Hand of Fate 2 Review
Hand of Fate 2
by Dylan Blight
A new hero rises to challenge the Dealer in Hand of Fate 2! Master a living boardgame of infinitely replayable quests - unlock new cards, build your adventure, then defeat your foes in brutal real-time combat! Draw your cards, play your hand and discover your fate!
In a combination of table-top gaming, Dungeons and Dragons inspired fantasy role-play, deck-building and third-person hack and slash combat, Australian developer Defiant Games hopes to give you an experience like none other with Hand of Fate 2. It’s unfortunate however that one of those elements drags the rest of the game down drastically.
As the player, you sit in an ever-moving carriage opposite The Dealer, a cloaked and mysterious man who you will be playing the game against. Although the game itself is entirely reliant on your decisions and random elements, The Dealer is always there to explain the game to you, but don’t be fooled, he very much wants you to lose.
Hand of Fate 2 starts rather simple. In the first few levels, you will have some cards The Dealer has dealt out in front of you, each face down. Under each could be various things: a shop for you to buy food and weapons, a bridge where you are ambushed by enemies, or ultimately the card you need to progress the level. Other decisions from you, the player, along with some luck will come into effect as you move your avatar across the face-down cards. As you move along the cards you will be told a story in which you can meet other characters, interact with the townspeople, and make decisions on where to take your character. If you've never played any sort of pen and paper RPG, it'll sound something like this: "you enter the town, the smell of blood is in the air and you can see a man fighting against three others down an alley. Attempt to save the man? Move towards the closest inn?"
Upon reaching the bridge I mentioned before, for example, you could see a screaming girl in the river below and then it will be up to you to decide if you dive in an attempt to save her, or simply move on in fear of losing health or worse in your attempted heroics. If you attempt to save her you will most likely be taking part in a game of luck or skill to save her, if you fail you will lose health -- health that carries over into the games combat scenarios.
When you find yourself ambushed by a horde of enemies, or you’ve chosen the wrong dialogue option and pissed off a patron in a bar, you will enter a combat scenario. These take you through a Doctor Who inspired swirling portal and then you find yourself in the shoes of your customizable character who will do battle within a small arena. These combat sections in Hand of Fate 2 are unfortunately the absolute most boring part of the game. The combat is a clunky mess with an unresponsive counter system and, all-in-all, it’s simply not fun. Going onto the field to do combat with your character should be thrilling -- a change of pace from the tabletop element -- but it’s a repetitive mess that is the most generic element in a game full of interesting ideas.
You will be severely punished for not managing your gear and food with a closer eye. You need to have food to eat each time to move one card and if you don't you will lose health. You can find food for trade or as rewards, you can even have the opportunity to steal it, but just don't give it all away thinking you'll be fine and then die from starvation like I did. Similarly, you can be punished for selling off excess weapons you don't think you need for better armour. Certain enemy types like thieves are better dealt with by fast weapons and having only a clunky huge axe is going to make the battle hard.
My least favourite levels had me doing combat on a constant basis, whereas my favourites relied on the table-top element to tell interesting stories. In one level you are hired by a man to try and solve who has sent an assassination plot against him and have three days to do so. You must gather clues by talking to people and asking the right questions and then at the levels end must accuse who you think the would-be assassin is and this was when I was having the most fun with Hand of Fate 2.
Each different level builds this overarching story of sorts although I never found the world of Hand of Fate to be fully realized. There may be many fantasy tropes chucked in, but what little explanation you get for infected enemies and why the world is the way it is, is very little. An in-game lore encyclopedia of sorts would have gone far.
The design of the cards themselves are great with each having their own illustration. Weapons also have character to them in their design on the card and the names given to each of them. Owning a real-life set of the cards from Hand of Fate 2 would be a really cool item. Visually the game is at its worst once again in the combat arenas where a horde of enemies all dressed the same will charge at you over and over again.
You will spend more time looking over the game as you progress to later levels and looking over what cards you bring into a level is more important and thus the deck-building aspect. Some levels might require more risk/reward cards for chance or game, some you might choose to only bring one sort of weapon card. It's not complicated and if you really don't understand the system and choose to have the game auto set your deck before the start of each level you will probably be at a slight disadvantage but will manage. It's odd though you can't save any preset deck selections, which does make picking your favourite cards a pain.
Originally released on PS4, Xbox One and PC last year the Switch port of Hand of Fate 2 seems like one of the best places to play. The game includes all the DLC that has been added so far. I found that playing through a scenario in bed, or on the couch in handheld mode was much more enjoyable than playing docked in front of my TV. It seems at home on a handheld, which may give those that already loved it a reason to pick it up again.
Hand of Fate 2 attempts to combine the fun of tabletop games with video games, but its commitment to that pitch is its downfall. The portals to combat filled me with nothing but grunts of exhaustion everytime as I drew my weapon. If you are able to look past the dreaded combat, there is a fun tabletop RPG here with interesting stories to tell, but I personally can't stand to do another one of those combat scenarios. Sorry, The Dealer wins.
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
(Hand of Fate 2 code provided by the developer)