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Spellbreak: Hands-On Developer Walkthrough Impressions

Recently, I had the chance to play Spellbreak with Seth Sivak, CEO of developer Proletariat. Spellbreak is an upcoming Battle Royale title that is about to enter a closed beta and is completely different from other games in the genre. It features no guns, no vehicles, and no crafting mechanics. Instead, it focuses on epic magic-based combat combined with an RPG-style progression system. Although I have a few minor concerns with the game, I walked away from my session thoroughly impressed with what I saw.

Magical Combat

via: Spellbreak

Spellbreak’s combat revolves around two main items — Runes and Gauntlets. Runes typically grant you some sort of movement ability, such as Springstep, which acts as a way to dash in and out of combat. Gauntlets, on the other hand, provide you with your main offensive abilities. Players can equip two Gauntlets (left hand and right hand), and their abilities are mapped to the left and right mouse buttons along with the ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys. The mouse buttons typically offer your basic attack, such as launching a fireball or projectile. The secondary abilities—mapped to the keys—offer something a bit more unique, such as creating a Firewall or a Tornado. Therefore, at any point in time you effectively have four Gauntlet attacks at your disposal, offering plenty of room for experimentation.

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One of my favorite features in Spellbreak is the elemental interactions that certain abilities have with each other. For example, I might lay down a Firewall with my Gauntlet, then send a Shockwave through it with my Earth Gauntlet. This would cause the Shockwave to catch fire as it moved through the Firewall, setting ablaze any enemies that it hit. I noticed these effects throughout all the matches I played, each one more unique than the last. It also allows for well-coordinated teams to combine their attacks and demolish the competition, adding a deep layer of strategy to each battle.

Not only are these elemental interactions powerful, but they look absolutely stunning as well. Even as a closed beta, the developers have already done a fantastic job with the in-game graphics, creating a game that is a joy to watch. Even when I was knocked out of a round, it was fun be a spectator and witness some truly beautiful battles unfold.

Smooth Movement

Movement across the map is surprisingly fun in Spellbreak, as players have the ability to levitate for short periods of time. This replaced the double jump mechanic previously seen in the Alpha build, and I believe it was a great decision. The map hosts plenty of hills, castles, and other locations that lend themselves well to the new skill. Soaring high above the battlefield allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the land and plan out your next move. Not only does it provide you with a tactical advantage — it’s just plain fun to use.

RPG Goodness

Another great mechanic employed by Spellbreak is the diverse Class system. Players can choose between one of six classes at the start of the game and slowly level them up as the match progresses. Proletariat is composed of developers who are veterans of the MMO genre, and that is on clear display with this feature. Players level up and gain new abilities as the map shrinks, creating new playstyles as the battle rages on. This means that tactics that worked early in the match won’t necessarily work near the end. Although I didn’t get enough time to really dig into these features, they are obviously well thought out and offer several unique playstyles for each class.

As Proletariat has roots in the MMO genre, it only makes sense that Spellbreak features a Quest system. Currently, that takes the form of a rudimentary Daily Quest list, however Sivak claims that this will be expanded in the future. Proletariat also wants to develop a deep backstory for their virtual world and is doing so in the form of Lore books. These are auxiliary items that can be found across the map to help flesh out the land and history of Spellbreak.

The Smallest Of Concerns

via: Spellbreak

It’s all incredibly ambitious, but I have to say I think they’ve already done an impressive job. The game is unbelievable polished for a title that is just entering closed beta, and my time with the game left me wanting more. With that being said, I do have a few minor issues that need to be addressed before a final release.

My primary concern is that the game might be too complex to garner a large audience. There are a lot of moving parts in the game (items to keep track of, elemental interactions to account for, abilities to unlock, etc.) that it might scare off casual fans before they can get to the meat of the game. Sivak told me that this was one of the concerns raised during alpha testing, so they are aware of the issue and are adjusting as needed. Personally, I don’t want to see the complexity reduced, as it offers a high skill ceiling for devoted players. Instead, a robust tutorial could easily mitigate this concern and introduce players to the intricacies of Spellbreak.

The other issues are simply things that will get ironed out over the course of the beta; latency issues (likely on my end), graphical glitches when in spectator mode, and pacing issues due to player count. My matches typically had around 35 players out of a max of 42, and there were a few long breaks in the action. However, Proletariat is still fine-tuning the final player count, and I have faith they’ll strike a good balance before release.

An Impressive Showing

via: Spellbreak

None of these issues detract from my overall enthusiasm for Spellbreak. I’m not usually a fan of Battle Royale games, but Spellbreak was able to immediately grab my attention. It’s unique blend of RPG elements, epic magical action, and smooth traversal methods make this a game to keep your eye on.

Spellbreak enters closed beta on October 15th. An official release date is yet to be announced.

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