Masters of Anima Review -- Golems & Guardians
Masters of Anima, an adventure game from publisher Focus Home Interactive and developer Passtech Games, takes place in the magical world of Spark, where golems have been wreaking havoc for centuries. To combat these golems, some have been trained to become Shapers, those who have the ability to summon bright beings known as guardians with the help of a magical energy called anima. Otto, the main character, is an Apprentice Shaper engaged to the Supreme Shaper Ana, although they cannot be wed until Otto is promoted from his apprentice ranking. After Otto succeeds in his apprentice trial, chaos ensues, and a villain named Zahr steals Ana's essence and splits it in three. Otto then must embark on a journey and use his abilities to save his fiancee and perhaps even the world.
Although Otto himself can break objects and attack enemies with his staff, most combat involves summoning guardians and giving them various commands. This can range from just moving positions to attacking enemies and obstacles to executing special moves and switching between each type of guardian summoned. Summoning guardians and utilizing techniques all cost a certain amount of anima, which starts at a set amount but can be increased through progress. Anima can be refilled from finding it on the ground, breaking objects, having guardians destroyed by enemies, and siphoning it from enemies with certain types of guardians.
This would be reasonable if anima were more readily available during combat, but due to the lack of breakable objects when fighting, it can run out quickly, and the ability to summon guardians can be gone before you even realize it. When this happens, all you can to is either run around the combat area helplessly, hoping that an orb of anima pops up, or just die and start the fight over again. Because anima doesn't recharge like mana or energy in other games, it can make even some earlier fights more of a hassle.
Although the learning curve can feel somewhat steep, the strategy element of the game is well-done and requires players to use different types of guardians for different situations. The first guardians are Protectors, standard warriors with swords and shields used to destroy obstacles and enemies and move large objects to solve puzzles. Later guardians range from archers to siphoners and more, with each type having its own specific uses, strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities.
From Otto's skill tree, available guardian types can be strengthened as well, and skills can be reset if necessary, but all skill trees are only accessible between levels. If you find yourself having trouble in a particular fight later on in a level, you will have to go back to the level menu to reset your skills and then start that level all over again, when you likely won't feel like repeating all the previous enemy encounters you just went through.
All enemies are different types of golems. Similar to guardians, golems have different strengths, weaknesses, and attacks, although one golem is much stronger than a single group of guardians. For some golems, all you need is a decent number of guardians to take them down, while for others, you need to use specific types of guardians or a mix to defeat it. These golems also all have a rage meter, which allows them to use more powerful attacks once it runs out, so it's suggested to destroy them beforehand. This is easier said than done, as golems have a hefty amount of health, and it isn't always clear what the best strategy is to take down different types or multiple sets of golems. Many battles involve multiple golems, and your guardians have to be split up to defeat them at the same time. Defeating one and taking too long with the other will cause another golem to pop up in its place.
Between engaging in combat and solving puzzles, Otto can collect anima and complete various sidequests for additional experience. The sidequests themselves are relatively simple, consisting of collecting flowers or destroying corruption crystals, although due to enemies only being encountered at certain points, it creates rather empty areas between fights. Smaller, more commonly encountered enemies would have been a welcome addition and could have provided a way to help aggravated players level grind and adjust combat difficulty. There's also the lack of any kind of map, which isn't too much of a drawback due to level size, but it would still be a helpful addition.
The music and graphics featured in Masters of Anima work well enough but don't do much to stand out from other games with comparable subject matter. Although they aren't terrible, they're more forgettable than anything else. One other small but notable flaw is that certain cut-scenes can't be skipped, particularly prior to boss fights. These cut-scenes aren't overly long, but they are a chore to get through when having to repeat them.
Masters of Anima is a well-made game, but its few notable flaws ultimately keep it from being the more memorable experience it could be. Despite this, those willing to give it a try and stick through until the end may still find themselves enjoying it.
Masters of Anima is available digitally on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.