Since I am a pretty consistent player of mobile games, I get other mobile games advertised to me often. And most times I am not interested in any of these games. But after seeing some talk about The Arcana beyond the Instagram ads, I decided to give it a go.
The Arcana, developed by Nix Hydra Games, is a fantasy/romance visual novel where you play as an apprentice magician with a talent for fortune telling. With an unusual set of Tarot cards, you are swept into an adventure of mystery, murder, romance, and magic, and you, as the player, get to choose where your adventure leads.
You meet different characters which all have different relationships with you. From your master to the Countess to the mysterious masked man, you’ll interact with them all and get to make various choices, yes including romantic options.
As it is with choose your own adventure games, you are offered different choices at various points in the story and thus taken in certain directions with your story. Sometimes the choice has little to no effect on your path and others have great consequences. I did notice while playing that it’s pretty easy to tell which is the better choice in most options because of how they present the choices, which for me was kind of a bummer because it felt obvious and like the game wanted you to take a certain path with this pattern. I won’t say what this pattern is as to not spoil your play and let you feel free to choose whatever, and even with me feeling like there was this pattern I still enjoyed the story unfolding.
Speaking of the story, it is quite compelling. You’re pulled into a story of an unsolved murder and tasked with using your magical skills to find the suspect. However, you’re also trying to find your mentor who left you just before these strangers came and pulled you into this adventure. There are a few mystery characters as well, and even a ghost(?). The story is what kept me playing more so than the ability to romance characters. Also, the artwork is just beautiful and the atmosphere that the music has said adds to the whole game so nicely.
As well as standard choice options, there are also bonus content choices which cost coins. This in-game currency is a little hard to come by, so if you want to partake in questioning Asra about his love for you, it’s will cost you some coins and may result in your purchasing them. Yeah, it’s not great but it’s pretty standard for a mobile game honestly. I personally wish it was easier to earn coins somehow. However, the devs have said that the game is not pay-to-win and that the bonus content choices are only that: a bonus. You can complete the full story without taking these choices. Coin choices are also a permanent unlock, so if you replay any section those options will be available without paying again.
The game is divided into books, and the developers say there will be 22 books in total. The first five are the prologue which sets up the adventure and is what I played in full prior to this first look. From there, you can venture into the other books and learn more of the story as it unfolds. However, I have seen that you have to get keys to open and finish books, which is also a tedious mobile game trope I wish wasn’t part of this game. It does sound like you can outright buy the books, but at this rate, I would prefer to buy the game outright instead of this under the guise of free to play. Also with 22 books each book costing approximately $10 each, that is a lot of money.
So to sum it up, I surprisingly enjoyed what I have played so far of The Arcana. While I am personally not the most keen on seducing all of the various characters, I find the story compelling and want to know how it all ends. So I do intend on diving into the other books and continue playing. My biggest criticism is the book structure and how you either wait to earn keys for hours and hours or spend a good bit of money to unlock all of the books. That makes me questions how far into this story I will get before getting fed up.
Do you enjoy visual novels? Share your favorite with me in a comment below.