Available on Xbox One, PS4 (tested version), PC, Nintendo Switch
As the old saying goes: if you're going to steal, steal the best. And you can not be much better than Nintendo. Of course, most of the developers have been inspired by the most well-known and beloved Nintendo series: Super Mario, Mario Kart, Metroid, Zelda. However, Passtech Games has gone for the least known and least appreciated Pikmin. If we are going to describe Masters of Anima in a single high-concept phrase, it would be Pikmin as a fantasy action RPG in the style of Torchlight. It's not exactly original, but the combo works great.
You play Otto, an apprentice Shane settled lightly at the head of the order, Ana. The Shapers are the titular Anima Masters, capable of transforming the bright green energy of their world into living and combative stone bodies known as Guardians. For years, the Shapers have lived a peaceful existence, watching over the dangerous mountain that once engendered counterparts who hate the Guardians, the Golems.
Sadly, as soon as Otto has completed his tests, a magician, Zahr, appears on the scene. Zahr has turned the mountain, has reawakened the golems and, in general, has unleashed evil in the world. What's more, it divides Ana's essence into three constituent parts: the body, the heart and the mind, and removes them to begin some kind of malignant ritual. It is up to Otto to follow in Zahr's wake, recover the parts of Ana's essence and end Zahr's antics, once and for all.
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This is where the Pikmin bit comes in. Otto can use his powers to summon Guardians, who will follow him wherever he goes until ordered. Touch the X button and a guardian will maintain a position, push an object or rush to attack an enemy. Touch the circle button and they will go back to the fold and follow it.
More guards can be summoned by pressing the right trigger and touching X, while holding the right trigger and touching the square will trigger Otto's battle cry and any special movements of the nearby guardian. Otto can also attack, and is very useful with his cane: it is a useful technique to shoot or receive some furtive blows from behind.
At first you only have the Protectors, good for close combat and pushing things. Over time, the Sentinels, your range attackers and then the Guardians join them to get rid of the Golems and even use it to heal you. Then come the Commanders, corpulent warriors who can transmit their battle cry to the nearby Guardians, and the Summoners, who can summon their own mini-guards to join the fray.
You can change types with a touch of the L1 and R1 buttons, or the game does it automatically, when you give orders to all the Guardians of a specific type.
In practice, this looks a lot like playing Pikmin, except that without all the things you feed them on fruits and strips the seedlings of the earth. You are at the head of a multitude of Guardians, throwing them into battle, then quickly surrounding them to dodge attacks or avoid any source of danger. And as with Pikmin, the action changes from a fast-paced combat to softer solving sections of riddles, in which you get the Guardians to push objects, shoot switches or use specific powers to help you reach new areas or activate mechanisms and sanctuaries .
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Each level is channeled through traps, riddles and Golem encounters, with some optional areas (for better use) , some do not. Golems start relatively simple and become increasingly dangerous and complex. They have special rush moves, ranged attacks and difficult combat phases, each one pushing you to think how and where you deploy your Guardians.
Sometimes golems come in duos or even trios, which means that you work to keep them covered with Protectors so that your Sentinels can do their job. In a short time, you will also learn the importance of summoning and caring for your Guardians, so that you have a constant flow of Mana that enters to keep your forces replenished.
Playing Masters of Anima is a strategy in part for a partial action on the one hand pure panic. Sometimes it is difficult, but consistently attractive, even if sometimes you feel that the most successful strategy is to have virtually no strategy. Move fast, continue to unfold and invent as you go.
At first I was worried if the story could keep my interest; Battle against Golem after Golem becomes boring? Fortunately, the new Guardians and Golems up the ante, and the game has a nice way of giving each environment its own new characteristics, so that a desert presents dangerous storms or a forest a mysterious warping fog.
In each case there are new skills and mechanics to attract attention. Masters of Anima also uses that old Nintendo trick to introduce a new skill, teaching you how to use it, and then putting you in situations where you need to master it to survive. If you're stuck, there's something you've missed.
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It's true that I'm not interested in the way golems get moving if they are not destroyed quickly, with the whole area becoming dangerous, which often results in a last-minute defeat. However, it is a way of putting pressure on you to think faster, act more decisively, learn and, in general, gather your wits.
Sometimes it can be a challenge, but Masters of Anima is always fair. Even battles between bosses are not impossible once you understand the parts your Guardians can play.
It's a game with charm too. From the static illustrations used for cutting scenes and dialogue, you can deduce that this is largely a title incorporated in the budget. But he has a good voice, intelligent dialogue and characters that you can root.
It has a great score and clean and vibrant art style that looks great on a 4K TV but should also work on the 720p screen of the Nintendo switch. And although it is not an enormously long experience, it will easily last between 10 and 14 hours. It's smart enough not to end while you still want more.
It's not exactly new or original, but Masters of Anima deserves to be a sleeper hit. It's a fun and polished fantasy riff on Pikmin, with the kind of visual style that made Torchlight games so charming. With good rhythm, exciting and full of heart, this little gem is highly recommended.