Action – RTS games where you control a horde of minions are few and far between these days, especially on consoles. We haven’t seen a new Overlord in some time and I’m still waiting for Pikmin on the Nintendo Switch. If you’re a fan of any of those games, or love controlling an army of creatures to help you battle the forces of evil, Developer Passtech Games latest title – Masters of Anima definitely fits the bill. It’s kinda like Pikmin, you know… if you had a giant army of rock creatures to do battle for you instead of adorable colored plants.
You play as Otto, a young apprentice who’s on his way to becoming a Master of Anima (someone who can summon these rock golem creatures called Guardians), so he can marry his beloved. All seems well, that is until your fiance Ana is killed by the evil overlord Zahr and her mind, body, and soul have been scattered across the world of Spark. You’re tasked with finding her missing pieces, bringing her back to life, and saving the realm. If you think that sounds disturbing, it really isn’t. The story is pretty lighthearted considering the circumstances. Each part of her you’re searching for is a ball of energy. Honestly, Otto really doesn’t seem that concerned with the situation. The tone of his voice never really changes over the course of the game. Even the pieces of Ana have different personalities and joke around. It’s funny but eliminates any tension that could have been there. In Masters of Anima, sometimes your fiance gets torn into pieces and you have to put her back together. That’s just life man.
While the story wasn’t great, what did keep me interested was the combat and watching Otto and his Guardians grow stronger. You’re able to level up and each time you do, you gain a skill point, which can be placed into different skill trees for Otto and each class of Guardian. There are Protectors, who will do the front line fighting for you. Sentinels, who are archers that attack from afar. Keepers will suck Anima from your enemies and give it to you, providing you with the ability to continue summoning Guardians during battle. Commanders allow you to place them near units and use your battle cry that empowers your troops with a special attack. Finally, there are the Summoners who can summon creatures called moppets to help out. They also have the ability to summon a giant Titan Guardian that you can control. Trying to figure out what skills will benefit you in the battles ahead adds some strategy. If you do decide to completely max out your characters, what’s great is you’re able to travel back to previous levels to gain more power. Doing this will enable you to decimate everything in your path.
The game is played at an isometric angle like Diablo. The combat is extremely rewarding… if you use your golems properly that is. If not, it can quickly become a total clusterfuck, with you barely coming out of the fight alive. Juggling the controls on a console can be a bit tricky at times, but once you get the hang of switching between the different sets of golems and summoning them when need be, you get into a smooth rhythm. The version I played was on the PS4. R1 and L1 select the different types of Guardians. With your specific class of Guardian selected, you highlight the enemy you want to attack and press X. While your Guardians are attacking you can do a combo attack with Otto’s staff using the Square button. R2 + X summons more of the specific Guardian you have selected. Being able to figure out what Guardians you need and how many for each situation is key. It all seems like a lot but it becomes natural. The skills you learn never affect your button inputs, just increase the potency of the skills you know. Once you have the controls down, you’re good to go.
Areas vary from snow-capped mountains and bridges to magical deserts and forests. Each level you travel through contains side quests which help make them feel a bit larger, with XP bonuses awaiting if you finish these optional quests. There are environmental puzzles to solve that require you using the different Guardians at your disposal. This helps break up the monotony of the quiet moments between combat. The art style and graphics are cartoonish and suit the game well. The spell effects are gorgeous. The voice acting of each of the characters isn’t anything fancy but gets the job done.
Masters of Anima is an addictive, RTS minion summoning action RPG (that’s a mouthful). It provides plenty of replay value. What it lacks in story and character depth, it makes up for with its captivating gameplay and skill system. It’ll keep you busy long after you’ve completed the main quest.
Masters of Anima is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & Steam.
PS4 review code provided by Focus Home Interactive