Masters of Anima
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Developer: Passtech Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (eShop), PC (Steam), PS4 (Playstation Store), Xbox One (Microsoft Store)
Price: $19.99 USD
Masters of Anima is a neat little game out from Passtech Games. It’s a game that meshes elements of two notable and popular games unexpectedly that was quite hard to put my finger on until I heard other people talk about it. This is a game that meshes elements of Diablo III and Pikmin into a very fun a strategic hybrid real time strategy action type game. Yes, it may be hard to describe and initially hard to master, but it’s definitely fun once you get used to how the game mechanics work.
In Masters of Anima, you play as Otto, an apprentice Shaper. As a Shaper, Otto is able to harness the power of Anima to summon rock like creatures called Guardians. During the games opening moments, you undertake the trials to become a Master Shaper yourself. Shortly after the trials, the evil wizard Zahr emerges and using the once banished Golems, not only threatens your very world, but captures your betrothed, Ana. From here, Otto sets out to save his lover, and the world while he is at it.
Masters of Anima takes you through a much needed tutorial early on as you take on the trials as Otto. Here, you learn how to collect Anima from the environment, and once you have accumulated enough, use it to summon Guardians. You initially start with Protectors, who wield axes and shields, and are used as your front line defenders. Later, you unlock Sentinels who are your archers, Keepers who help drain Anima from enemies, and more. You are able to command them in various ways, such as having them attack a particular enemy, or strategically move them across the field.
The controls work quite well although they take sometime getting used to. You move around Otto using the left stick, and at the same time, also move a cursor around him. This cursor allows you to pinpoint targets to attack, or where you want to move your guardians. It can also be used to select a particular subset of guardians. Using the various buttons, you are also able to recall all your guardians at an instance, perform melee combo attacks, and perform a charged attack that also charges your guardians for their unique abilities. Using your trigger and shoulder buttons, you are able to select the type of guardian desired, and summon them or discard them for Anima.
As stated, there’s quite a bit to keep track of, and once you start going toe to toe with Guardians, it can be tough at first to keep track of everything. Not only is managing your Anima and Guardians crucial, but Otto himself can be a target. With his own dedicated health, take too much damage and the battle is lost. However, a few levels in, things start to fall into place, and commanding all the different Guardians and using their unique strengths becomes quite fun as you plan out strategies in different battles. However, until you get to this point of mastery, expect enemy Golems to wipe you and your army of Guardians out rather quickly. Your Guardians can be killed in a split second if you are careless.
The enemies you face off against are the aforementioned Golems. These are giant rock like creatures that are capable of devastating attacks that can cover a large area. Golems can attack in a sweeping motion infront of them knocking away Protectors at the front line, or even drop large boulders on your Sentinels. You’ll need to be paying attention to be able to move your Guardians out of harms way. They can be destroyed rather quickly and will cost you precious Anima to summon your lost soldiers.
Golems are no easy foe as they come in many variations, and the game often pits you against multiple types in a single battle. Facing off against one is usually pretty routine, but two is a whole different ball game. They can sometimes heal each other, or even roll up into a ball and charge across the field destroying everything in it’s path. Furthermore, they are not easy to take down as they have massive amounts of health and the battles can stretch on pretty long at times. Despite the challenges they present, taking them on can be a rush and very satisfying if you manage to take them down when things get down to the wire.
To help with the challenge of Golems, at the end of every level, you level up as Otto and are able to spend points on yourself, or specific Guardians. You can upgrade Otto so he has a roll ability to dodge attacks, or provide Sentinels with added range to their attacks. As useful as these abilities are, they won’t turn the tide however, as you get a pretty limited in points to spend at the end of each level, and it can take a while to get the best abilities. It’s worth mentioning, you are ranked for every battle, and the quicker you take down Golems and the fewer Guardians you lose will result in a better rank, and of course, more experience.
To also help with leveling, you can explore the levels for hidden goodies. Solving the levels various puzzles can uncover hidden chests which in turn provide experience points. Other treasures such as tablets that can help unlock some lore can also be found, or even artifacts that can increase Otto’s health. I personally found exploring the environments quite fun, as there are many environmental dangers that require interesting tactics to get around.
Masters of Anima is a delightful game to look at. It’s very vibrant and colourful, and the 3D models go for a simple, yet clean look. Environments look great especially walking along the sides of cliffs and seeing the odd view here and there. Effects used in battle also help to add a nice flare to everything. Best of all, everything runs super smooth and without a hitch. If there’s one fault I’ll give to the visuals, on the Switch in handheld mode, things to seem a tad bit blurry and the resolutions appears to be a bit low. Not sure why, as this game doesn’t look to be a powerhouse, but in the heat of battle, this is something that I am able to look past.
In the audio department, things are done quite well. The sound effects of the Guardians attacks stand out and re quite distinct. Hearing all the different charged attacks from Guardians, and queues to toppled Golems all are nice triggers and help you recognize and react to certain situations quickly. The music is interesting, as it’s a soft sounding, almost Middle Eastern type sound. Everything sounds like it’d fit well in a dessert type setting, with things like soft violins and flutes, and distant percussive elements all blended into the mix. Another element I thoroughly enjoyed was the voice acting. Sure it can be a bit over the top, or perky it seems, but I certainly appreciate the effort of the voice actors to sell the characters. It certainly makes the experience feel very fun and adventurous.
Masters of Anima doesn’t provide much in the way of extras. You have your main single player mode and that’s pretty much it. It is a fun campaign that can last you a good 10 hours, but if you are looking for more to do, there isn’t much to come back to once you complete the game. There are some collectibles in each level and upgrades to find, but they are minor and not essential. In the end, the single player played through once is all you really need from this game. You do get ranked for each of your battles, so I suppose you could attempt getting the best ranks and fully leveling up your character, but again there is little reason to do this.
Masters of Anima is a fine game that blends together several mechanics to form it’s own little beast. Taking the exploration top down feel from Diablo, and the unit management from something like Pikmin, it manages to become this sort of action RTS hybrid game that isn’t easy to pull off. Sure the game does take a bit of time getting used to, and can rightfully feel challenging until you get your bearings. But once you hit this mark, the game is extremely fun and rewarding when you are able to take down enemies without them wiping the floor with you. Granted, as you progress the game will continue to test you and throw you into some daunting situations, but in no way discourages you from the challenge. It’s a fine game for it’s price point that will last you a decent amount of time but really suited for a single play through, so don’t expect much replay value here.
Disclaimer: This review was done using a Nintendo Switch copy of Masters of Anima provided by the game’s PR and Marketing Rep, Evolve PR. Please be assured that this did not affect my opinion of the game, and that my criticisms are an honest and true representation of my thoughts on the game.