[First Thoughts] The Arcana

Delve deep into the heart of intrigue, and uncover a murder mystery that still hangs over the city like a shroud.

Be careful what secrets you reveal and what choices you make… yours is not the only fate that hangs in the balance. Magic, romance and mystery await. Who will you choose to love and who will you choose to condemn? How will your story unravel?

The story follows an unnamed magician’s apprentice (you decide their gender/gender pronouns; he/she/they), with a gift for fortune telling. When your master, Asra, a renowned magician leaves on an unexpected trip, you are left to look after his shop. But, before he leaves, you with his prized Tarot deck. Not long after, you are visited by two mysterious strangers: the beautiful Countess, Nadia and the disgraced physician Julian. Each stranger has a request that will change the course of your life forever.


Inspired by the Major Arcana Tarot Cards, Nix Hydra’s fantasy romance The Arcana delivers equal parts mystery and intrigue in this wickedly addictive and visually stunning mobile visual novel. I’m usually pretty wary of mobile games, especially freemium visual novels, given the staccatoed pacing of their ticket based narratives and rather formulaic premises. However, The Arcana is anything but by the book, with it’s lively visuals and captivating premise, this game will have you on the edge of your seat as you delve deeper into this richly woven murder mystery… and if you play your cards right, a bit of romance too.

App Details

  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance
  • 3 Love interests
  • Available: Google Play | App Store
  • Cost: Free (optional micro-transactions)

The Arcana is a 22 book (chapter) story, each of which correspond to the 22 Major Arcana Tarot cards, with the first five books (Books I-V) making up the prologue. In Books I-V, you meet each of the potential love interests and various supporting characters while also setting the foundation for the rest of the story. Prior to the start of the game, Nadia’s husband, Count Lucio, was murdered in his bed during one of the his lavish Masquerades, supposedly by Julian Devorak. Nadia seeks your aid in bringing Julian to justice for his crimes, however, everyone has a secret and the further you dig into the incident and the pasts of those involved, the less clear everything becomes.

Arcana characters
Main cast of The Arcana (L to R): Asra, Nadia, Julian, Count Lucio, Muriel, and Portia

Vesuvia, the setting of the game is a melting pot of cultures and the cast of The Arcana reflects that, with its diverse cast of characters. Of the three available love interest two sport noticeably darker complexions; Asra with his caramel skin and white hair, and Nadia with her warm brown tones and strong proud features. Neither is considered exotic or foreign even when placed alongside the other fairer characters like Lucio and Portia (one of the side characters).

But, The Arcana takes things even further, with male, female, and non-binary love interests for players to pursue. Nix Hydra has confirmed that Asra identifies as non-binary, but, depending on your chosen gender pronouns at the start of the game, both Julian and Nadia’s romances could both be considered LGBT. However, sexuality is not something that is touched upon heavily in the plot, which I liked since it allows the characters to exist not as representatives of their respective preference.  Each of the characters is given their own identity and the dialogue does a great job of giving them their own distinct voice. These are multifaceted characters with their own unique histories and motivations, they don’t just exist to move the plot along, they are a part of it, breathing life into every facet of the story.

But, what really drew me to the game was the art, The Arcana is a beautiful game, with its vibrant backgrounds and gorgeous character designs, this game is a visual masterpiece. From the dense forests to the luxurious halls of the palace to the alleyways and markets of the city, each set piece is beautifully rendered. Though stylistically simplistic in their line work, the backgrounds allow the bold character designs to really pop, my favorite being Nadia, with her striking features and elegant flowing wardrobe.

Of course there’s more to explore in The Arcana between updates, some of which help players earn items that can be used to enhance or even expand upon normal gameplay. There’s the daily Tarot reading, which allows player to get special horoscope like fortunes from one of the three romanceable characters. Each character focuses on a specific type of reading: Love (Asra), Success (Nadia), and Happiness (Julian). The first reading is free, but every subsequent reading will cost you coins (in game currency), however, if you successfully login for 7 days, you can earn a free reading. Players can also do a daily item spin, The Wheel of Fortune, to earn coins and trinkets specific to each character. And lastly, there is a mini game, Heart Hunter, where you can earn special side stories and postcards.

