Fight or Kite: Small changes (and one big one) to improve Spellbreak’s balance


An inordinate amount of my time has been spent playing Spellbreak recently. I’m honestly not a gigantic fan of battle royale as a primary game mode, but I can barely put this one down. With all this time spent in game, I’ve begun to develop a few thoughts on how I would tweak and tune up the gameplay, just slightly, to improve the overall balance in the game.

I described the game’s combat system a couple of weeks ago, and I continue to think it’s awesome (the system, not my description – although it’s pretty awesome too!). To reiterate: the fact that this game has actual meaningful classes and builds that extend beyond simple loot and shoot is fantastic.

Let’s take a look at each of the different gauntlets, some of their pros and cons, and I’ll tell you my thoughts on where they currently reside on the scales of SKalance (that’s Sam Kash’s balance). And just to cut you off now, no I am not an expert spellslinger. I don’t claim to be the best this game’s ever seen or that I perfectly know the best use cases for each gauntlet. These are just the moves I think would improve the game. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, just let me know in the comments.

As explained before, each gauntlet offers two spells, but when it’s your primary class you also get some bonus perks as the match continues on. We could probably discuss these aspects independently, but for this quick write-up I think I’ll mash them together.

First up is the toxic gauntlet wielded by the Toxicologist. Overall, I think this one is in a good place. As a primary weapon it offers some great area control. The toxic puddles are able to add a small DOT and slow your opponent, which is great. It functions really well as an off-hand too. It makes for a perfect close-range weapon if you find yourself in tight quarters – not to mention the toxic clouds combo with just about every other gauntlet. It’s possible that the close-range damage is a bit too high, as you can exile a player real quick if you hit ’em point blank. In fact, the current meta of stealth plus toxic can leave a bad taste in your mouth. This really is the challenge with stealth in all competitive games; tuning it so that there is some counterplay is difficult. Wolf’s blood might be the best defense, but when a single skill becomes a necessity for gameplay, then you need to make some adjustments.

The fire gauntlet is solid. The damage is strong but not out of control. If you try to blast someone standing too close (which I jump-scare and do all too often), you’ll end up wrecking yourself just as bad. It also combos well with other weapons. I think the Pyromancer bonuses could be massaged a bit, though. I wouldn’t hate it if the firefly bonus added more flight time than just two seconds; even just three or four would make it a more effective escape skill. Pyrolysis currently gives your flamewall more damage, but I’d like to see it also cover a bigger area or make the wall taller. As it is, a damage buff alone is a bit dull and boring really.

Frostborn and the frost gauntlet are by far my least-played weapons. It’s just so not my playstyle. Yet I can definitely appreciate a good Frostborn when I’ve been killed by one. With that said, I can’t speak much further on it. I think there could be some room for making a case that the base gauntlet should be able to shoot and reload a little bit quicker. I know it’s supposed to be a high-damage, precision weapon, and players shouldn’t engage one on one at the start of a match unless you are extremely skilled. But it doesn’t feel good to land next to someone as a Frostborn only to get smoked.

I do really like the Tempest’s wind gauntlet. It’s just a lot of fun to play. The wind blades cast quickly and feel really good to toss at enemies. As with the toxic gauntlet, I really enjoy how well the tornado combos with the other spells. This makes it a fun off-hand weapon as well. Unfortunately, the class skills are a bit dull; the final two levels are simple passives. They are useful, but still dull. Either way, I really wouldn’t change much here unless those last two class upgrades were revamped to be more interesting. One idea might be a tornado that lasts longer and the spell caster can actual give it some direction and movement rather than it spinning in one spot. Or possibly someone caught in the tornado can’t escape short of using a rune.

Stoneshaper is a fun class to play too. I think anyone that’s dropped next to one knows how strong they are in the beginning of the match. I don’t think it’s a huge issue, but I do think there’s a problem when the class plays so well at the start but doesn’t offer as much near the end of the match. Personally I’d reduce the damage on the initial tier 1 gauntlet. I might even suggest buffing the damage on the epic and legendary stone gauntlets. It’s not that often that you’ll really catch people flat-footed near the end of a round, so I’d say make it hurt if they do. It’s also a shame the class doesn’t have any good movement bonuses like most of the others. It’d be pretty epic if players could somehow ride their boulder as it flew through the sky. Now that’d be a fantastic way to engage an opponent.

The lightning gauntlet and Conduit class probably draw the most criticisms from me, but not for the reason you’re thinking. I know there was a whole aim assist fiasco that was recently patched, but my ire comes from how simple the lightning gauntlet’s functionality is. As it is now, you just point at your target and shoot off some zappy bolts. It feels similar to the frost bow since it requires some aiming precision but it’s just lame. When I’m thinking of launching a lightning attack at someone, I don’t want to shock ’em with some static electricity. Look at Star Wars’ force lightning, with bolts rolling and spreading all around until it electrifies someone. It might need to be relegated to the class’s upgrades, but let’s get some chain lightning! If enemies are too close to one another, I want to see some splash damage.

Not to mention, when electricity makes a connection, it doesn’t want to let go. Have you ever seen a high voltage station switching off? Those terrifying electric arcs are amazing! I’d much rather the lightning gauntlet’s main spell work that way. Once you hit your enemy, the arc stays and slowly ticks down his or her health. The longer it’s attached, the quicker it starts to deplete. As long as you keep them within some tight range of your cross-hair, and you hold down the spell, it should keep hurting. I think this would improve not just the weapon from a gameplay perspective, but it would feel more thematic and make it more unique.

So those are my thoughts on the wizarding world of Spellbreak’s balance. Have any of you given thought to the game’s balance? Are you on board with my fairly big change to the lightning gauntlet or do you enjoy its current functionality. Personally, I’m still having a ton of fun regardless and I’d highly recommend anyone who’s been itching for something new to try give it a go.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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