You’ll need faster reactions than Jordan Pickford and some serious multi-tasking skills to get far in Masters of Anima. This real-time tactical adventure game for the Nintendo Switch is a real challenge, even at the very beginning.
At first glance, Masters of Anima looks like a pretty standard Diablo clone. The trailers show a young hero rushing into battle against massive foes. Screens filled with fire and brimstone, and basically a whole load of crazy, violent shenanigans.
However, this tactical title is sneakily complex when it comes to those real-time battles. Instead of simply smashing through baddies yourself, you’ll need to order waves of spiritual soldiers to do your bidding. And as you gain new abilities and take command of upgraded troops, the complex nature of each battle proves incredibly taxing.
Masters of Anima: A well-worn plot
Masters of Anima’s story is pretty standard for this type of game, and just as forgettable. Once upon a time there were bad golem things which gave humans a bit of a rough time, you see. That is, until a kindly Goddess took pity. She blessed us with the gift to control our own supernatural warriors, using the power of Anima (little glowing balls of magic which are basically mana). This well-timed present helped us to defeat our rock-headed foes.
Skip forwards a millennia or two and suddenly some bad dude comes along to screw everything up. Why? Well, for his own malevolent reasons really. Now it’s up to you, the mighty Otto, to take down that evil scumbag and save the planet. Not to mention your unfortunate fiancee.
Masters of Anima: Meet the Guardians
The action is seen from a top-down isometric perspective, which affords a good view of the surrounding area at all times. You’ll find yourself battling through a range of environments, from icy landscapes to creepy dungeons. Nothing original for sure, but attractively presented throughout.
A fair amount of the gameplay simply involves exploring your environment and solving puzzles, which either help you to progress or reveal hidden bonuses. However these brain-ticklers can only be solved with help of your spiritual legion, known as Guardians. It’s these ghostly warriors which add a fat layer of complexity to Masters of Anima, to boost it above the competition.
You can summon forth a limited number of Guardians at any one time, providing you have Anima to spare. There are several flavours to choose from. To start, you’ll utilise tank-like grunts who simply wail on anything you point them at. Progress through the game and you’ll encounter ranged warriors who work best when attacking from cover and magical minions who can (slowly) suck up more Anima. An effective fighting force will of course use a combination of available types. And as each Guardian has its own skills and advantages, you’ll need to call on certain varieties to solve those aforementioned brainteasers.
Masters of Anima: Battlecry
As entertaining as these puzzles are, it’s the battles which truly test your mettle. Taking down a golem is no mean feat, as you’ll need to expertly command your various Guardians to inflict maximum damage while also protecting them from harm.
For instance, these rocky foes have a habit of charging across the screen at your ranged fighters. As soon as you see the warning lights flash, you’ll need to swap control to vulnerable warriors with a tap of the triggers and then direct them out of the way. Occasionally golems will also perform a powerful attack, which needs to be countered using a battlecry. This special technique can also inflict huge amounts of pain when used right.
Throughout a battle you’ll constantly be cycling through your various Guardians and issuing fresh commands. Time is of the essence, as each golem needs to be defeated within a set period. Failure to do so results in the enemy going completely mental, launching into a series of super-aggressive attacks. You’ll need fast reactions and swift thumbs to emerge victorious against even a single foe, so when you’re up against multiple enemies, things get crazy difficult. And if you run out of Anima, you might as well reload the last checkpoint. No Anima means no fresh troops or battlecry abilities, which means you’ll end up trying to take down the golems with your spindly staff.
Masters of Anima: Up for a challenge?
There’s no gentle learning curve here, sadly. You’ll be thrust into difficult fights pretty much straight away, which means that you’ll likely be reloading checkpoints over and over to try and beat each group of foes. The controls work just fine once you’re used to them. Until that time, battles often descend into a mess of fumbling, cursing and panic. The added pressure of a strict time limit certainly doesn’t help and we’d have preferred a difficulty option with that particular feature disabled.
Still, if you’re up for a challenge, Masters of Anima is a very rewarding action adventure. The campaign will certainly keep you going for a while, while finally taking down each super-powered golem is immensely satisfying.
You can grab Masters of Anima right now on the Nintendo Switch store.