Animus was a standalone title that originally released on iOS platforms in 2017 and was described as an excellent Dark Souls package for mobile platforms. While I never played the original on iOS it was nice to see primarily mobile players have this as a Souls-like option. Now in 2019, Animus has made its way to the Nintendo Switch and while it can scratch that Dark Souls itch, there’s a lot left to be desired.
You will know early on what Animus is all about: boss fights and loot. If that intrigues you, you will find much to like about Animus. Like the Monster Hunter games, you must be using a specific build in order to defeat certain bosses and enemies. If you plan to go in with just one fighting style and weapon type, be prepared to die a whole lot. All weapons have an elemental effect and certain bosses will require you to experiment in order to find weaknesses. Bosses that may have felt like an immovable roadblock forcing you to grind for what seems like eternity, may be easily defeated just by equipping a different weapon.
Levels are separated into five to ten minute chunks that will usually see you fight through a group of enemies, collecting gems and coins which are used to improve your gear, and then eventually facing a boss fight at the end. You can circle strafe enemies and pressing X will roll or dodge if locked onto an enemy in a given direction which will grant you temporary invulnerability. Movement for the most part is to slow and can feel somewhat clunky as you attempt to get behind enemies for a backstab.
The speed of your character is affected by the weapon choice you make, which includes, swords and shields, lances, dual blades, hammers, and even gauntlets. Most of the combat is lifted from the Souls series, however this feels like a blessing and a curse. The combat in the Souls series is marvelously handled and it never feels unfair when reading and reacting enemies move-sets. I found that Animus, despite giving me the same moves and knowing where I wanted to go to evade damage, there were still times that it seemed impossible.
Healing can be done three times per round and is done by pressing the L button. The only problem is that it takes long to implement and a lot like the Estus Flask from Dark Souls. During combat combat certain button combinations will appear at the bottom of the screen and if you press these in sequencing you will devastate the enemy and knock them back. There is a small gauge in the corner of the screen that gradually refills and acts as a berserk mode in combat.
Speaking of combat, it is fun and enjoyable for the most part. After you understand some of the basic mechanics, you’ll know in order to be successful in battle you must monitor your stamina gauge. You attacks and combs rely on you maintaining a high stamina and the same goes for defending with the shield. Bosses also have stamina and will sometimes and some special attacks may stagger enough to allow for an optimal chance to lay the beating down.
As stated before, each weapon has unique attributes and statistics, and the aim is to match those with the boss fights. Certain sections, depending on the weapon you have equipped, also allow you to summon fallen warriors. It can be a little comical how similar Animus actually is to Dark Souls in those moments, but at least it makes fights more interesting. The computer controlled assistants basically act as decoys allowing you to focus solely on the larger bosses.
The boss fights themselves make up most of the experience for Animus and are thankfully done well. They range from smaller knights who you’ll learn how to defeat quickly, to absolute behemoths that will require strategic in and out attacks. Most bosses can be reduced down to circle strafe and dodge maneuvers, but that’s not to be fair as many of the bess fights were great to take part in.
Many of the issues I had with Animus pertain to its mobile origins and they are clear in the setup. Levels are incredibly short and using special gems to revive when you die are classic pay-to-win strategies. Despite that being no part of the game, it still created a more casual experience allowing you to essentially save up these and then use them several time to reduce a tough fight to a respawn fest.
Visually, Animus runs at a smooth 60 fps, although textures are pretty lackluster in the environment with little to no shadows, bump mapping, or even a brightness control. Character animations are average, but I guess looked fine for a mobile title at one point. Thankfully, some of the boss fights featured detailed movesets that look really good and run fluidly. Audio sounds just like Dark Souls which is a huge compliment, although there aren’t enough music tracks for how long you might be playing for. Combat sounds are very well done and have a meaty tone that sync up well with that action on-screen.
Overall, Animus is a Dark Souls-like experience that fails to live up to its inspirations, but still is an enjoyable title nonetheless. The value lies in if you will want to grind for upgrading gear and repeating the same enemy and boss fights over and over again. While Animus does nothing special to stand out in a crowded slow-paced action field, the combat and overall tone made this a game I can come back to in small increments to enjoy.