Spellbreak interview: The magical battle royale taking cues from Studio Ghibli and Avatar

Spellbreak Fire Lightning
Spellbreak Fire Lightning (Image credit: Proletariat Inc)

Spellbreak is a free-to-play battle royale that centers around elemental magic. Players drop onto a map in squads of three, with access six different gauntlets, each with their own elemental type to take down opponents. It's hard not to compare a new battle royale against well established IPs like Fortnite or Call of Duty. But according to Proletariat Inc. CEO, Seth Sivak, Spellbreak is closer to being an multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) than other battle royale games out there.

We sat down with Sivak to learn more about Spellbreak and what helped its developers find inspiration for the title.

Rebecca Spear, Windows Central gaming writer: Was it daunting working on a new IP and do comparisons against other battle royales like Fortnite and Overwatch worry you?

Seth Sivak, Proletariat Inc. CEO: Creating a new IP is certainly a challenge. With Spellbreak, we wanted to make something unique and new in art style, universe, and gameplay.

We're all fans of the battle royale genre, so naturally we're big players of games like Fortnite, Overwatch, and more. Everything that's out there already inspires us in one way or another. For Spellbreak, though, we really focused on creating something unique and new in the art style, universe, and gameplay. Sure, it has some light touches that feel familiar to you if you play battle royale games, but it also feels like something really new.

What makes Spellbreak different from other battle royales?

Sivak: Spellbreak is very different from the other games with battle royale modes available now. Beyond not having guns, the core combat is very different from a shooter because every attack is projectile based. On top of that, the movement in Spellbreak is much faster than other games, which gives it a unique moment-to-moment feel. While the core mode is battle royale, players also choose a class before starting a match and then they actually level-up that class as the match progresses. This is much closer to a MOBA than other battle royale games. Lastly, Spellbreak has full cross-play and cross-progression across PC and consoles, which ensures you can always play with your friends.

What other games and media did you pull inspiration from when creating Spellbreak?

Sivak: The core combat from Spellbreak is inspired by old school shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament. All the spells are projectiles, which leads to lots of skill shots, and there is a wide variety of movement options. We even have a rocket jump! The visual style is influenced by lots of 2D animation classics like Princess Mononoke, Akira, Avatar, and Legend of Korra. We also took a lot of inspiration from games, both old and new, with gorgeous visual effects like 2D Castlevanias, League of Legends, and Breath of the Wild.

In your opinion, which gauntlets are easiest for beginners? And which class pays off the most for more skilled players?

Sivak: We generally recommend a new player start with either Stoneshaper or Pyromancer. In the case of Stoneshaper, it has more armor right off the bat and the primary spell 1) has a substantial hitbox, 2) does a hefty chunk of damage, and 3) most importantly, doesn't require players to aim vertically as well. A Pyromancer's fireballs, on the other hand, travel relatively quickly and have a large explosion on impact (and even more so once they get the Conflagration skill at level 4 which makes your singular fireball explode into four smaller fireballs on impact).

For more experienced players, Frostborn can be a terrifying glass cannon with all offense and no defense if you can hit your shots. Conduit and Tempest both have incredibly high skill ceilings and can pull off some amazing plays once you're comfortable with their mechanics. In the case of Conduit, with their Potential Energy and Power Surge skills, they are greatly rewarded if they can keep their lightning bolts hitting a target. Tempest has immense mobility and you'll never have to touch the ground and can reposition quickly off walls and the terrain…if you're skilled enough to make use of it.

How does ranking and matchmaking work within Spellbreak? Do your points and skills determine who you face in a match?

Sivak: Right now we're doing very basic matchmaking based on Mage Rank, which is the permanent account progression players get for playing matches. In the future we're looking to add a more formal ranking system.

What kind of player will best enjoy Spellbreak?

Sivak: Spellbreak appeals to a wide variety of players but we have seen the most interest from these groups:

  • Traditional battle royale players who enjoy games like Fortnite and Apex Legends will be able to jump right into the action. Spellbreak's current primary gamemode is battle royale and while we do mix up the mechanics somewhat with the in-match RPG progression, there is still a strong appeal for those players that enjoy becoming the last player standing.
  • Ability Shooter players who enjoy games like Destiny 2, Overwatch, or Warframe will like the projectile based combat and the use of ability cooldowns. The movement and jumping in these games also maps really well to the freedom of movement that is in Spellbreak that allows you to fly and dash through the skies.
  • MOBA players who enjoy League of Legends and DOTA 2 will find the combat in Spellbreak aligns very similar to what they're used to. The tactical thinking involved with managing cooldowns and the touch required to hit skillshots will make these players feel right at home.
  • Action MMO players who enjoy games like TERA or Guild Wars 2 will have fun, especially if they like the PvP elements of those games. The use of abilities and cooldown management will feel familiar to these players and the depth of the world and universe should also be very appealing.
  • Fighting game players have also told us they like the feeling of the combat in Spellbreak. They feel that the fast-paced back-and-forth nature of a fight reminds of them of a good fighting game match.

Spellbreak's official website states that the game takes place in an ever-evolving world. What kind of changes do you have in store?

Sivak: Over the course of the alpha, beta, and into full release, we constantly updated different areas of the map. This is both for storytelling, overall appeal, variety, and gameplay. We plan to keep updating the map with new areas as we tell the story of what happened in the Hollow Lands. This will be told via our Chapter System with the help of quests and other mechanics.

When do you expect the next season to drop?

Sivak: We will share more details about Spellbreak's seasonal content, called Chapters, very soon.

Is there anything else about Spellbreak that you'd like to share?

Sivak: Spellbreak is available for free with full cross-play and cross-progression on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This is what we all want as players. We want to be unshackled from a single device, especially when we're on the verge of a new console generation.

Spellbreak treads familiar ground with its battle royale roots, embracing a recently delivering some of the best Xbox One games on the platform today. But Proletariat Inc. hopes its spellcasting spin on the setup will garner a unique voice, out now for free on console and PC.

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).