big area and you’ll be seeing a lot of it across your various games, but it’s not always easy to differentiate one area from another. A few landmarks or noticeable features would be nice to see, and would certainly give the map a little more character than is currently available.
But on the whole, I’ve enjoyed my time on Spellbreak and can see myself playing it more and more, which considering this is, at the end of the day, still a battle royale game, it’s an impressive thing to have me interested to the point of wanting to play it more. The various classes are interesting to try out, the looting during matches works well and lets you experiment with a range of combinations and different ideas, and with an upgrade path rewarding your time with additional abilities or enhancing certain areas of your classes there’s plenty of ways you benefit from putting in the hours. The class upgrades are a bit of a pain when you start, as like many online games those who have put the hours in will be stronger when the matches first kick off, but that’s been an issue I’ve always found when playing online competitive games where more experienced players have better weapons, cars or abilities. For me it gives me more of a sense of determination to unlock these extras myself, and that can only be a good thing if you’re enjoying the game.
It’s easy then to recommend Spellbreak. The games are quick for a battle royale game, the magic combinations are brilliant and it feels well put together and tight to control. A bit more visual variety in the map wouldn’t go amiss, and I’ve no idea how to fix the issue of overpowered players enjoying the class upgrade system, but despite these issues it’s definitely one to take a good look at.
Reviewed on PS4