Masters of Anima (PC Review)
Masters of Anima is an action based Real Time Strategy game in the style of titles like Pikmin and Overlord. You play as Otto, a young man learning to become a Shaper, a type of wizard who can create powerful guardians to fight for him. As Otto points out, it’s not a very useful power since the world is in an extended period of peace.
Spoiler alert: the peace doesn’t last.
Otto is engaged to Anna, the Supreme Shaper; as the most powerful Shaper in the land, she encourages Otto to pass his trials and become a fully fledged Shaper. It’s a fairly ham-fisted approach at putting a tutorial in to a game in a way that makes sense in the game world itself. While it’s a cliché attempt, Masters of Anima is all the better for it, as the tutorial is detailed enough to help you get to grips with a control scheme that’s initially quite complicated.
Cliche is something that Masters of Anima is riddled with. The world of Spark is a generic fantasy land, and the story is kick started when a Shaper goes rogue and uses the forbidden techniques to ‘sunder’ Anna. Otto is forced in to the role of the reluctant hero, travelling across the land to restore Anna’s heart, mind and body so that they can work together to defeat the evil Zahr. Zahr’s motivations for turning against the Shapers and trying to end the world are all very ‘Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith’, but the story really takes the back-seat as an excuse to explore Spark.
When it comes to combat, Otto has to take control of a small army of guardians. The first unit type you’re given access to are Protectors, a basic melee soldier that’s able to stun enemies out of attacks. Throughout the course of Masters of Anima, Otto slowly learns to control not only larger amounts of guardians, but also different kinds. There are the ranged Sentinels that will provide the majority of your damage if you can keep them safe; the solitary Commanders who can power up the guardians you put them near; the fragile Keepers who ensure you have a constant flow of Anima during battle; and Summoners, guardians capable of creating their own guardians to fight for them.
Learning the strategic role that each type of guardian provides is essential to winning the battles you’ll fight along the way, but each different unit you can summon also has its uses outside of combat. As you explore Spark in your journey to save Anna, you’ll encounter puzzles that attempt to thwart your progress. You’ll need to use your Protectors to move blocks, your Sentinels to destroy targets, and your Keepers to push back the corruption that threatens to overwhelm the land. Unfortunately, neither the puzzles nor the combat presented in Masters of Anima are ever particularly challenging. I didn’t die once during my first play through, and most puzzles are overcome in a few minutes.
Spark itself is a beautiful environment to roam, each level colourful and vibrant, with it’s own distinct feel. There are plenty of collectables hidden throughout each level, ranging from hidden statues that grant you bonus experience to stones that will give you more health or Anima. As you level up, you’ll be able to empower not only the Guardians you control but also Otto himself, letting him deal more damage directly or control a larger number of units. Anyone who takes their time to explore each level will most likely find all of the collectables during their first playthrough, as there are none that require you to have abilities from later levels in order to reach them.
Masters of Anima is a pleasant enough game to play, despite its short, generic story and too-simple combat and puzzles. Otto and Anna grow on you as characters, in the same way that you still root for the main character in a cartoon you used to love. The game oozes charm and it’s fun enough, but it’s not enough to make up for its shortcomings. I can see Masters of Anima providing a great entry point to RTS games or the action-RPG genre for younger or more casual gamers, as it does a great job of making sure you’re always in control during combat and exploration. The ability to change the difficulty level of the game would go a long way to making it more engaging and replayable for more experienced gamers