Spellbreak Chapter 2 – The Fractureby Adam Dileva
I quite enjoyed my time with Spellbreak when it released last September, of which you can read our full review of the game here. For those uninitiated, Spellbreak is a free-to-play (with crossplay) Battle Royale, but with a twist; you’re a Battlemage, so instead of traditional guns to hunt down your enemies, you sling spells from six different elements, combining to make some unique outcomes.
We got an opportunity to check out Spellbreak’s next big update coming out shortly, titled The Fracture. We were invited via a demo to check out this exciting update, so while we weren’t able to get our actual hands on the gameplay, we got to ask a bunch of questions and get a rundown of all the new changes and additions for Spellbreak’s Chapter 2 while a few matches between developers playing unfolded.
Due for release in less than a week on April 8th, The Fracture isn’t just a cool sounding name, it’s actually the term for the pits of the Hollow Lands where you become instantly exiled should you fall into them whereas the 'border' that shrinks in Battle Royale is the Spellstorm, so this Chapter will actually give you some its lore as to its history and why it’s there. While the Battle Royale will still be included and playable, developers Proletariat wanted a new mode, which is where Dominion comes into play.
This new small scale mode, Dominion, is a 5v5 objective based map where you’ll need to capture points on one of the four new maps. While the maps are sections from the larger Battle Royale one you already know, these are sectioned off areas that are much smaller in size without the Fracture closing in or moving the playspace at all. There’s also a few other surprises in store for Dominion, as you’ll want to capture and get 150 points to win, though this value will fluctuate slightly if not playing in a full 5v5 match, but you can also expect a light PvE element with NPC’s to kill and a completely unique upgrade and respawn system.
Like most objective based modes, you’ll need to stand within one of the three capture points indicated by symbols instead of typical A, B and C, which once captured, will start to slowly earn your team points towards the total. There are two ways to win the match, either by fulfilling the score requirement or whichever team has the most points at the end of the 15 minute match, which feels like a fair amount of time, though there is no Overtime.
You’ll also net points for exiling enemy players, adding to your team's score based on how many objectives you currently control. Even if your team is doing terrible and have no possession of any of the capture spots, you’ll still earn at least one point for player exiles. But this is Dominion and they wanted to have a different experience than the typical Battle Royal, so at the start of a match before dropping in you’ll meet the Merchant where you’ll choose your Gauntlet and Rune. You’ll have to choose from a random three, though you do have a set amount of rerolls per match if the choices presented don’t match your preferred playstyle. Apparently you also won’t get any duplicate offers if you do decide to use your rerolls, which should cut down on any frustration of being stuck with a rune you may not actually want.
The Merchant will play a bigger role as you become more accustomed to Dominion, as they’ll be used to change your build in the match. As you defeat enemy players and Vowguard, the NPC fodder that you’ll come across in the main travel lines and areas, you’ll notice a small Boon Gem in the lower right of the screen start to fill. You’re able to fill up to three charges, able to exchange them for a random Boon such as Gauntlets, Runes or Blessings. In a match you’re also able to recall back to The Merchant to refill armor and health as well as spending your Boon charges, but doing so will take 8 seconds and leave your team shorthanded, but there will obviously opportune times to do so that you'll want to coordinate with your squad.
Vowguard are basically grunt NPC’s you’ll find throughout the maps, adding a light PvE element to Spellbreak’s gameplay. These reminded me a lot of the minor grunts from Titanfall, and while they won’t pose much of a threat, they are more used to fill your Boon Gem and also get some gear and potions from while also adding some life to the maps. These Vowguard are a great way to get some early starting gear and actually have a purpose other than adding them ‘simply because’. Proletariat wanted to add PvE but not be the sole focus, so this is the balance they’ve found.
There were also a few other noteworthy features about Dominion that stood out during my demo session. Players won’t actually drop gear when they die, meaning you’ll actually keep your gear when you get back into the match after a 15 second respawn. You’re also able to spend your Boons when you respawn which makes sure that you aren’t at a total disadvantage when you come back into the match. Leveling is also not like in the Battle Royale mode at all either, as everyone levels up based on time in the match, so the longer it goes the more powerful everyone becomes.
The smaller maps make for some exciting gameplay, especially since the player count has increased to 5v5. On one map in particular some of the control points actually had sightlines between them which will cater towards the long range players and offer different defense strategies. This also means you might need to change your playstyle and work with some new builds based on if your team needs more offence or defence at any given time. While there’s no “best” build for this new mode, a lot of work has gone into balancing and it shows. And yes, while you can capture a point above ground level, it’s not infinite, so there’s no using a flight rune and simply hovering way above the point to capture.
Leagues is also one of the other major additions coming to Chapter 2. This is a completely new ranked mode for those that was some serious competitive play against others, also with a new progression system. There are six leagues in total: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Legend. As you earn points in Dominion matches you’ll move up the 10 tiers within each League but you can also drop and go backwards after some losses as well. Thankfully there are plateaus every 5 tiers that are like safe points, unable to drop any further once reached.
You’re going to earn Crowns for matches you play in League which will then be used as entry fees once you reach Gold rank and higher. That’s right, you’re going to have to pay an increasing amount of Crowns to enter. This is to garner a more competitive aspect and discourage players from playing poorly or AFKing on purpose. While some may worry about having to grind for Crowns to even play a match, both matches I got to watch on our demo had the developer earning about 2500 or so Crowns on each match, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue until you reach the top tier of Leagues.
A new Chapter Pass will be available with Chapter 2’s launch, adding new story quests and a bunch of new unique rewards. For 1000 Gold you can purchase the new Chapter Pass which will progress you through the reward tiers quicker, like most Battle Passes. We got to quickly see the rewards for these, with the highlight being the final level 50 unlock; an awesome Vowguard Inquisitor skin.
These new quests won’t only be for winning matches, but fulfilling specific objectives as well. What excited me the most though was the new Ascended Outfits. These are bought costumes like usual but will actually have tiers that you’ll work towards by completing quests. For example, your new Ascended Outfit you just bought starts at tier one but you’re given a corresponding quest to do a certain amount of specific elemental damage. Complete this quest and your costume will rank up to tier 2, slightly changing how it looks, basically becoming much cooler in the process. It seems as though there will be an Ascended Costume for each of the elements, so it’s almost like working towards a mastery that you can show off to other players aside from a basic title or badge, but with a badass looking costume that will require some dedication to level up.
Talents are also getting a complete rework and refresh. Chapter 2 will change the costs for Talents between one to four, where previously the max was three points. The cap will also be higher and some have had their values changed, so this means there should be some new viable builds that can be created. New Talents will be introduced as well as some changes to older ones, so while we didn’t get to see every since Talent, I foresee a lot of theory crafting coming shortly and some interesting new builds on the horizon with this substantial change.
While I’ve not had much time lately to play much Spellbreak as I'd like, getting a chance to see the new additions and changes for Chapter 2 is quite exciting. Again, being free-to-play there’s no barrier of entry to try it out, and with all the hard work gone into adding new modes, balancing and more with The Fracture update, I’m excited to dust off my Battlemage’s robes and get back into some serious spell slinging.
*Editors Note: Made some minor terminology fixes*