Have you heard? There is a hot new multiplayer experience out there called “battle royale”. “Oh, haha, Cade”, I hear you say sarcastically, “everyone has heard of battle royale games”. Okay, you have a fair point. But! Have you heard about the latest battle royale on Xbox One? Spellbreak, is the name, and a magic missile hurling battle royale is the game.
This wizardy battleground simulator comes to us from the fine folks at Proletariat, Inc. Set in a world where magic is forbidden and considered too dangerous to wield, you take control of a battlemage to find that magic is only dangerous to those on the receiving end. In fact, controlling magic through powerful gauntlets is actually a blast.
Your typical battle royale has a variety of guns that you can use to eliminate your foes. Spellbreak has given us the delightful twist of replacing those guns with the elements. Choosing any two of the available six gauntlets will allow you to wield their respective powers. Ice, fire, earth, wind, poison, and lightning are your options for unleashing a world of hurt on your foes. Fireballs have a great “oomph” to them, splashes of poison will damage combatants over time, wind can trap your opponents or give you a boost… but the true magic comes when you experiment with different combinations.
Take, for example, one combination that is introduced in the tutorial. If you lay down a wall of searing fire with a fire gauntlet, the poisonous one on your other arm can change those flames from orange to a sickly green. Other than looking like the backdrop for a Disney villain, these flames do more damage than ordinary flames. Or, you can use the secondary spell of your poisonous gauntlet to create a large, noxious cloud of toxicity. With a dash of fire, that gas cloud will then explode in a spectacular display of swirling green mist. If your aim and timing are good, that explosion will also blast away other players. It is this interactivity between the weaponized elements that have kept me coming back to Spellbreak. No two battles feel the same, and I love experimenting to find the right combination of gauntlets.
Mixing magical elements becomes even more fun when magical runes get thrown into the mix. These runes are scattered around the map in chests, under nooks, or above crannies. Acquiring a rune gives you one of several different abilities, such as turning invisible, dashing, teleporting, or straight up gaining Superman-esque flight. All of these abilities are on varying cooldowns that become shorter if you find runes of greater rarity. If you are not already familiar with the color pattern used in games like Diablo and Destiny 2 that establishes an item’s rarity, in ascending order of rarity it goes like this: white, green, blue, purple, and orange/yellow. One need not worry too much about that, however, since Spellbreak has the thoughtful inclusion of making it difficult for players to pick up and equip weaker versions of their same items.
In addition to runes and gauntlets, there are several items that will greatly assist you on your path to victory. With no sprint button, boots are a must. The better the boots, the faster your character speed will be. Belts make it possible for your character to wear armor, and pendants allow you to have a larger pool of mana for spell throwing and hovering. Each one of these items can be upgraded simply by picking up better versions, and the color coding removes a lot of guesswork. I found it much easier to keep running and exploring to find the things I needed thanks to a quick glance at an item’s color.
Now that all of the equipment has been explained, let us talk about the main attraction: fighting. As a battle royale, your goal is to be the last battlemage (or three-person squad of battlemages) standing. While you are item hunting and staying within a shrinking storm circle, you will run into other players that cannot wait to literally ice you. At first, the battles seemed a bit too chaotic to me. Spells are flying everywhere, players are flying everywhere, and I was not sure that I could find myself enjoying a game where my enemies are almost always above or below me. However, after a few matches, it became much easier to see through the constant barrage of magical mayhem and score some insane eliminations. Learning how every rune, gauntlet, and spell works elevated the fights from seeing who had better aim, to who could use their set of skills the best. In a lot of ways, Spellbreak makes me think of the MOBA genre – not only in the way that different spells work, but in the huge amount of potential players have to be witty and outsmart their opponents.
With it being an Xbox Game Preview title at the moment, Spellbreak still has a lot of work to do. The ping system could use some tweaking to make it more helpful when working with random players, and more options for players to adjust their controls would help a great deal also. Even some of the runes could use a fix, because I do so loathe the matches that end with players constantly flying forever out of reach. Regardless of these hiccups that could be fixed in the coming weeks or months, Spellbreak is the rare battle royale that has completely captured my attention. It has a super enjoyable set of moves that make exploration and battle a treat each time you drop onto the field. I love what I have seen so far, and I cannot wait to see what Proletariat, Inc. will bring in the future.
Huge thanks go out to Proletariat for the Spellbreak code. Keep an eye out for our review in the future, and if you wish to get involved with Spellbreak right now, the Xbox Store will sort you out.
Edit: Due to an error on the Xbox Store, Spellbreak isn’t in fact in Game Preview. What you are seeing is a full launch. We’ll have our review for you soon.