Masters of Anima Review
In Masters of Anima, you play as Otto who is a novice Shaper, a wizard of sorts who has the ability to channel Anima energy to spawn minions from inanimate objects known as Guardians. Otto is a reluctant Shaper, only learning the art because it's a requirement that he be a Shaper if he is to wed his love, Ana, who is a Supreme Shaper. Otto manages to pass his final tests to become a Shaper, but just as he does so a rogue Shaper named Zahr arrives. Zahr has unleashed an ancient enemy, the Golems, and he wants to use them to conquer and rule the land of Spark. He views Ana as the biggest obstacle to his plans and in a surprise attack traps her essence into magical orbs. He didn't count on Otto, though, who sets out to save his fianc� and the world in the process.
Masters of Anima is a cross-genre game, blending action-RPG gameplay with real-time strategy. If you were just to look at some screens from the game or watch a short trailer, you'd think it was more of the former, but the game's battles are solidly styled after the latter. Your resource in the game is Anima, which you collect from various objects in the world. That Anima is then used to summon Guardians which act as your unit. There are five types of Guardians in all, each of which has a specialized role. The Guardian classes include swordsmen suited to melee, archers who specialize in ranged attacks, and a mage-like class that can draw Anima out of enemies. While Otto can attack enemies himself, you'll find it hard to win battles if you treat him as a soldier instead of as a commander. You can't just tell your Guardians to attack and then sit back and wait to win, and you can't continually spawn new units during a battle because Anima is hard to come by in a fight. You need to actively issue orders to your Guardians throughout the battle, using them in the right roles and assuring that they are not needlessly wasted in battle. Maintaining a good balance of Guardian types is important, too, especially after you begin taking losses in a battle.
The battles in the game aren't easy, especially if you're going to insist on approaching them as you would in an action-RPG. I did rather poorly when I started out and made the mistake of thinking that I was playing an action game. After adjusting my approach I did much better, and while the battles remained challenging I was able to hold my own against the Golem monsters. If you don't have experience with real-time strategy games, though, I can see the game quickly becoming frustrating for you.
The game's not all battles, though - you'll spend time solving puzzles as well as battling foes. The puzzles involve using the special abilities of your Guardians - for example, the swordsmen can move large objects while the archers can hit triggers out of the reach of the swordsmen. Puzzles can often require the expenditure of Anima to trigger certain actions, so you have to be careful to replenish your supply before you find yourself walking into a battle with a depleted supply of Anima. The puzzles can be a little tricky at times, but you won't run into anything difficult enough to impede your process for long.
The game has a skill system that will allow you to not only improve Otto, but each Guardian class as well. It's good to see a good number of options for improving your character and Guardians, but they are all paid for out of the single pool of experience points earned when Otto levels-up so it never feels like you have enough points to spread around. You can replay levels that you've completed, either to try and improve on your score for those levels or to grind for more experience points, the latter being an activity that should be familiar to those coming to Masters of Anima from an action-RPG background.
Since the battles depend heavily on your ability to control your Guardians, it's good to see that Masters of Anima includes a well-designed interface. I was able to easily select the minions that I wanted and issue orders to them while simultaneously keeping Otto out of harm's way without giving a second thought to the controls or having them get in my way. Everything can be controlled with a few button presses that are relatively intuitive, so it's easy to quickly pick up the control scheme and become a master of your Guardians in battle.
Masters of Anima's blend of action-RPG and real-time strategy gameplay works well and makes for an enjoyable game experience. If you don't play strategy games, then you may find the battles to be pretty difficult and you could find the game to be frustrating. If you're looking for something a little different and are up to the challenge, though, you just may find yourself hooked.
Final Rating: 84% - You'll need to be a master tactician to master Masters of Anima.