Spellbreak is a cross-platform multiplayer that attempts to lure in Fortnite players with magic, in-game purchases and free-to-play content, so they don’t need to ask mum and dad for the funds.
Who’d have thought I’d be reviewing an online deathmatch-type game that is Fornite with spells? Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve never been a fan of online gaming unless I know the other people ‘in real life’.
It’s a combination of deterrents; toxic dialogue, teabagging (if that’s still a thing) and not being that good at the game in question. So, fair reader, how does the game fare?
A lot of the people playing these franchises live and breath the games at any given time. I know this as my daughter is borderline obsessed with Fortnite, and in a way, I’m proud of her as she’s very good at it.
We’ve played the game together a handful of times now, but despite the introduction of new features, improved visuals and better gameplay, it’s still not for me. I tried to play it on the sly to get good while she was at school, but it’s not the difficulty – I don’t enjoy it.
So why on earth am I playing Spellbreak? 1) to get her away from Fortnite so we can team up, and 2) because I’m willing to give anything a chance. For this review, assume the game is Fortnite with Harry Potter at the helm; you pick a plot to land om and get flung through the sky with all bits wobbling.
The aim of the game is survival, collecting loot and killing off fellow players, a.k.a. vow breakers. There’s no traditional timer, instead of the incoming storm that will continually drain health unless you get within the safe radius.
There are numerous strategies to apply, and mine has always been the long game. I won’t hide (you can’t afford to as the storm is permanently closing in), nor will I aggressively hunt down other players, but I will engage them if they show up, but my preference is not to fight at the beginning. I hate being in the first ten to go.
You see, Spellbreak, from Proletariat, is a pretty fair game, and despite the slow levelling up where you can become a master of the elements, it’s very well balanced as I was killing both high and low-level opponents, as they equally disposed of me.
The options include solo – my preference, duo and squads. I couldn’t get the duo option to work so reluctantly has a third person join when my daughter and I would plat together.
At first, it felt far too much like Fornite, but the first playthrough awarded me a win, and the following second place gave me a bit of confidence and inflated my balls a bit to think I could be good at this game on solo.
Visually it’s in the same image as its counterpart, a third-person action game where you dart around the one map of ruined castles, collecting new gear and upgrades. It doesn’t take long to become familiar with the terrain, even if quite large, but it never felt boring.
The reason my interest remained was the actual combat and abilities. At the start of the game, you can choose a class:
- Toxicologist (poison): a poison expert specialising in ongoing damage and stealth.
- Pyromancer (fire): an all-rounder that burns victims.
- Stoneshaper (earth): a mid-range brawler that does a good amount of damage.
- Frostborn (ice): long-range attacks and slowdown.
- Conduit (lightning): a flurry of fast attacks, but a little weak.
- Tempest (wind): gassy.
Each class has two attack modes: R1 and R2 (the equivalent on the Switch). The first is your quick-fire option and the second is the more powerful of the two.
On your right side is your more dominant power for your class, and the second is whatever gauntlet you pick up, ranked by rarity; common being an arse, legendary being, well, legendary. While the right remains locked for your class, the left side can be continually swapped out.
With the circle or A button, you will have an ability mapped – again, these are ranked in rarity and can be swapped out (you don’t start with one, mind). There are also items such as health potions and armour shards, but you can only equip the latter if you’re wearing a belt. Other pickups include boots which increase run speed.
Another unique feature is the levelling up in-game. Unlocking epic chests or vaults that appear on the map may reward you with a scroll that you read to improve one of three talents:
- Mind: damage and immunity.
- Body: casting speed and cooldowns.
- Spirit: run speed and resurrection buffs.
Again, my strategy was to find as many of these as possible early on. I don’t recommend going for the vaults as everyone can see on the screen and in the early part of the match, those equipped with lightning tend to dominate as they’re quick-fire.
Game modes are limited to Battle Royale, Practice and a Tutorial. The latter two you won’t play as to practice the game you need to get stuck in. Simples.
Unlike AI, players are usually unpredictable, and you’ll find some of them are sneaky and will wait for you to grab a chest then trap you with spells, others will do that classic jump across the screen nonsense, which I hate.
Perhaps that is what annoys me most about multiplayer games where people spam the jump buttons. Back in the day of Quake, it was sheer skill and survival that got you through as you could only strafe. Well, that’s how my memory serves me. I’m just thinking about the NIN soundtrack again.
Playing in squads consists of three people. I played this on cross-platform, myself on the PS4, my daughter on the Switch. Because we didn’t have a third person, this would often be filled with a random, and unfortunately, in a sweeping statement, it would always be some dick that would snipe us when collecting loot.
What the hell?
This happened so much that we just treated the other player as an enemy: I’d ignore them mostly, but my daughter would target them, and I’d be forced to go and revive her.
That was perhaps one of my biggest issues as friendly fire is set by default. Accidents happen, but so many people that get a kick out of killing teammates. I get that you can die in the opening seconds, and it’s annoying, but getting killed by someone who should be working with you is the same reason why I quit APB Reloaded.
This is something you can’t control unless in duo, which for some strange reason, we could not setup. Spellbreak isn’t in beta, so not sure why the option wasn’t there, nor the chapters tab. Perhaps this is coming soon? Regardless, as irritating as it is, it’s not getting marked down. I’m not a teacher.
With the level progression (level 50 is the current cap) and rewards with skillsets, loot and a currently active community, this is an excellent alternative to Fortnite. If you never build in the latter, you’ll be pleased to know that the feature doesn’t exist, so it’s old school deathmatch of avoiding and dodging attacks.
I could come in here with a bias of not liking online gaming, especially with arsehats that kill their own team, but Spellbreak has been enjoyable, and I’m still playing it – even after posting this review.
It’s pulled my daughter in to play something with her old man that isn’t Fortnite or Animal Crossing, but luring in her classmates has been trickier. Time will tell if the number of players remain or decrease. I will say that neither of us encountered any difficulty with slowdown (the Switch loaded matches before the PS4 on the same network?!) but setting up a party was a ballache. Once we were sorted, everything else was gravy.