**Please note: I am NOT the owner of the Arcana game and neither am I claiming to be. None of the Arcana images in this post belong to me; I have screen-shotted them from the game on my phone.
I’m not usually a huge video game or phone-game person. In general, I can’t stand to look at my phone screen for too long– I prefer phone calls over texting, and I often take hours to days to text back (if I remember to do so in the first place!).
I’ve enjoyed playing games on Episode just a year or so ago; Episode is an interactive story game where you can play different characters of different stories and make choices for different outcomes. I’m not sure if they still have this feature, but when I used to play it, regular users were also able to make their own stories with their own made-up characters for others to play. I don’t play this game anymore because there a lot of new changes that I’m not a huge fan of. For instance, I’m only given a few options for which stories I’m allowed to play whereas before I had access to many more stories. I have to finish certain stories to unlock the ability to play others. In addition, in the older version, I used to receive four free passes at a time to use as tickets for playing a chapter; they would refill every few hours. But now, I only get two passes at a time. Hopefully I still have the old version on my older phone…
But anyway. With all this Quarantine boredom and madness without my friends and without normal social interaction, I was cruising through the app store about a month ago. I really, really wanted to find a certain kind of fantasy-themed game that I could escape into. I wouldn’t necessarily have to interact with other players, but I just wanted to be able to disappear into a beautiful world with beautiful virtual scenery and magical characters. When I was younger, there used to be this fairy game world based on Tinker Bell that I loved playing in. I don’t recall many details, but I do remember that I was able to design my own fairy and I loved the aesthetic imagery of the environment surrounding my fairy’s house. I tried searching for it, but I don’t think it’s available anymore. It was a free, online game from what I remember. If you know what I’m talking about, let me know! And please do tell me if you know where I can still find and play this game.
To my dismay, I couldn’t find the kind of fantasy game that I was looking for in the App store. I found a few “princessy” and fairy games that were catered to children. It’s not that they wouldn’t be enjoyable for adults like myself; admittedly, I played one of those Barbie games where you give an avatar a makeover and dress her up. But like I said, that wasn’t what I was looking for. Rather, I was looking for something that would have better scenery and some kind of character play, and more apparent fantasy vibes and themes of enchantment and magic.
Usually, I hate ads that pop up when I’m using social media or the internet in general. But there was an ad that actually grabbed my interest and that I’m extremely grateful for.
I thought it looked like some vampire-y game. I clicked on the advertisement and then downloaded it for free. The name of the game is called “Arcana.”
I started playing it and I just fell in love with it.
My heart was immediately captured when I was presented with stunning imagery and interesting, magical-looking characters and settings. This wasn’t exactly the kind of fairy-fantasy kind of game I was looking for; it was much different. And better, even (though I’m still on the lookout for those kinds of other fantasy games that I described, so if you know of any that you think I might like, please do let me know!).
At the start of being welcomed into the game, I was presented with settings to indicate my name and preferred pronouns. My name would be incorporated into the words of the story when the other characters would talk to me.
This game gave many mystic and Aladdin-like vibes. The game was set up so that I, the player, was talking to the characters from my point of view– hence, I didn’t have my own avatar. It begins with me being in a spell-shop with my handsome-looking, purple eyed and silver-haired teacher/master, Asra. It’s obvious that Asra and I have a some romantic tension between us alongside a good friendship. Apparently, I’m a really skilled magician, alongside Asra.
Asra is seen leaving for some days’ time, and I’m surprised when there is a visitor at an odd hour– first, Nadia, the Countess, and then later Julian, a physician. This physician doesn’t have a good reputation and is thought to be a criminal. Our interactions aren’t exactly super-friendly, but they’re not hostile, either. But despite what I’ve heard about him, he doesn’t seem like such a bad guy.
I have a few interactions with this red and wavy-curly-haired doctor before running into and meeting Portia, the Countess’s maid. She invites me to the palace upon Countess Nadia’s request. The Countess announces that she wants to throw a masquerade and that she wants me to find and kill Julian, who she believes has blood on his hands for the murder of the Count– I’m not sure if I believe that he is, guilty, however.
From then on, I’m given the option to romance six different characters: Nadia (the Countess), Asra, Julian, Lucio (the Count), Portia, and Muriel, a recurring character whose character role I’m still confused by. But he seems like a commoner who is often abused by people of higher status than him. He’s mysterious– just like the characters are made to be.
I was mainly trying to choose between Asra and Julian– I was intrigued by the description of Asra’s route being filled with magical places and adventure, but I was also compelled to explore Julian’s world and learn more about him. I chose the latter. As of now, I’ve finished the entirety of Julian’s story and I just started playing Asra’s.
And I loved Julian’s story, as well as I’m sure I’ll love Asra’s and the rest of the characters’. I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free, but I loved the friendship and resulting romance that sprouted from the interactions between the player and Julian. I also loved seeing the endearing relationships between Julian and my character with other characters.
There was a mix of romance, suspense, action, humor and of course mystery throughout the chapters. There was scenery and settings of marketplaces, the palace, inside a castle, inside the spell shop, and inside cottages and houses. There were even “natural” beautifully fantastical settings and scenery. The plot was also action-packed.
And the music– ohhhh, the music. It was just so beautiful and complemented the visuals and plot of the story very well. I just had to find out the song titles, and I did! Thankfully, most of them are on Spotify, but a few, including my favorite track, isn’t. If there was an Arcana soundtrack, I would totally consider buying it. I’ll post a Spotify playlist that another user made of the songs at the end of this blog post if any fellow Arcana fans or just curious music fans are interested.
In contrast to other interactive games I’ve played, the Arcana’s characters, while still interactive, were limited in their interactions with me as the player. The game itself read like a chapter, with the character being being displayed in front of me and the story being told in mostly the first-person point of view at the bottom of the screen. Even if the characters were talking with other characters, often one character at a time was shown on my screen. The characters didn’t really move much other than changing facial expressions or crossing and uncrossing their arms. It would have been nice to have more detailed visual interaction with the characters– and it would be even cooler if the characters actually had their own voices and were able to talk, a feature I haven’t seen in other interactive story-chapter games I’ve played. While I definitely loved having the characters be made to look like they were looking directly at me through with the absence of my own avatar, it would be nice it there was an option to play with my own personal avatar and see it interacting with the other characters.
And as beautiful as the scenery was, I wish they had been more detailed more often, or at least showed the characters moving around in the scenery. There was more “telling” than “showing” when it came to playing certain scenes. For instance, while the text box was explaining what I, the player, was seeing unfold alongside the visual of the character and a still visual of the environment, I wasn’t actually shown the actions of the characters or any changes in the scene. For some scenes, however, the screen visual would move from side to side to give a more comprehensive view to the player. And as much as I loved the beautiful word descriptions, I really would have enjoyed having complementary visuals to match such descriptions.
But of course, my suggestions just reflect my personal opinions and preferences. Other players and the creators of this game might prefer for the format of the game to be this way for many different reasons. Perhaps some prefer the flexibility in visual interpretations of what the words of the story tell them, or others really like the way the game is similar to being a digital picture book for adults.
It’s also really cool how there is merchandise available on the website for the Arcana game. I’m considering getting some for myself eventually.
Anyway, I really did not expect to love this game as much as I do. I didn’t even expect such a concept of a game with the Aladdin-like and mystic-themed vibes that I mentioned earlier. I want to play virtual games that make me long to live in the places they show and tell me about. I hope to discover more games that I love as much if not more than this one in the near future. And I’m excited to see if there are any further developments to the Arcana.
The Arcana music links:
- for the songs available on Spotify:
-for my favorite song from the soundtrack that is not available on Spotify: