When we last saw Masters of Anima, developer Passtech Games was busy putting the finishing touches on their strategy adventure game. It’s now release time, to see if controlling up to 100 characters at once can be done well on console. Read our Masters of Anima PS4 review to find out all the details below.
A Spark of Energy
Masters of Anima takes place in the world of Spark. Anima is a form of energy that connects all things to the world, and can be controlled by certain people who master it. The player assumes the role of Otto, one such apprentice, who is a lazy young man somehow betrothed (yes, that’s the term they use) to one of the world’s best Master of Anima, Ana. Naturally, she gets captured by an evil enemy, Zahr, and it is up to Otto to save his fiancée, and then perhaps also the world. The story has a bit of a laid-back style to it, interspersed with bit of semi-serious plots involving good and evil. Some players will love Otto and his boyish charms, while others will be annoyed by his arrogance. Still, all characters are voiced, and well done in that regard.
The world of Spark is a colorful one in Masters of Anima. A wide palette ensures the various environments, whether that’s a snowy mountaintop, dense forest, or hidden cavern, are rarely boring. The pastel colors keep things undemanding for the PS4 to render, as well, to help give the system more resources to dedicate to keeping things running smoothly as up to 100 guardians are player-controlled at any one time. Since the main camera angle is isometric, character models can also get away with having relatively low detail, as well. That isn’t to say any of this is ugly to look at; quite the opposite, Master of Anima is a delight to take in.
Don’t let the popping colors fool you, though. Masters of Anima has a steep learning curve that may be its undoing for some players. It’s not necessarily that the control scheme is especially difficult, as most tactical games tend to possess when ported to console. In fact, the control scheme on offer here is pretty simple: L1 and R1 switch between selecting whole categories of guardians, while Cross commands one in that category to move or attack, and Circle commands them to return to the player. Holding down these buttons performs the same action, but for the entire category of guardians. Holding Triangle allows for a custom circle of guardians to be selected, at which point they are controlled in the above described manner. It’s simply that many of the enemies in Masters of Anima are very powerful, and elements of the game’s grading system ensure a tough battle.
In each level, there are certain points where one or several enemies must be cleared. These battles are timed, and depending on how quickly the player clears out the enemies, combined with other factors such as damage received and even guardians lost, a grade is given. Even early on in the game, after only a few minutes the battlefield quickly starts getting inundated with energy orbs from above, which eventually overwhelm the area and kill the player just a few moments after the barrage began. Now, it’s likely that those who are interested in this type of game are aware of the challenges that usually accompany the genre. But without any sort of difficulty level to choose from, Masters of Anima will disappoint many gamers for being too difficult, and it may also disappoint just as many gamers for being too easy.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
In between levels, Otto and his guardians can unlock various skills to assist them in battle, by spending points earned upon completing levels, at a rate of one point per level gained. It’s a slow progression, considering points are shared between every being. Players can go back to replay a level once it’s completed in an attempt to earn a higher grade or perform optional level goals, all in the hope of unlocking just one more point. Considering there are five guardian types to manage, points are spread around very sparingly throughout the adventure, and it will take a lot of trial and error to determine the best load out for a given level – thankfully, points can be redistributed between levels if so desired.
Masters of Anima is for those who love to multitask. Ordering various groups of guardians to attack multiple groups of enemies while also moving around, dodging attacks and performing combos can make for a very hectic game. But for those who live for the thrill of a job well done amidst a bunch of chaos, Masters of Anima was made for them. The rest of us will have to suffer through some agonizing deaths on a painful path to better skills before this game really opens up. Appearances can be deceiving, and Master of Anima is certainly a prime example of this phrase.
Masters of Anima review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.