Defiant Development has gone and surprised us with a sequel to their truly amazing 2015 game, Hand of Fate. Personally, I think the first game flew under a lot of peoples radars as everyone I spoke to about the sequel hadn’t heard of the first one. This is unfortunate because the first game was a great mix of a tabletop card game and a 3D-brawler combined with a hint of strategy and luck. Once again, you are face-to-face with a mysterious card dealer within his ominous-looking wagon as he lays cards on the table which will eventually become your fate. He guides you along your fantastical journey with cryptic riddles and insight, in an effort to help you survive the destiny which lies before you on the table, face down. To him, your destiny isn’t by chance or random events – it is all decided by fate and pre-determination within the cards. However, can he ensure you come out alive or is that all down to you, the un-named hero?
Hand of Fate is one of the most original table-top/video game combinations I have seen for many years. Whereas many tabletop games will just get re-created for console/PC with nothing but a few graphical enhancements, this is a game built as a tabletop but specifically for the video game genre. The Dealer will place cards onto the table in a set pattern but in a random placement and you move around from card to card as you undergo various events which will see you; rolling die to obtain results, playing ‘find the card’, choosing actions to take, finding new weapons and armour, encounter various enemies, and join forces with new allies. This time around you are presented with a map, which is where you choose which ‘boss’ you wish to have as your end-goal. In total, there are 22 challenges (bosses), each with their own set pattern of cards (physically) but all the decks are fully customisable based on how you wish to play the game.
As you start your adventure, you are initially given a set deck of cards which are all in the same place on the table – this is to get you used to the game and so it doesn’t automatically throw you into the deep end. There is a lot of reading in the game as the Dealer will usually talk out loud, but it will be different to the text you have been given for the card you have landed on. as you move from card to card, you must read each new card you land on and perform an action, visit the shop or engage in battle. The battle events usually have a ‘find the card’ moment where you will have ‘sucess’ and ‘failure’ cards shuffled upside down – if you find a failure one then the enemies are usually stronger or bigger in numbers, and weaker or smaller in numbers if you get ‘success’.
After you have passed the ‘tutorial’ levels, you are given the chance to build your own decks for the challenge you wish to take. this is a great mechanic and one which will really stand out for people who are fans of trading card games like Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone and Pokemon. You unlock new cards by simply playing them during gameplay – for example, if you go against the Priestess and along the way you landed on 5 cards you have never seen before, as long as you ‘win’ on the criteria (Beating up enemies, saving a certain amount of people, paying some gold etc..) then that card becomes yours once you kill the boss and you can use it in future decks. This allows you to be strategic and almost plan ahead – I say ‘almost’ because the dealer places them in random positions, face down – so you still don’t know where they will be as you play.
In terms of combat, once you engage an enemy the game changes to a 3rd person Batman Arkham-style brawler with the option to attack with your weapon, roll, counter-attack and as a new addition, use your colleague’s ability (if you have one). The fighting is weighty and satisfying and works perfectly. If you get beat up then it was your fault as you have the ability to counter, parry and dodge. Any health lost within these battles carry with you as you return to the board, so you want to lose as little as possible as it’s usually quite rare to find a merchant selling health for cheap – unless you have one spare and have already placed it in your deck before-hand.
The game has various rogue-like elements within it, so if you die whilst playing through a chosen path then you are sent back to the map to start again. You will also lose any cards you may have ‘won’ as you only get to keep these once you successfully get to the end and kill the ‘boss’ you were after. This adds a lot of replayability to the game and helps give you the determination to get stronger, change your deck around or try out new things until you find what works for you. Also, because the dealer will take your cards and place them in a random order, face-down, even if you restarted the same path with the same cards then your gameplay will still be different. Whereas you may have encountered a fight early on, a fight you couldn’t win due to your weapon and armour stash – on a second playthrough, you may encounter a chance card first and obtain a new weapon or suit of armour that now allows you to breeze through the same enemies when you eventually encounter them on your second pass. This is great as you literally never know what you’re going to get (a bit like a box of chocolates).
Some paths have added new challenging criteria this time around, such as save X amount of citizens before you reach the boss or you may start off with a handicap against you in regards to your health. These again offer more to the gameplay which I don’t recall the original game providing. It’s great to see a developer take their original game and build upon it with new mechanics and possibilities without just copying it and changing the story slightly. These new criteria can sometimes screw you over as well, making you retreat and think about your deck – technically you could just build a deck randomly, but that isn’t always the best option – not if you have been through it and failed, if you failed on a card you won previously just take it out of the next deck!
Another thing they have added, which was a nice addition, is the ability to have companions join you on your journey. Whereas in the first game you played the Lone Wolf who never journeyed with anyone and prefered to fight his own battles, the fact you can now bring along a secondary NPC to help you out both in and out of battles is great! In battle, you can call upon them to use their special move with the press of a button and outside of battle you can sometimes find mini-games and random encounters where you can use your companion to perform actions, although this can result in them being out of action for a few turns – so better hope you don’t get into a fight!
The graphics and sound design within this sequel are head and shoulders above the 2015 original. The music and ambient sounds are both eerie and intense and the graphical quality once you enter 3rd person is great, especially on the PS4 Pro. The Dealer has the perfect voice and really helps to create the impression he is this mysterious gypsy-like fortune teller with a hint of Death. The only thing I would have prefered is the dealer or someone to read out the cards as you land on them as some of them involve a lot of reading – it isn’t bad and not going to affect my score but it would have been nice to hear someone read them to you.
Hand of Fate 2 is a really good sequel to an amazing game. They have improved on every aspect and added new mechanics in the process. There is a perfect mix of both strategic planning and 3rd person brawling which will satisfy fans of either genre. The strategic among you will love the card planning, although you don’t have to plan the cards perfectly, if you think about it and set them accordingly then you could give yourself a massive advantage. Fans of brawlers will love the weightiness of the combat and the full control you have over everything during battle. If you haven’t checked out their original game then I recommend you do so, along with it’s DLC and this sequel as they will provide hours of enjoyment.
Hand of Fate 2£19.99
- Great variety in the cards with the ability to customise your deck
- Perfect sound production, both voice and music
- No two games are the same
- Combat feels like you are actually fighting!
- The rogue-like aspects could put people off
- Combat can become a bit 'samey' if you don't mix things up manually with companions and weapon choices