Masters of Anima

February 26, 2020
Developer: PASSTECH Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: Nintendo Switch

I feel like I've been too negative lately. I should take a break from reviewing garbage games and review something decent for once. Thankfully, I'm just finishing up a round of games that are decent or better, so now is as good a time as any to do some reviewing. Let's start off with Masters of Anima, which can best be described as a "Pikmin-like": An RPG/Minion-Commanding/Baby's First RTS combination that works quite well on the Switch.

Something from Nothing

Although it will never beat out a mouse and keyboard, Masters of Anima controls quite nicely. You are able to quickly select and move minions where you need them, and the main character Otto controls just fine. The game lacks the ability to move your minions anywhere on the map at any time, but this is a convenience in this scenario, not a necessity.

Another reason complicated controls are not all that necessary: the game is simply not that difficult. I completed the game with an S Rank on Master difficulty with very few issues. This is coming from someone who is pretty good at most games, but who absolutely sucks at multi-tasking and RTS games. While this is not an RTS, it does have some elements of one (such as very limited micromanagement) so I feel like I should have sucked at it a little. This means the game was great to pick up and play, but may disappoint hardcore fans of the genre. Then again, hardcore fans of the genre probably aren't looking for their next title on a console, so maybe it's not such a huge issue.

Gee, Units

While you can move the main character Otto around and attack with him, the main focus of the game is of course the units. There are five different types of minions when all is said and done: melee-based soldier units; ranged archer units who gain increased damage while hiding in cover; "keeper" units that can extract resources from enemies; commander units that can relay attack commands; and finally, summoner units that summon smaller minions to attack for them. Each unit also has a special attack which can either be triggered by Otto (at the cost of Anima, which is your resource much like mana) or relayed at the location of a Commander unit. The soldiers have a shield slam that stuns enemies when used at the right time; the archers fire a very powerful charged shot; Keepers extract health rather than anima; commanders duplicate your trigger at their location; and summoners summon more minions at a faster rate. Unfortunately, in my experience, the Commanders & Summoners are, more or less, useless. On difficulties lower than Master, I would argue that Keepers are almost useless as well because things die too fast for it to really matter outside of the longer fights.

You receive EXP from completing objectives and defeating enemies, and this EXP ultimately translates to skill points which can be used to activate permanent upgrades for Otto and each of the minion types. A decent chunk of Otto's upgrades are kind of useless towards the end of the game since quite a few of them revolve around physically attacking enemies yourself, which is completely unnecessary since all it does it put you at risk of damage and your minions kill things quickly enough on their own. There are 30 character levels in total , which means you can obtain every upgrade for Otto and three of the five minion types (or spread them out as you like). I like this upgrade system, but I'd say about half of the potential upgrades are useless. My personal strategy utilized only the first three unit types, and even then I felt a good number of upgrades were more or less useless. This is somewhat offset by the fact that the game is fairly easy, though, so ultimately the upgrade system was just kind of "whatever".

The Actual Game

The story is not much, but it's there. I don't care much for story in games—if it's there and it's great, cool; if not, whatever. Your strong independent woman fiancĂ©e has had her being split into three (four?) and you have to go beat the bad guy help and put her back together again.

There are some puzzles which require certain unit types; while in my case it was a little annoying to summon units that I don't normally use, it doesn't happen so much that it's annoying and most of the puzzles are handled by the three initial types of units anyway. There aren't a lot of puzzles, they aren't totally obtuse, and they don't overstay their welcome, so they get a passing mark in my book. The levels themselves are paced well with the only exception being the two or three desert levels, which drag on like nobody's business, especially if you want to find all the hidden items, of which there are several in each level. Usually, there is a "Tablet of Anima" (which adds some flavor to the plot), one or more health pieces (think "Piece of Heart"—collect three to permanently gain more life), and one or more fragments of Anima which act in much the same way, but for your secondary resource. A solid amount of exploration is required to see everything there is to see, which is nice. However, on some of the larger maps, a mini-map would have been nice—if not necessary.

This review sounds very critical and negative, but Masters of Anima was enjoyable enough that I played through it twice: initially on the normal difficulty and again on Master difficulty (the highest). I really did have a great time with it: There were no major annoyances and nothing that really brought the game down a ton; just a handful of little nitpicks. I would have really enjoyed some more useful unit types, some more interesting skill choices, and perhaps a mini-map, but none of that completely trashes the game experience. I may even go back and replay it in the future, as its short enough to warrant multiple play-throughs—I just wouldn't expect anything surprising. All in all, this is a solid title that's bound to give newcomers to strategy games some enjoyment, though I'm not sure hardcore fans of the genre will see it as much more than a distraction.

Final Rating

Solid