Masters of Anima
Developed By: Passtech Games
Published By: Focus Home Interactive
Category: Adventure, Strategy, RPG
Release Date: 4.10.18
Remember Diablo 2? Remember the necromancer class (yeah, I know Diablo 3 had a necromancer too, but it was DLC)? Do you want a slightly newer game that captures that fuzzy feeling of summoning dozens of minions to swarm over hulking rock golems? Masters of Anima for Nintendo Switch will scratch that itch, and give you a pretty great story along the way to boot.
Players take on the role of Otto, an apprentice shaper on the morning of the day he graduates to regular shaper. Shapers are magic users who warp the mysterious energy known as anima to create guardians, magical constructs used to fight wild golems created by uncontrolled anima. He says goodbye to his fiancée Ana, who just so happens to be the Master Shaper, most powerful of the shapers, and heads to the ritual grounds where the wizened old shaper Jaku will conduct his tests. Almost immediately after passing, renegade shaper Zahr attacks, unleashing an army of golems against his former allies. Zahr sunders Ana’s heart into three crystals, and Otto sets off on his quest to reconstruct his fiancee’s soul… and save the world, I guess, if he has time.
The story is fairly satisfying to play through. The characters all fit their roles rather well; Otto is a likeable enough guy for a protagonist, and his arc throughout the game is satisfying. He grows into the role of hero well over the course of events, even though he kind of starts off as a bit of a tool. Jaku, Zahr, and Ana all play their roles in the story well, too, but they are a bit stereotypical. Ancient mentor, evil wizard, and damsel in distress are not overly original, but the characters are well-written and the story overall is told well. I suppose the lack of originality can be a turnoff for some, but I found it’s familiarity to be more akin to comfort food.
As I mentioned before, the gameplay mechanics of Masters of Anima are very similar to the necromancer class from the Diablo franchise. The game is played from an isometric perspective giving a good field of view. Otto has a normal attack, but it’s basically worthless except to clear away small obstacles and smash things to obtain anima. Glowing green orbs are scattered all across the field or hidden in pottery, and that is the anima used to summon guardians, which is where the real fun of the game lies.
Collecting anima fills Otto’s anima containers, and each container can be consumed to construct a squad of guardians. Different classes of guardians have different squad sizes, either 2 or 4, and Otto can summon as many squads as he has containers. Hidden throughout the game’s levels are stones that can be used to create more containers, and you will need to collect four to do that. Commanding the guardians is intuitive and fun; watching them chop down an obstacle or swarm over a hostile golem is satisfying to see. You can command them as one whole group or select smaller squads to act independently. Selecting individual units for the smaller squads can be a bit clunky, so it isn’t an ideal choice if you need to act fast, but it is an option.
Otto gains experience during the missions, and after gaining enough he gains a level (shocking, I know. RPGs will never be the same). Each level gives him two skill points that he can use to upgrade or unlock either his own skills or those of his guardians. I didn’t find any of the skills to be completely essential to completing the game or any of the levels, but they did have enough variety that they allowed for different styles of play. Offensive and defensive strategies were both equally valid against most enemies, but some enemies favored one over the other, so it kind of sucked if you tailored yourself too far in one direction.
My comparison of Masters of Anima to Blizzard games doesn’t stop at the gameplay; the game’s visuals show a heavy influence from Blizzard’s house style as well. The game’s setting and visuals most remind me of Warcraft 3, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. The game is lushly detailed and the graphics are smooth and crisp. The human characters are well-designed if a bit on the generic fantasy side, but the guardians and golems have cool and unique designs that really make the game stand out.
The audio side of the game is equally well-developed, with full voice acting for all of the major characters. The voices are clear and fit the characters to a T, even if, again, the characters all fall into slightly clichéd roles. Jaku’s gruff old man voice is a particular favorite. Most importantly, Otto’s voice actor supplies a great performance that highlights the highs and lows of Otto’s emotional journey. As the character with the most lines, he was the most important voice to get right.
Masters of Anima has no touchscreen or motion controls, so it can be play either docked or undocked as you please. The graphics looked pretty good on the big screen, but I didn’t really notice a loss of quality on the Switch’s screen either, so that’s a draw as well. I think the game’s voices sounded better pumping out of my TV speakers than it did on the Switch’s, so I guess if you’re an audiophile that might be the tiebreaker.
TL;DR: Well-made strategy RPG.
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