As many of you know, I usually don’t cover freemium mobile games here on Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, because the pacing of ticket based stories drives me absolutely bonkers. I don’t like jumping through hoops to finish a story and micro-transactions really do add up. In the past I’ve made exceptions for Mystic Messenger and Liar Uncover the Truth since their stories had a much more involved form of gameplay than the usual “reading and making choices” of traditional visual novels. But, had there been a pay per route option, best believe I would have just paid them upfront and played at my leisure.

It really takes a lot to get me interested in a freemium mobile game, and The Arcana managed to do that back in 2016 when it was still on Kickstarter. I will admit that it’s been awhile since it’s release, but, I finally found time to sit down and give the game a playthrough and I am HOOKED!

I have been playing for two weeks and I engrossed in the story, I can over look the 7 hour story key timer and the coin based premium choices. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest shortcoming of the game, in order to get special CGs and “intimate moments” with your chosen lover, you have to use coins to purchase “premium choices”. They don’t really effect the story in anyway, but, they do give you a bit more substance during your playthrough. So, whether you choose them is wholly up to you… I did a couple and I will say they do enhance the gameplay, but, there were some that I probably could have skipped out on…

Thought so far...

All in all, The Arcana is a story that blends murder, mystery, and romance to craft a uniquely immersive gaming experience, there are so many twists and turns that will keep you guessing till the very end. As of this writing, only 17 of the 22 books have been release for each of the three routes, with updates every two weeks, so there is still a ways to go until the game’s finale. But, there are quite a few features to explore while you wait for new updates.

So, hell yeah I recommend giving this game a try! The visuals get you in the door, but the mystery and characters are what keep you coming back for more! But, as always, you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out the trailer below or give the prologue a playthrough, it’s rather long so, you’ll get a good feel of what the main game offers without having to come out of pocket (unless you want to make premium choices).

You can also contact Nix Hydra on Social Media through the following channels:

2 thoughts on “[First Thoughts] The Arcana

  1. This is an old post, but I had to comment on it just to say thank you so much for writing such excellent reviews!!! I was looking for some good free to play mobile games over the holiday weekend; and your site was very helpful. If I’d had to narrow down my choices by trial and error, I would have given up long before I tried The Arcana — and missed out on a great game.
    I feel very fortunate that the weekend I downloaded The Arcana was also the same weekend Nix Hydra offered unlimited keys. I was able to finish all of the available Upright & Reversed endings, as well as play through the stand-alone background stories and the as-yet unfinished routes for Muriel, Portia & Lucio. The story is great, the art is (as your review points out) gorgeous, and I enjoyed every route. It helps that the game does a great job with the spooky scenes, so even when I was like “oh no, my poor apprentice!!!” it was still very compelling. (I have no idea how they’re going to pull off a convincing Upright ending for Lucio though.)
    I’m glad there are extra things to do while waiting for more keys/coins. I especially like Heart Hunters. I am a little concerned that it’s going to take me a lot of time to unlock the paid content, since you only have a 3 free plays for Heart Hunters & 1 chance to spin the wheel per day; but I am looking forward to the next free tarot reading so I’ll probably be able to keep checking in for a while without getting bored. Honestly, it’s a little refreshing to have a free to play mobile game that doesn’t try to keep you glued to the game every minute of the day, or force you to sit through ad after ad (usually the same ad multiple times in a row — ugh!). That said, I would not mind having the option to sit through a few ads to earn extra coins — and it looks like that feature might be in beta currently. I just hope it doesn’t replace the other extras.
    Anyway, thanks again for convincing me to give The Arcana a try! I came here for spoilers on Liar! Uncover the Truth (firm agree on Haruichi Mamiya btw — IRL I would never, but for the poor beleaguered protagonist of Liar, he’s a catch), got sucked into your archives, and wound up with a game I really enjoyed. 10/10, will come back when I want to play a new visual novel!

Gush about cute otome boys~