Review – Masters of Anima
Masters of Anima is a blend of action-adventure and real-time strategy (RTS) that drops gamers into the shoes of Otto, a brand-new Shaper – a person who can use the power of Anima to summon and command Guardians – as he tries to save Ana, the love of his life.
Otto becomes a Shaper as the game starts and loses Ana to Zahr, the game’s villain, almost immediately leaving him trying to learn how to control his powers while on a quest to regain her soul – divided into three essences: heart, mind, and body. In a nice twist on the standard ‘lose girl, find girl’ storyline, once Otto regains Ana’s heart essence the pair can communicate, which helps keep the plot grounded as a fight to restore her, not just running around taking down enemies, and keeps you invested – and interested – in the characters.
Despite all that it’s clear the combat is the focus in Masters of Anima, splitting the line between action-adventure and RTS quite neatly. Otto’s primary weapon is his ability to summon five types of Guardians: Protectors, Sentinels, Keepers, Summoners, and Commanders.
Protectors are small shield-bearing soldiers that get in close and take the brunt of enemy’s attacks. Sentinels, a personal favourite, are the classic ranged unit – archers, able to do massive damage, but not able to take much in return. Keepers don’t engage directly in combat but will drain the Anima from enemies and transfer it to Otto and are also used during exploration to temporarily ‘cure’ a damaging corruption that infests some areas, allowing them to be crossed. Summoners will, as the name suggest, bring out smaller minions to fight for them – minions that can be used to summon large titans at specific points in the game. Commanders are another defensive unit, one that can also hoist heavy objects and act as a relay for Otto’s Battlecry buff.
While the game’s combat starts out simple enough, relying only on you to remember to put Protectors up front and Sentinels in the back, it doesn’t take long to start pushing you to think more strategically. Units will gain advantages from being on certain terrain, for example, and Otto can use his Battlecry to provide a short-term boost – Sentinels benefit greatly from this, doing incredible damage on their next shot. Just when you start getting a handle on that, enemies up the ante with attacks that require you to move your troops around to avoid damage. These attacks are telegraphed to a reasonable extent, but it’s easy enough to panic during battle and accidentally put your troops in harm’s way.
Later fights become far more complex, turning into combat puzzles to be solved in real-time. When facing multiple opponents, for example, you’ll have to be proficient enough to split each type of Guardian into multiple units on the fly to lock down each enemy – and alert enough to move them out of danger when needed. It’s easy enough to put a couple Protectors on each enemy and then focus fire attacks with Sentinels, and that will get you through most battles but won’t earn you the high ranks at the end-of-mission score screen.