For a lot of people, battle royale is quite an exhausted genre. Since its rapid rise to success, it often feels as though every franchise or developer has produced their own take on BR at some point in the last few years. Some are brilliant games, behemoths in the market, others got lost along the way, this latest BR produced by Proletariat is looking to become the former - it's the element wielding Spellbreak.
Spellbreak is a contest of champions that follows the general battle royale rules - the last person standing wins. The premise is fairly simple; prove you are the strongest battlemage out there by exiling the other contestants, where exiling is Spellbreak's equivalent to eliminating or killing. The unique part about Spellbreak, though, comes in the design of its weapons, and the way the combat and gameplay flow around them.
Since Spellbreak features lots of magic, gameplay doesn't revolve around traditional hitscan gunplay, instead, a lot of what Spellbreak offers is projectile-based combat, with a deep system of abilities, each of which can interact with one another in a variety of ways. In fact, when you really boil it down, Spellbreak often plays similarly to an arena shooter, set in a larger, diverse battle royale map.
In terms of the core movement mechanics, they're easy to grasp. It's all run-of-the-mill aside from the jumping, which uses a stamina system that allows you to hover and lift higher into the air. It's quite alike Pharah's jetpack in Overwatch, except this stamina system also acts as a form of ammo economy, where every spell you cast takes a certain degree of stamina/mana. By entwining mana and stamina together, it forces you to be a little wary about consistently slinging spells or gliding too often: essentially maintaining a balance is key.
On the more offensive aspect, casting spells is where the game really comes into its own. Before queuing into a match, you must choose one of six elemental classes. Whichever you choose cannot be swapped out for the game and will remain as the core part of your loadout. You can then further pick up a second element in-game, to build out your loadout and to act as a secondary weapon. Each type of element is channelled through a gauntlet and has its own style of primary attack, its own unique ability and set of level-up upgrades that can be acquired by living for a longer period of time. Each type of element can also interact with each other in some unusual ways, most of which you have to discover on your own.
For example, you might choose to start as a Pyromancer, wielding the gauntlet of fire as your primary element. This type has medium speed projectiles that do large damage upon impact and can cause minor area of effect damage. The ability for a Pyromancer also allows them to create a wall of fire at a certain location, hurting people who walk into it, and healing you provided you've lived long enough and earned the class upgrades.
You might then choose to pick up a Toxicologist's gauntlet as a secondary, which spits acid in a small cone and can spawn clouds of poison at a location. Due to the Toxicologist being a pick-up or a secondary, you won't be able to receive the class-specific upgrades, but you can combo abilities with your main element, by spawning a cloud of poison and then igniting it with the Pyromancer's main attack to create a meaty explosion. These two work great together, but personally I prefer starting as the shockingly fun, lightning-based Conduit, and then picking up an Earthy, Stoneshaper gauntlet making me deadly in both medium and close-range encounters.
As a side note here, certain elemental types do feel a little overwhelming at the moment. The Stoneshaper in particular hits incredibly hard, making other types like the Tempest feel quite irrelevant.
To add a little more depth to the gameplay, each elemental class can be levelled up to unlock cosmetics and access to new Talents. Cosmetics can be earned either in-game or bought through the store with premium currency. Talents, on the other hand, are essentially perks that are equipped before queuing into a game, offering minor buffs to certain gameplay aspects across three different areas. You can choose whichever Talents you like provided they occupy one slot each and don't exceed six total Talent points - a system designed to limit certain combinations, as each has its own cost ranging from 1-3. Personally, I like to make sure my Talent selection emphasises spell usage, allowing me to cast spells more often, sometimes even with higher damage.
Aside from the combat and movement systems, Spellbreak follows battle royale customs. You are still required to loot to become stronger. Whether that means finding higher-quality gear (ranging from white/common, to orange/legendary) such as gauntlets to improve spell usage, some armour, boots, or a trinket to increase health, movement speed and mana limit respectively, or by finding scrolls designed to level your Talents throughout a game. Scrolls works similarly to the class upgrades that slightly buff how effective you are in a fight, for example, by increasing your spell casting speed by a further 7% for each of the respective scrolls you find, limited to three per Talent. There are also plenty of consumable health and armour potions available, designed to get you back to full strength after a fight.
When looking at Spellbreak as a whole, it's hard not to love it. It reminds me of Fortnite's golden age, back when players were still figuring out the building mechanics, and you didn't need a degree in architecture to win a fight. Both titles have tight, well-designed gameplay, built in an interesting world that really promotes enjoyability above all else. Battle royale has grown into a genre where for a lot of titles, it often feels like you need a caffeine IV drip just to tread water against the dedicated player base who have years of experience with the games. With Spellbreak still being in its infancy, it doesn't have to deal with that to the same extent. Sure, there are talented opponents, but thanks to how easy it is to understand and succeed, the main experience I have when playing Spellbreak is fun above all else, which is great for anyone looking to play a few hours every now and then.
To conclude, Spellbreak is a great battle royale for casual players looking to have fun. The unique combat mechanics based around elements make for highly enjoyable gameplay, and the larger world, featuring a maximum of 42 players, makes the title less stressful and much easier to simply jump into and play. Considering the title is already crossplay and available on multiple platforms, I can't wait to see how it develops in the future. Will there be larger lobbies, new elements, perhaps some changes to the map? Either way, for someone like myself who doesn't commit all their time to BRs, Spellbreak might just be my favourite of the lot right now.