Master of Anima from Passtech Games takes the strategic micro-management aspect from RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games and mixes it with the exploration and puzzle-solving elements from the adventure genre to make one fresh adventure-RTS hybrid. The individual designs of the game may not be entirely original, but the synergy between various gameplay elements is rather remarkable.
You take the role of an inept Shaper apprentice named Otto, who happened to be the lover of Supreme Shaper Ana. Just when he passed his test to become a Shaper, disaster struck the land and Ana was sundered into three essences. It is up to Otto, newly minted and the only remaining Shaper, to rescue his betrothed and save the world.
As a Shaper, Otto can channel the anima (the Force/Mana of this game) to bind various forms of guardians to use them in his adventure. “Shaping” is the meat and bone of the game. At the beginning, Otto only has some basic guardians to do his biddings, but more advanced ones join as the game progresses, making gameplay more complex.
The game progression is linear and based on stages, but clearing a stage is not so simple in Master of Anima. Similar to an adventure game, there are several puzzles to be solved before you can make any progress. You have to use the guardians and their abilities to overcome these puzzles. The puzzles themselves are incorporated so smoothly without breaking the pacing that it rarely feels like a chore when you have to solve one. Additionally, the game has a lot of secret areas and items to discover for those with inquisitive minds, which makes exploration enjoyable and rewarding.
However, the game is not all about exploration and puzzles, as you have to battle fearsome golems to reach the end of a stage. Otto is an adequate fighter who can whack the golem with his staff to deal some damage, but that alone will not be enough to conquer the evils. In fact, using Otto alone as the primary mean of offense will get you obliterated very quickly. In order to win, you’ll have to shape guardians and command them like a mini-RTS game.
At the beginning, you only have basic melee infantry and ranged archer style guardians to use. You have to mobilize them strategically to defeat the golems in the early stages. The flow of battles get complex very quickly as the game progresses and more types of guardians become available to use. Each guardian has its own unique quirks and special abilities. You will need to form a great synergy between the unique traits of each and every guardian to win the battles effectively. For example, the basic foot-solider unit, the protector, can do a shield-bash once Otto activates battle-cry near them. Shield-bash can stun a golem – perfect to use when it is winding up for a special attack. A commander unit can relay the battle-cry to nearby units when Otto initiates one. So when facing multiple golems at the same time, it is imperative to send a commander unit along with several protectors to cancel incoming special attacks from golems with just a single battle-cry.
Surprisingly, the game can be quite challenging at times. The golems are slow but hit really hard, making a single mistake in positioning fatal. Placing your lightly-armored guardian in the wrong place will get them stomped really fast. Things get really hectic once multiple golems start appearing at once. Plus, the golems have their own “enrage timer” to make things more intense. If you fail to kill them before the timer runs out, they will do extremely powerful special moves. At this point, a game over is inevitable.
The thrilling battles in Master of Anima would mean nothing if the controls were not great. Fortunately, the developer Passtech managed to put really responsive controls in the game. Granted, it is not entirely perfect, as there will be times when you wish you had more precise control for placement of your guardians. But for an RTS game, I would say it plays quite well with a controller.
Furthermore, the game has done a great job in teaching new mechanics to the players. Instead of throwing a wall of text with a lot of information when you acquire new abilities or units, the game puts you in a battle where you have to effectively make use of the newly received asset to win. As a result, you will never feel overwhelmed with a lot of information, and learning comes naturally as you progress.
Master of Anima has pleasantly surprised me. It's a great real-time tactical game at the core, merged brilliantly with action-adventure elements, resulting in a very delightful gaming experience. The gameplay is immersive, challenging and fun. It's a solid choice for strategy/adventure fans everywhere.
Lv-99 simple sheep