Review: The Arcana
Title: The Arcana
Genre: Fantasy/Romance visual novel iOS and Android game
Creators: Nix Hydra
Disclaimer: Like all college students, I’m super busy and this will influence my views on in game coins and mini games. It’ll make sense later.
In a Nutshell:
The Arcana is a choice-based fantasy and romance visual novel that is set in the original city state of Vesuvia where you play as a magician’s apprentice. The novel is still ongoing, so I can’t speak yet to the mystery itself (though I have many theories!). But in essence, the story is about the journey of you, the apprentice, as you navigate through the Countess’ request to solve many mysteries that haunt the palace, the city and the characters. The plot revolves around the Count’s death and his ominous presence in the palace and city. There is also a plague that is returning to the city, threatening the city masquerade. The apprentice finds lost memories, uncovers the mystery and manages their romance with characters in game. So far there are three romance-able characters; the Countess, Nadia; the outcast city doctor, Julian; and the apprentice’s master, Asra.
The novel has such a charismatic world and appealing story that pulls you in. The story’s world is very well defined and pronounced; you get a clear sense of what Vesuvia looks like, who the people are, and what the rules of the world are. The best way to describe the game, really, is like a mosaic. You need to piece together bits of information about yourself, the characters and the world around you to build this gorgeous piece that is The Arcana. And I mean, come on. Who doesn’t like dangers at the masquerade, lost memories and an original, well-built fantasy world?
Of course, you cannot have a good story without compelling characters. Julian makes quite the questionable decisions and is a total drama queen. Asra definitely will be your favorite boy, but don’t let his apparent softness deceive you. The secrets that he keeps from you add stakes and flavor to the plot. And you will invariably want the Countess Nadia to so elegantly boss you around. Even secondary and minor characters build and expand on the world of the game, like Portia, the palace maid, who is an absolute sweetheart.
The art in general is very beautiful to look at, and the game has lovely extra pieces of art that you get through special scenes, which you can unlock with in-game currency. The scenes don’t add plot driven information, but they do have gorgeous art of the characters. The game also features Tarot cards, which is a plus. Tarot cards are within the novel itself and a mini game.
The novel is also mechanically structured and well organized; the characters’ stories are organized into their own separate categories. Their stories inform each other but not too heavily. Playing all three character routes gives you perspective on the story and chisels your theories, but it’s not the case where you have to simultaneously play the three characters routes to move forward in the game.
The one thing I find frustrating about the novel is when I can’t unlock the special scenes. There are a few choices in the novel that do not get you the special scenes (they cost less coins however) and I use coins very easily throughout the novel. You can get coins through purchase or through the mini games. That being said, I don’t purchase coins, nor do I often play the mini games because I’m super busy.
One of my favorite things about the novel is its diversity. I have never seen a non-binary character in a game who is so well developed and compelling. Asra is the main non-binary character, and naturally, as a non-binary identifying person myself, I chose his route. But he is not the only one. There are many others like the palace Courtiers. You can change your name and pronouns any time, which I rarely find in any game.
Regarding purchases, The Arcana is not a cash-grab. There are multiple ways to get in game coins aside from purchasing them, like the mini games. They include the daily Wheel of Fortune, the Heart Hunter mini game and the daily Tarot card readings from the three characters.
To get or not to get: The main features of the game are free, and you won’t miss out on anything if you don’t purchase coins. Like I said, I rarely have enough in game coins and that’s because I don’t play the mini games much. But you can easily get them without spending any money if you play them regularly.
You can download the game for free on iOS and Android.