Masters of Anima by Passtech was just released on nearly every major current gen system out there – PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. A blend of adventure and console-oriented strategy gaming, we played the game on Xbox One.
On the surface, Masters of Anima presents itself as a story-driven adventure game, with events that take place in a fantasy realm called Spark. Within this realm, Anima is the magical substance than can only be controlled by a select few masters – call it the mana or “the force” of this game. You play as Otto, a young apprentice learning the ways of the Anima while enjoying a romantic relationship with Ana, herself already an excellent master of all things Anima. It doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worse, as Ana gets kidnapped by a character called Zahr and it’s up to you to save her (and rid the realm of Zahr). Narratively speaking, Masters of Anima is a fairly unremarkable fantasy tale but it does feature full voice overs for the entire cast.
The narrative and underlying adventure aren’t central to the enjoyment of the game though – that role is reserved for the gameplay. As Otto, you’re able to summon units to aid you in your quest, with up to 100 units in your army at once. You start off basic with a simple melee unit, but more unit types get unlocked as you play and you’ll also have the opportunity to level up these characters (as well as level up Otto himself).
To do all this, you need anima, and you’ll need lots of it. Luckily, a lot of it can be harvested because it’s just lying around, but a good chunk of it doesn’t come to you unless you start beating up some enemies. As you start engaging in combat, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a lot going on at once for you to manage, and in this hectic nature lies the appeal of Masters of Anima. This is definitely an action-oriented RTS game, not one where you’ll spend a good while carefully planning your moves and positioning your troops.
You’ll still do many of these things, but at a rapid pace. You need to move your troops around, issue attack orders, launch special attacks, make sure they round up more anima at the same time… and then you also have to ability to control Otto. Besides managing his troops (and summoning new units), you can also go into combat directly. It’s a lot to take in, but as you get more and more comfortable with the game’s unit types and how to use them, there’s more depth here than you’d expect if you’re only used to console strategy experiences. On the other hand, you don’t want to go into Masters of Anima with a PC-RTS background either – this game is more like a Pikmin+ or, if you don’t play on consoles, a MOBA title.
Visually, Masters of Anima doesn’t astound and pales in comparison to PC titles like Dawn of War III. That’s just talking about technical merits though, as the bright, colorful style of Masters of Anima is still very pleasant to look at. Programmed for four major systems at once, solid performance across the board must have been important and they’ve found a visual style that can deliver that while still providing a striking look that I’m sure translated well to Nintendo Switch too.
What the game does especially well are its controls – heavily optimized for gamepads and I wouldn’t be surprised if PC gamers opted against their trusted mouse and keyboard combinations as well. Making clever use of the difference between tapping and holding buttons, Masters of Anima gives you flexible control over individual units, groups or your own selection. Once you become accustomed to the controls, you’ll get quicker at controlling your units and leading them to victory – and winning quickly yields better rewards.
Masters of Anima is a very solid title that will likely appeal most to console gamers who don’t have the vast array of MOBAs and RTS titles to choose from that PC owners do. Its control scheme reinforces this, and gives console gamers a solid strategy title to enjoy even though it can overwhelm some while not being ‘hardcore’ enough for others.