Anima: Gate of Memories is a Kickstarter project based on the Spanish tabletop RPG Anima: Beyond Fantasy developed by Anima Project. In this action RPG, players control two characters; the Bearer and Ergo, as they attempt to retrieve an artifact known as the Byblos. Despite the ambitions of the development team and their passion to deliver the best product they can, Anima Gate of Memories turns out to be a mediocre experience. While the lore of the world, combined with the decent graphics and sound, turns out to be very creative and combat is surprisingly well thought out, the game suffers from frustrating platforming, a uncooperative camera, a dull narrative and uninteresting characters.
In Anima: Gate of Memories, two members of a society called Nathaniel are tasked to find the artifact Byblos and to kill the Messengers. These Messengers are dark beings invading the world of Gaia, which is the world the tabletop RPG is set in. A very simple premise found in most, if not all, fantasy stories, but one that can lead to an interesting journey. Sadly, this journey is anything but interesting. It all comes down to the two playable characters: the Bearer of Calamity, a young girl with magical abilities, and Ergo, a creature of sorts trapped in a book carried by the Bearer. The Bearer is boring and uninteresting, there’s nothing noteworthy about her other than special magical ability. Ergo is worse due to his obnoxious personality and the awful dialogue. The writing is horrendous, especially with Ergo’s flirting and self-centered dialogue. They’re two of the worse written characters found in any form of media.
Unlike the story and their protagonists, the combat system is quite fun. Both characters use a set of melee and ranged magical attacks in a combo heavy system, where the characters can combine the melee and range attacks. There is also the ability to launch enemies in the air and continue to string attacks, opening up another set of moves. Of course, things can get quite tedious, but the switching of characters, while not completely smooth, can change things up a bit. Since both have their own health bars, switching becomes very useful during boss battles. Combat is further deepened with the skill tree. Like all RPGs, killing enemies earn experience points. When enough is earned, the characters level up and earn skill points, which can then be used to increase their combat potency. There are other games with better skill trees, but this particular one isn’t too bad. It, however, needed to be different between the two so both can be different in combat. There are also weapons and artifacts to collect, which further strengthens the characters. However, don’t expect them to wield said weapons as there is no visual representation on the two characters. This could have been a budget issue, but it could have opened up some versatility in the combat system.
It’s too bad, then, that other parts of the gameplay experience turns out to be quite frustrating. This criticism is mainly aimed at the platforming sections of the game and, as it turns out, it’s quite an important element of the game. In a 3D world where jumping is required, the camera needs to be spot on. In Anima: Gate of Memories, the developers got this wrong. When lining up for a jump, most often than not the player will fight the camera just to make it. Expect to fall down holes quite often. Fortunately, it isn’t too punishing, as you’ll lose only some health and given another chance to make the jump. The issue is that the camera is too close to the player character and there isn’t complete control over it. The puzzles in the game, while not a breeze, aren’t too difficult either. Some puzzles required you to look at Memory Fragments to solve them, which was a neat idea. However, some of the environmental puzzles are quite difficult due to that pesky camera. There’s one in particular that is quite challenging that involves a lot of wall spikes.
There’s also the world of Gaia to speak about because there are truly some wonderful visuals to speak of. When they came to structures like castles, they were very inspiring, despite the dated graphics. But they were few and far between as most of the world were repetitive open plains and poorly lit dungeons, that you’ll be visiting a lot as there is no fast travel mechanic. Backtracking is quite common throughout, so you’ll be rushing through these areas just to speed up the game. As for the sound department, the soundtrack was decent enough, although, like the rest of the game, it felt like the composer’s own expectations weren’t met. At least it wasn’t bad, like the awful voice acting. The voice acting is cringe worthy and ear splitting. It felt like they were in the recording studio for one day and only did one take of every line in the game.
It’s quite heartbreaking to see a creative project like Anima: Gate of Memories fail to match the passion and love put in by the team at Anima Project, but, at the end of the day, passion and love doesn’t make a great game. The promise shown in the execution is hindered by frustrating platforming and camera controls, despite the great combat system. The story seems so basic and cliche and the characters are not interesting, especially Ergo, who is very cringe worthy. The only aspects of note are the elements of the world and the lore presented in Anima as well as the audio and visual aspects. Otherwise, it is just another promising project executed poorly.
Anima: Gate of Memories was developed by Anima Project and published by Badland Games. This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version provided by QV Software in Australia for the purpose of this review. Before this review, I did not know about Anima: Beyond Fantasy, the tabletop RPG the game is based on. Anima: Gate of Memories is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC at retail and digital download.