Isometric RPGs are pretty common but isometric RPGs with RTS elements aren’t so common. It’s not exactly your typical style of game but Masters of Anima is exactly that.
You play as Otto, a Shaper who is able to control the resource known as Anima which allows him to create various Guardians that aid him on his quest. The entire premise of the game is Otto setting out on a quest to save his wife Ana and stop the main villain, Zahr from destroying the world by creating golems. Despite being driven by this narrative I noticed immediately the game wasn’t taking itself seriously. With the cartoon art style and abundance of lines meant to make the audience laugh it suits the game that the narrative isn’t taken seriously. However at points I felt like some of the line delivery from characters didn’t suit the moment such as during the opening moments of the game when Otto finds out his wife has been split into separate parts yet he doesn’t seem half as worried as someone normally would if they lost their wife. Personally I feel like the game would’ve benefited from trying to be a bit more serious at times but with the visual design and overall style of the game I can’t truly knock it.
The gameplay revolves around exploration and the use of Guardians to help complete puzzles and defeat golems you encounter. While Otto does have offensive capabilities you’ll find your Guardians doing most of the work while you order them about. Across various levels in many different environments there will be many different collectibles that upgrade Otto, such as Anima runes that increase the maximum capacity of Anima that Otto can hold. Bonus objectives can also be completed for extra exp along with hidden fights.
The RPG element of the game lies mostly in the progression system where the more foes you defeat and objectives you complete, Otto will gain exp to get new upgrades for himself and his Guardians. When it comes to the combat though it is more RTS since you will have to control each individual type of guardian you summon and prioritise which golem to attack as well as put them in positions for them to work best in. To begin with it is very simple to keep track of everything but later into the game as you start having to fight multiple golems as once and control 5 separate types of guardians all in separate areas of the arena it can get pretty hectic. Thankfully it is easy to tell which type of guardian is what and where attacks are going to hit due to everything’s unique design and easy to spot markers for things such as AOE attacks.
One thing I’m very on the fence about is the way enemies work. Each golem feels like a mini-boss and has to be fought in a restricted area. While this isn’t the main problem it does present problems on its own such as making it very difficult to accumulate exp through combat due to the lack of smaller enemies besides those that split off from certain variants of golem. The main problem with the combat is that there is only a limited amount of Anima available in each fight zone so if you run out of Anima to pick up then you can only rely on either what you already have or the Keeper Guardian to steal some Anima from the golem. So what happens if you’re out of Anima completely and have no Keepers? Well you’ve already lost unless you’re incredibly patient and can avoid hits since Otto is almost useless on his own and there’s no regen over time when it comes to Anima. To top it all off as well, the longer a fight goes on the tougher the golems get, dealing more damage and attacking more often.
The exploration aspect of the game is spot on however, offering the reward of upgrades and exp for taking paths away from the main objective. Puzzles aren’t overly complicated but require knowledge of what to summon and what is best for conserving Anima in case of a fight but getting you where you need to be. Later areas of the game will also have you taking environmental hazards into account that impact how you interact with the environment.