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Review: Masters of Anima (PlayStation 4)By Michael Keener At 06.08.2018 10:49

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It's safe to say at one point or another everyone has wanted to posses the power of magic. Whether that be Harry Potter or David Blaine style of magic. In Masters of Anima, main protagonist Otto wants to perfect his magic abilities. His aspiration is not for personal satisfaction or public praise, but so he can spend his life with his one true love, and high status wizard, Ana. It's not allowed for someone of Otto's status to be with such a prestigious individual such as Ana without becoming a master shaper (as they are technically called). In order to raise his status as a shaper, Otto must pass a sort of final exam, which perfectly acts as an intro tutorial to everything. Shapers are masters of anima, a glowing substance of magical energy that can be harnessed and used to call upon soldiers known as guardians.

The success of Otto passing his test is short lived when former fellow wizard Zahr arrives on scene, unleashing the destructive powers of the mountain. Along with such a detrimental act, he essentially captures Ana and divides her soul into a couple different pieces. It is not hard to break down where this is going from here. The journey to recapture control over the mountain, save Ana, and defeat Zahr is one that will span dozens of hours and make for a memorable adventure. Otto, along with the other shapers, has the ability to call upon guardians at will to fight alongside him. It will cost some anima to do so, but it is very easy to max anima early on and will simply require the destruction of nearby crates and bushes, or collecting randomly placed balls of the power.

Spending one of the several anima amounts can spawn a small platoon of about six guardians. An army of about 30 guardians (20 or so, early on) will be the max size. It's important to spend the anima when it has been collected, with the exception of a few situations. If the player feels they have summoned too many warriors to fight, simply calling them off will return their previously used anima back to the bank, where they can later be summoned again. It's best to run with the largest army possible to ensure all encounters with the enemy can be finished quickly, but there are times the environment will kill them off quickly, essentially wasting their potential. The first level, for example, will see meteors come crashing down constantly as the player progresses through the environment.

A large army will be unable to completely avoid all of them. When enemies are on scene, the army can be split up and assigned to fight different targets, or all guardians can be assigned to crowd and obliterate one enemy at a time. Otto does not simply sit back and watch, as he is very capable of delivering very powerful attacks, too. When Otto dies, however, the game is over and players will restart the level. To avoid death, dashing away from enemy attacks and calling the spawned guardians away is how the real-time combat plays out. Various times throughout every level, the guardians will be needed to move things around or open routes for progression. This again is covered nicely in the tutorials.

The ordering of the army is easier than most would expect on controllers, and is very easy to grasp. It is simply a matter of holding down the corresponding button for attack after selecting however many guardians by holding down another button as it progressively selects one after another. Withdrawal of all troops is at the press of another button. Players familiar with the GameCube classic, Pikman, will grasp these gameplay mechanics early on, while players new to the system will just need to pay close attention to the tutorial system that masks itself as Otto's big test in the beginning.

As players progress through Masters of Anima and collect upgrades, Otto will gain the ability to roll, dash attack, increase anima pick-up radius, life steal, increased damage from combos, and various other anima-based boosts. Additionally, these upgrades can be spent on increasing damage and defense (along with various stats) for the soldiers that are summoned. As there are 5 different troop types that include basic soldiers that are unlocked at the beginning and ranged troops, playing with the different potential upgrades is key to dishing out the most damaging attacks. Luckily the game never ties the player down to permanent choices; at any point the upgrades can be refunded and spent elsewhere if desired.

The game can be considered as a high end indie title, with polished gameplay mechanics and no framing or clipping issues during the review process. Far too often these smaller games are pushed out with various issues or weird bugs that may not be game breaking, but break immersion quickly. It was exciting to traverse the environments and instinctually know what areas were accessible and which were not without there being a visual wall everywhere. Players are encouraged to explore in order to collect all of the upgrades around the map. There are no fluff collectibles either that make the game feel crowded with uncertain objectives. Each level of the game is concluded at the end with a grade and a summary of the collectibles found. Replaying levels is allowed and encouraged in order to collect everything possible.

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[i]Masters of Anima[/i] is a great indie title that could have been incredible had it had some more work put in the story to break it away from cliché fantasy stories seen so often. The interest regarding cut-scenes and voice acting wane quickly; the constant grading of performance and time taken to complete fights and missions also break overall immersion at times, making the game as a whole feel more stage-based rather than one grand adventure. What is here, though, is impressively polished and easy to learn. The uniqueness of the gameplay makes it worthwhile for most people to try out.



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