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Masters of Anima Review

Masters of Anima, developed by PASSTECH, features a bizarre blend of genres that ensnares players quickly with its unique gameplay and just as quickly disappoints with its lackluster story. Adore real-time strategy titles? Masters of Anima is for you. Hungry for environmental puzzlers? Masters of Anima is for you. Appreciate the top-down visual keys and pot-smashing incentives of titles like Diablo? Masters of Anima is also for you. This indie isn’t afraid to step into the kitchen and throw a couple of new ingredients into the pot, and in that regard, you won’t be disappointed.

Save Your Fiancée… Save The World

Play as Otto, the unambitious Shaper engaged to the Supreme Shaper, Ana. Shaper is the term used to refer to people who can create Guardians through Anima — the RTS face of Masters of Anima. Otto is being forced to undergo the Shaper trials by his fiancée, who refuses to marry someone who is just an apprentice. During Otto’s trials, however, Ana is captured by Zahr, a villainous type that sunders her into three pieces and has aims to unleash chaos (in the form of Golems) into their world.

Otto is pretty disinterested in saving the world, but he immediately sets off on a quest to regain Ana’s Heart, Mind, and Body, and this plot is the driving factor behind the majority of Masters of Anima. It’s a threadbare plot at best, and as the game progresses, the voice acting becomes more and more questionable, and the writing more and more minimal.

Real-Time Strategy in Roleplaying Garb

Masters of Anima doesn’t immediately introduce itself as an RTS, and perhaps that makes the discovery all the sweeter when you do discover it. You enter the world of Spark with a top-down viewpoint that lends itself more often to dungeon crawlers and roleplaying titles. Indeed, when you’re outside of a battle, you’ll want to explore and smash things, as you would in something like Diablo III. Masters of Anima encourages you to do so by grading your efforts in every level, and giving you extra experience points when you discover and activate things like Wonders.

Yes, there’s an experience-leveling system, too. If you do well in your RTS battles, you’ll gain more experience, and at the end of large sections of gameplay you’ll have the opportunity to apply points toward Skills that upgrade Otto or your plethora of Guardians. You unlock different kinds of Guardians as you progress, which in turn allows you to adjust your tactics on the battlefield, and which also plays a key role in the environmental puzzles Masters of Anima sets before you.

Unexpectedly Delightful RTS

When you do engage with your first true battle, you’ll find that the RTS in place is excessively satisfying. You collect Anima in the world of Spark, which you then use to create Guardians. You have a set number of Guardians you can create, and it’s up to you how you allocate those units on the battlefield. Describing the Guardians might count as a spoiler since you don’t accumulate all of them until the latter side of Masters of Anima, so suffice to say that there is a surprising amount of freedom in how you decide you want to defeat enemy Golems.

The RTS blends beautifully with the environmental puzzlers in that the Anima you collect while outside the battlefield is just as important as the Anima you collect or create while inside. If you start a battle without having a healthy supply of Anima and Guardians at hand, you could be shooting yourself in the foot for a more complex and challenging battle.

Ludicrously Slow to Load, But Beautiful

A strange thing to have to note is the loading time of Masters of Anima. Loading times while in-game are negligible, but the time required to load the title at the outset is a little silly. Since this title is easily playable in bite-sized pieces, it’s disappointing to not be able to quickly load it up and play at one’s leisure. Instead, you’re forced to consider how long the game will load when you decide whether or not you have enough time to play.

However, once you’re successfully in, Masters of Anima is lovely to look at. The design of the Guardians is laudable and the environments are beautiful without being overbearing. Sound design is also commendable — I’ll be able to remember the unique calls of the different Guardians for a long time to come.

Whetting vs. Satiating Our Appetite

The biggest complaint against Masters of Anima is that there’s simply not enough of it. It’s a short indie title that offers a few challenges, but nothing that’ll cause a gaming aneurysm. The story is meager at best, and its characters are wholly two-dimensional. The gameplay is extraordinarily good, but it’s crippled by the shortcomings of the writing. Masters of Anima feels more like a preview to a full-scale title in the same vein from PASSTECH — one we would happily play if it ever comes to fruition.

6

The Verdict: Good

The genre-bending Masters of Anima is most compelling for its fusion of RTS and environmental puzzling, all of which is complemented by a richly simple art style. The gameplay, however, is as delectable as the storytelling is stale, causing Masters of Anima to feel more like a preview of something great than the actual thing itself.

Taryn Ziegler
Written by
April 12, 2018
Published in Action

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Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.

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