Fortnite’s Avatar update inadvertently brings back one of the greatest battle royales ever made

John Esposito
Blizzard announces Proletariat acquisition

Even if it has a fraction of Spellbreak’s depth and creativity, Fortnite’s latest update invokes the days of old, when wizards/witches donned gauntlets to sling magical abilities at their foes in the arena.

Since 2017, many battle royales have come and gone, trying to cater to any audience Fortnite couldn’t reach. While some have managed to fill a niche — Apex Legends and Warzone — it’s been a challenge for smaller, more unique titles to stand tall, especially if there’s no legacy tie like Apex Legends with Titanfall or Warzone and Call of Duty.

Fortnite’s latest season introduces Greek mythology to the game and a crossover with the iconic Avatar: The Last Airbender. The latter crossover brings cosmetics and Elemental Bending tools to dominate the opposition.

Something feels familiar about it all, and not because Nickelodeon did it years ago in a televised series. It’s because someone else did the same exact thing years ago, and that someone was Proletariat with their one-hit wonder, Spellbreak.

Released in 2020, Spellbreak was yet another battle royale title hidden in Fortnite’s shadow, as this era saw the birth (and subsequent death) of many battle royale titles. However, this one had a unique spin to it: Players were wizards or witches who used magical gauntlets capable of channeling elemental spells such as fire, wind, and earth for combat purposes.

Defeat the opposition, and you were crowned victor, provided you could defeat the waves of wizards and witches hurling everything and the kitchen sink at you. Its chaotic nature was reminiscent of the arena shooters of old, such as Unreal Tournament, with this genre heavily influencing Spellbreak’s feel and zany nature.

In an industry where many devs have resorted to following trends and playing it safe with big AAA releases, Spellbreak felt different. It felt fresh. The tangible way in which players wielded the elements hasn’t been matched.

Hurl boulders at your foes to send them flying, use wind for faster movement, or even channel your inner Frozone for icy slides with an ice gauntlet. Not only did players have the elements at their disposal, these elements interacted with each other.

Set a boulder on fire to get bonus damage, or melt an opponent’s ice to counter their defenses. This game took what Avatar’s bending Mythics have to the next level and created a complex and dense metagame around it. Spellbreak was ahead of its time.

After garnering some success after its 2020 launch, Spellbreak looked to find a niche for itself. While magic may not appeal to others like the standard battle royale grit and grime, the loop felt solid enough to keep the lights on for some time. However, that’s not the timeline we live in.

The unfortunate reality of battle royale games is that they need a thriving player base to stay alive long-term, and the death of Spellbreak came partially from a lack of content updates combined with a waning player base that led to devs loading matches with bots when things got dire.

Proletariat was acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2023, which saw the end of Spellbreak and any support moving forward. But, even with Avatar’s bending having a fraction of the depth Spellbreak’s had, it’s hard not to see the similarities between the two.

Chances are, we may never get something like Spellbreak again unless Fortnite players recreate it in Creative Mode. However, here’s hoping some Fortnite player out there thinks just that and takes up the magical gauntlet one more time.

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