Hack-and-slash role-playing games (RPGs) have been a gaming staple for years now, with franchises such as Diablo and The Witcher leading the way and proving that cutting virtual foes to pieces is pretty damn fun. However, many of these games have come to feel stale over time; more often then not, you're doing little more than mashing the attack button.

Masters of Anima breaks that monotonous feeling. While you will undoubtedly be wailing on baddies, you also have several different types of units that you can order around, like a real-time strategy game. This blend of two very different genres works excellently, and as a result, Masters of Anima is a fresh and fun experience from start to finish.

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Story: Save Spark from the clutches of evil

Masters of Anima takes place on a fictional world called Spark, which is similar to Earth but different in one key way: Spark is rich with Anima, a magic substance that can be used to create just about anything. People who perfect the art of manipulating anima are known as Masters, and the game's protagonist, Otto, is training to become one. However, his home is assaulted by a mysterious villain known as Zahr. His fiance Ana, a gifted Master herself, is kidnapped.

After learning of Zahr's plans to destroy Spark with his own Anima powers, Otto sets out on a quest in order to save his fiance, save the world, and become a true Master of Anima.

The plot of the game isn't necessarily compelling, but it does feel like a neat fantasy-style spin on the classic "the princess has been kidnapped" story. For a game like this, that's serviceable enough.

Gameplay: Create and control your army

In Masters of Anima, you engage in combat two ways: fighting with Otto himself, and ordering units to enter the fray. Your forces, called Guardians, are obedient entities that Otto creates using Anima. There are five different kinds of Guardians, and each one fills a specific role. Protectors, for existence, are great at battling the enemy up close with sword and shield, while Sentinels pepper foes from afar with bow and arrow.

Each unit type can be (and will need to be) ordered around to different locations to give them a better position to do their role, avoid incoming damage, and more. Knowing how to utilize them all effectively is where Masters of Anima's true challenge lies. The game is never overly difficult, though, and tactically outplaying enemies feels excellent.

Of course, you also can sneak in some hits with Otto himself, too — turns out his staff is good for more than just casting. While it is admittedly pretty brainless button mashing, there's something so satisfying about fighting alongside your own creations, and this perfectly blends the fun of hack-and-slash with the tactics of real-time strategy.

Presentation: Vibrant and intense

Masters of Anima features a very colorful and vibrant art direction that really makes the environment of the game pop, as well as making the action feel more bombastic. In addition, the musical score is intense and fast-paced, which is a perfect backdrop for an action-heavy game like this.

The only issue present is that sometimes a large amount of visual effects at once can cause the game's framerate to dip, but it never drops significantly far and you might not even notice it if you're focused on the battle at hand.

Masters of Anima Xbox One conclusion

Traditional hack-and-slash mechanics, real-time strategy elements, serviceable writing and excellent visuals and music all come together to create one of 2018's best indie RPGs thus far.

Pros:

  • Superb gameplay.
  • Decent writing.
  • Amazing presentation.

Cons:

  • Occasional framerate drops.

4.5 out of 5

Masters of Anima is available now on Xbox One for $19.99.

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This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a copy provided by the publisher.