Congratulations! You’ve finally completed your exams and you’re now fully qualified. The only problem on this day is that a big bad has come along and has sundered your fiancée into multiple parts. I’m sure you can relate as it’s something that’s happened to all of us, so playing through it in a game can feel a little unnerving. No, wait, that doesn’t seem quite right.
All of the above is true, however, for the wonderfully entertaining Shaper that you play as called Otto, who’s on a quest to save his fiancée. He might end up saving the world in the process but really, the only thing Otto cares about is rescuing his partner. Truth be told, it would have been better if Otto were split apart, because Ana is much better at this than you are. She is the most powerful Shaper in the world, and where you have only just become a qualified Shaper (and at a later age than most), she can make things out of the energy that fills the world that you could barely dream of.
You can use Anima to do so very much in the world of Spark and you will need to keep that in mind in order to make any headway in each level. The main thing you can do is summon guardians, your little Pikmin style army, to do your bidding. Each type of guardian serves a different purpose, both in battle and when it comes to puzzle solving. Thankfully if you summon one you didn’t mean to, you can just unsummon them and get a refund on the Anima it cost to create them. The abilities of each varies greatly; in battle Protectors can stun enemies, and when travelling through levels they can move around heavy objects, while Commanders can carry your orders to your units in battle and pull up objects from the ground when not fighting for your life.
Battles require the use of both strategy and quick reactions, as large enemy attacks are signalled so you can avoid them by either moving your units or unsummoning them. Otto can attack as well, but while you can win some of the early battles without your Guardians it isn’t easy. The Golems you fight have two bars to pay attention to, one is their health, the other is their rage. In the event the rage bar empties you are in a huge amount of trouble as the Golem will rampage and probably massacre both you and your guardians. Thankfully there are regular checkpoints which mean that if you die, you normally restart just before the enemy that killed you and are now armed with a better understanding of the strategy you need to succeed.
Working out the specific strategies for the harder Golems is incredibly rewarding and your successful attempts will make you wonder why it was so hard a few minutes ago. It has the same kind of player progression as a game like Dark Souls, and while you do level up Otto, the most important thing is your own skill level. Learning when to use special attacks, which units to use, when to unsummon and when to go in and attack are all things that come with the practice that the game gives you. New abilities and Guardians are rolled out throughout the game at a pace that is neither overwhelming nor patronising and makes the progress incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.
Masters of Anima is a lot of fun to play. The combat and puzzles are both challenging and keep you learning as you progress through the story. The characters themselves are incredibly well written and charming with the regional accents adding a lot of charm to the feel of the game. While the controls are a little complicated at first, they feel incredible once you’ve mastered them, with nothing quite beating summoning a new group of units seconds after unsummoning them to dodge an attack. Despite the game’s pacing feeling a little off at times, Masters of Anima takes a solid formula and adds its own twist in order to deliver something that is entirely its own, wonderful, entity.
Version Tested: PC – Also available: PS4, XBO, Switch