The titular Anima is not a person, place, or thing, but rather a mystical energy found deep underground. By channelling this power, Shapers – as they’re known – can summon creatures forged from ancient stone, as well as reverse damage on objects made of said sacred material.
Plucky protagonist Otto isn’t quite a master of Anima yet though, introduced as a scholar still in learning. Forever humble, he also believes the summonable stone creatures should be used to create huge cities and other wonders, instead of merely being used as guardians during conflicts.
But after his hometown is raided and his fiancée snatched by a sinister elder Shaper known as Zahr – dressed in obligatory red garb – the floppy-haired hero has no choice but to create legions of stone protectors to defeat Zahr’s army of gargantuan golems.
The tutorial is cleverly disguised as Otto’s graduation day at the Shaper academy, focusing on how to summon and command guardians. Those familiar with Nintendo’s Pikmin (or Codemasters’ Overlord, if you prefer) will feel right at home as the control scheme is uncannily similar, allowing groups to be separated and given orders with minimal effort. Huge blocks need shoving, switches flicked, and path blocking rubble piles reduced to smaller piles of rubble. All in a day’s work for lower ranking guardians.
It’s here the Pikmin comparisons end. Masters of Anima is far more combat focused, and the guardians have vastly different skill sets to Nintendo’s colour-coded critters. Ingeniously, each of the five guardian types has unique skills to employ outside of combat, shifting the focus to exploration and puzzle solving when not engaged in battle.
RPG elements feature too, including an XP system and unlockable skills such as damage boosts and the ability to roll out of harm’s way. It’s clear a degree of thought has gone into upgrades as the benefits are immediately noticeable, enhancing chances of acquiring an elusive ‘S rank’ at the end of each battle. In fact, Masters of Anima doesn’t fall short in any area – every aspect feels polished, refined, and substantial. This is one trim package, with no flab or filler. Even the fixed camera system works perfectly, keeping track of the action from a quasi-isometric angle.