Spellbreak Closed Alpha Preview – When Harry Potter Goes Battle Royale

Spellbreak Closed Alpha Preview

Apex Legends may be taking the world by storm right now, but there is another Battle Royale game in the making that has tons of potential. What’s more, it tries to bring something new to the table, and that could be its greatest asset in this fierce and crowded competition.

Spellbreak is the work of Proletariat, a low-profile studio that is now aiming big and trying to fight with the big dogs. For Spellbreak, they chose a relatively unexploited subject and one that clearly makes the game stand out from the crowd – magic and spellcasting. And believe me, it’s a lot of fun both to watch and to play.

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A Battle of Fire and Ice

Our impressions from Spellbreak’s closed alpha test were extremely positive. Here is a game that looks the part, featuring a distinguishing identity, but also plays just like it should. There is this cartoon aesthetic that is somewhat evocative of the canceled MOBA game Gigantic but has enough personality to be its own game. It looks stunning and I would throw my wallet at the developers to create an MMORPG within this style. One can only dream…

Spellbreak features the usual triad of game modes: solo, duo and squad (four players). The big gimmick – for lack of a better word – is the ability to choose and combine different spells. You pick a wizard character from the available selection, but apart from the slightly dissimilar looks, there doesn’t seem to be anything distinguishable between them. It’s highly likely that future builds will add some cosmetic customization, but for now, this is an irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of things.

But things start to get interesting as soon as you pick your class… or classes, as you must choose a pair before each match, from an assortment of eleven. Currently you have the Pyromancer, Frostborn, Conduit, Crack Shot, Bulwark, Scavenger, Scholar, Stoneshaper, Tempest, Toxicologist and Zealot. These classes, or schools of magic, will give your wizard a few different ability scrolls to choose from – you have to pick one scroll from the two on offer, which means that you are actively choosing one passive ability over the other. Ultimately, you are creating a character build that is unique for that match based on your two initial classes, so make sure that you experiment wildly until you settle for a combination that suits your playstyle.

Spellbreak closed alpha preview squad battle

This is just one of the factors that provide Spellbreak with a diversity that will often surprise you in the battlefield. When you think that you have a perfectly robust and leveled up build, another player shows up with a character that is the perfect arch-rival to all your choices. There’s a hint of randomness to the order in which the scrolls show up, so you’re not always in control of the outcome, but you can do your best to get the finest build that you possibly can.

Each wizard can use two magic gauntlets that deal different kinds of elemental damage – some are flame-based, others are frost, lightning, toxic, stone or wind-based, and so on, in sync with the available classes. Obviously, you should search for the gauntlets that are fitting to the classes that you chose at the match start. Gauntlets come in various rarity types, just as it happens with other equipment pieces such as boots, belts or amulets: Rare, Epic, Legendary, Uncommon and Common. And let’s not forget about the all-important Runes, which give you special powers such as invisibility, teleportation, blink, flight and more.

Spellbreak closed alpha preview mountain fireball

The Wizarding World of Wizards

Gauntlets are the devices from where the crucial magic comes from. You can wear two gauntlets, each one dealing a specific spell, but they also come with a secondary attack, or sorcery, so that makes for quite a versatile set of moves. This means that you can cast a nasty fireball into the distant horizon – Spellbreak is great with long distance combat –, but also summon an imposing wall of fire that may prevent a rival from reaching you – especially effective in enclosed locations.

But where Spellbreak truly shines is in the combos that you can create with the spells. Learning these is vital as a straightforward spell may suddenly turn into a huge raging ball of death with the unassuming addition of a different type of magic. For example, combining poisonous clouds with fire yields some very interesting and infernal results, and lighting can also be used to create a damaging toxic explosion. It’s a lot of fun mixing and matching these magic abilities, starting with the basics to see just how real it all feels – freezing water, shooting flames into the ice… this is exactly what the Practice area, where all hell breaks loose, is made for.

In some places of the map you’ll see these red light areas where you can earn a skill if you sit tight for a few seconds, so don’t ignore them. However, be on the lookout as there is no better place for an enemy to make an ambush.

Spellbreak closed alpha preview toxic explosion

Other than that, Spellbreak has all the standard Battle Royale mechanics in place and is already tremendously playable. The map is vast and incredibly beautiful, although I never felt like it had enough landmarks to make it diverse enough – it’s mostly castles, ruins, ruined castles, lots of stunning vegetation, places with less vegetation, a few bridges here and there… I don’t know, maybe I’m being picky, but I never felt like I was going places, it seemed to me that despite some different topography and architecture, I was always battling in the same places. I know that despite being fantasy, you can’t stray too far from the canons of the genre as not to betray our familiarity, but maybe add some monuments or villages? A cave or two? Not everyone has to be a castle lord, you know.

I’m also left a bit cold when it comes to the lack of destructible environments or objects. I’m not asking Proletariat to go to the extent of Fortnite Battle Royale or even Ashes of Creation: Apocalypse – tearing down walls and razing entire buildings to the ground –, but the inability to destroy even the most fragile object is somewhat baffling. Maybe it’s coming further down the road, but all that power and not a single chest, barrel or crate being blown up to pieces sounds a bit unrealistic – even for a game about wizards blowing the heck out of each other.

Anyway, nitpicking aside, I absolutely love Spellbreak’s art style and the spellcasting combos are fun and particularly appealing for anyone who wants something fresh with their Battle Royale game. Since the times of Magicka: Wizard Wars that I haven’t seen such an accomplished magic-based system which, in spite of its flaws, looks set to become an important player in the genre. The big question that remains is the business model, with Proletariat still unsure about it – or not willing to share the details at this stage. Spellbreak would surely get a nice player base were it to be free-to-play, but we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. I know that it would be magical for sure!


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