Masters of Anima Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam Shot Sam
666,101 (356,483)
Slam Shot Sam
TA Score for this game: 3,054
Posted on 10 April 18 at 08:53
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Masters of Anima | Xbox One | Review

Masters of Anima is a charming action strategy game in the vein of Pikmin and Overlord, where the player guides a young man named Otto on a quest to save his betrothed.

Set in the whimsical world of Spark, Zahr the Banished has sundered Otto’s beloved Ana, splitting her into three pieces and scattering them around the realm. You’ll use your skills as a Shaper to harness the magical powers of Anima and summon a range of Guardians to command in your battle against Zahr and his Golem fighting force, all in order to reunite Ana’s heart, mind and body.

It's a simple story, but a relatable one that serves as a solid central conceit thanks to some amusing writing and endearing voice work. Just as delightful are the hand-illustrated cutscenes and colourfully cartoonish art style, enhanced with Xbox One X support.

An accessible control scheme makes Masters of Anima’s gameplay similarly inviting, allowing you to micromanage units with ease. There are five breeds of Guardian, each boasting their own unique strengths and weaknesses, summoned at the cost of the titular mana resource. Up to 100 Guardians can be spawned onto the field at once - provided you’ve acquired the relevant upgrades - with your elemental army then set to aid in each of the game’s three key pillars in exploration, puzzle solving and combat.

Excellent balance is struck between the three, as engaging environmental puzzles and challenging skirmishes spatter sprawling and varied (both geographically and mechanically) levels overflowing with optional paths, collectibles and quests.

Combat encounters are very much the meat of the experience though, presenting Masters’ tactical elements front and centre. Taking a varied spread of the five Guardian classes on offer into the fray is generally a good idea, but not universally so, due in part to the fact it'll take longer to direct your legion the more sets of units you have in play. Whilst enemies display distinguishable attack patterns and blatantly telegraph blows, you're not always afforded the necessary time as you juggle (in real-time) directing each type of Guardian to attack according to their strengths, running defence for both Otto and his summons, and launching your own melee offensive courtesy of Otto's staff in frantic-but-considered fashion.

Excellent balance is struck between the game's three key pillars in exploration, puzzle solving and combat.
Stocking up on a certain type of Guardian as a situation dictates - bow-wielding Sentinels for a boss that cuts a swathe through melee fighters, for example - can help to secure not just victory, but a pat on the back and some extra experience points too. You receive a letter grading at the end of each engagement, with the lofty S rank often taking a few failed practice attempts to reach.

Upgrading Guardians can help to make them useful in more situations, but with skill points shared between each class and Otto himself, deciding where to invest them can take a bit of thought; luckily, you can respec as many times as you like between levels in order to really nail the perfect loadout. Replaying stages will net you extra experience to keep improving your build, which is a nice little motivator to do so, as is the opportunity to improve upon letter gradings and gather any remaining collectibles.

Outside of the odd technical performance dip and a few proofreading oversights (just note that we were playing a pre-release version), Masters of Anima is a game that’s very easy to admire. Rich with personality and considered design, joining Otto on his quest is a no-brainer for fans of the often overlooked action strategy genre.

Pros

+ Simultaneously frantic & tactical combat
+ Choosing a loadout of Guardians & upgrades adds an extra layer of depth
+ Some great level design
+ Charming characters & narrative
+ Lovely visuals

Cons

- Noticeable frame rate drops on occasion
- A few instances of dodgy English amongst the menu text

8/10

Achievements

There’s an easy 100% to be had here. As I was playing pre-release the achievements were’t viewable, but now that they are, I can see that it took me 10.5 hours to gain all but one achievement without any kind of guide or prior knowledge as to their requirements. Collectibles are easy to find, while with practice the necessary S/A ranks are attainable, and after that all you’ll really need to do is a four hour speedrun (which shouldn’t be difficult for a second playthrough squarely focused on main objectives).

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Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

Feel free to check out my other Xbox One (X) reviews, as well as my PlayStation 4 (Pro) and PlayStation VR reviews on TrueTrophies, and PC reviews on TrueSteamAchievements.

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