Fight or Kite: Spellbreak’s wizardry battles wage on with new content

    
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It’s been a hot minute since I spent any time playing Spellbreak. When it first launched, it was a nice part of my nightly gaming rotation. It has a lot of the things that I typically enjoy in my PvP: nice cosmetics, build customization, and intense combat moments.

When last we saw our hero (in game), Proletariat had just launched the first chapter of its overarching story. As a reminder, despite Spellbreak primarily being a battle royale, it actually does have some tangible story elements. This is another really cool feature that you don’t find in other BRs.

Now, Spellbreak has just celebrated its first birthday, and I thought the only fitting gift I could offer was my beautiful, precious game time. I honestly have not paid a lot of attention to the game in the past year, so I wanted to know whether anything substantial has changed or it’s just another game that launched with a whimper. That’s what we’ll determine in this edition of Fight or Kite.

Story and balance updates show the game is alive and well

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise at all, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of improvements to the game since I last played. The first thing that stuck out to me was the story has progressed to a third chapter. Those nice new splash screens made it kind of hard to miss.

I really wish I could say more about the game’s lore and story itself, but Proletariat has taken kind of an odd approach by locking the story chapters into a buy-to-play model. Typically in free-to-play games the achievements and dailies are the carrot that bring you into the game. Then, while you’re chomping that content down, you see all the other goodies you’re missing, like fancy pants and emotes. All that FOMO inevitably leads you buy up those cosmetics and battle passes.

In fact, I think one of the reasons I stopped playing originally was due to my confusion on how to play the story. I’m pretty sure the story is just simple quests such as kill X number of opponents while on the new map to unlock the next quest. Along the way you’ll unlock some rewards too. You know, the more I think about it, perhaps I’ve overblown exactly what the story content in Spellbreak is. Maybe it is just another name for a battle pass and I’m just overthinking it.

Regardless, story content or not, the game has seen a lot of development. It’s far from dead and gone, which is what I was really afraid of! Judging by the releases posted, the studio is maintaining a pretty strong one- to two-month update cycle, each one offering some balance updates and story, and the latest even adding a new competitive combat mode.

The Discord and Reddit pages are commented and participated on as well. It’s always good to see that the community is still alive and actively engaged in a game. I might not put a lot of merit into SteamCharts and the like, but it’s very disheartening to look into a game only to find out that there’s nothing but crickets littered around. Fortunately, that isn’t the case at all here! My battle royale match popped pretty quickly too, with maybe a one-minute queue – which is good.

New Dominion combat mode – 5v5 (or 3v3) Conquest

Now for the real meat of this taco: a new combat mode! Spellbreak calls it Dominion, but it’s basically your standard 5v5, three-point capture Conquest game mode. The sad part is that Clash, the game mode I last played, was retired to make room for Dominion. That mode was a wild and crazy brawl with spells flying all over the place. Not particularly conductive to a structured, skillful battle but it sure was a ton of fun! Hopefully it isn’t a permanent retirement as I love having as many options to choose from as possible.

I’ve moaned and groaned on more than one occasion about being tired of Conquest as a game mode, but I’m beginning to see that may be due more to a specific game than to the mode in general. Especially here, it was actually very refreshing to play 5v5 and capture points in Spellbreak. It doesn’t feel like it was just slapped together, either. There are quite a few changes the developers made to get Conquest to work in Spellbreak.

First, rather than running around the map to find and equip upgraded gear, you’ll find there are some (very weak) NPCs that leave behind random gear once you take them out. On top of that, each time you respawn, there is a dialog that offers you one of three pieces of loot to gain. Sometimes you get to pick up more than one, but it wasn’t really clear to me why that happened. Also, as the match progresses, these items increase in strength. So if you die early, you likely will get to choose only from a low-level upgrade, but later on you’ll have a chance at legendary gear.

The maps I fought on were all fairly small, which I preferred. It kept the combat and action going basically non-stop. Even the respawn timer wasn’t too detrimental. Capturing a location followed the normal rules of “stand in the circle” to win. Since Spellbreak was designed to be a BR, players don’t really have very many defensive techniques. There are some, but it isn’t like playing Conquest in most MMOs where you might build yourself to be a bunker and you can simply sit on a capture point and just absorb damage. Here you have to stay mobile, so there is a lot of hit and run combat going on.

I do like the way that game mode plays. I haven’t had enough matches to have an opinion on the balance of the gauntlets yet, although just imagining some kind of a bunker gauntlet would be pretty cool. Another interesting point was that one of my matches ended up being only a 3v3, and I’m not sure whether that was because of a low population situation or players just bailed part way through the match. It definitely wasn’t enough players to fill up the zone, though.

Overall, Dominion was a lot of fun, and I think Spellbreak has definitely returned to my current rotation. If anyone else is still playing regularly, let me know what you think of the game one year after release and whether you think it has been making the right moves for the community or not.

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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