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RIP Spellbreak

The battle royale genre has become highly saturated in the last few years. After "Fortnite" and "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds" popularized the battle royale genre, countless new games have come and gone. Only a handful have truly stood the test of time, maintained an active playerbase, and remained relevant. Most of these now-defunct battle royales didn't offer anything super unique, but some caught players' attention by bringing something new to the fold. But in these cases, even the most innovative game can land without the recognition it deserves when there's so much competition. Fans of "Spellbreak" learned this as they watched its servers shut down earlier this week.

Countless battle royales failed because they did little to stand out from the competition, but "Spellbreak" was different. Billed as a magic-based battle royale, the game was centered around spellcasting, ability combinations, and movement skills in a fantasy setting. Fans praised its art style and unique approach to the battle royale genre, but as of January 10, 2023, the game is no longer accessible. However, it's not all bad news, Proletariat Inc. is now owned by Blizzard, and "Spellbreak" may yet live on thanks to an official peer-to-peer version of the game.

The magic-based battle royale is down, but not out

The closest comparison for those who didn't have the chance to play "Spellbreak" is perhaps "Realm Royale" — a fantasy battle royale with guns that took heavy inspiration from "Fortnite." Unlike "Realm Royale," the only thing "Spellbreak" copied from "Fortnite" was the battle royale formula. Even then, it introduced a fresh spin on the game style. 

The title offered tons of abilities, and combat was fast-paced — almost more like a brawl between superheroes than a duel between mages, thanks to the emphasis on movement. Spells were satisfying to cast, and there was a lot of variety in what players could do, from launching boulders and flaming missiles to careening through the sky like Goku. "Spellbreak" seemed to do everything right on paper, but it just didn't resonate with enough mainstream gamers.

Though there wasn't a specific reason why the servers for "Spellbreak" were being shut down, many fans pointed to its low player count since launch. It had an all-time peak of about 5,500 players on launch in late 2020, but by mid-2021, its playerbase had dropped sharply to below 600. In the end, there was an effort to reignite the population of "Spellbreak" with a celebratory farewell in its final days. Though the game is no longer available, there is still one way to play "Spellbreak" thanks to a Community Version of the game released for free by Proletariat Inc.

Proletariat Inc., now part of Blizzard, released an offline version of Spellbreak

Proletariat Inc.'s statement announced development would cease on "Spellbreak" but also said it has no plans to stop working on new titles. Now under the wing of Activision Blizzard, it has been reported that most developers from Proletariat Inc. are currently working on Blizzard's flagship MMO "World of Warcraft" and its current expansion "Dragonflight." Fans don't know what the studio will work on next, or what will happen if the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger goes through. But, for now, it looks like the team at Proletariat Inc. is doing just fine.

Perhaps as a farewell gift to the most dedicated fans of "Spellbreak," Proletariat Inc. worked on a special version of the game that could be used for user-hosted play. It's exceptionally uncommon for developers of a defunct game to release the game in its entirety, which makes this release a particularly heartfelt move from the team to the community. 

Appropriately called the "Community Version," this standalone download lets players host their own servers for offline, local, and peer-to-peer play. Of course, it won't let players connect to a global server for traditional, large-scale battle royale games, but it does serve as a memorial for a game with such high promise and a way for its biggest fans to revisit the Hollow Lands long after it's been laid to rest.