Fate’s in the Cards in Hand of Fate 2
Combining CCG dungeon crawler gameplay with arena fighting elements might sound crazy, and it should. Two contrasting playstyles coupled together in a singular experience can be dangerous, especially if a developer fails in its execution. Yet sometimes a game comes along and makes the crazy more than crazy. They make it fun! Really, as gamers, what more can we ask for?
If you haven’t heard of the Hand of Fate series yet, you’re in for a treat.
I myself missed out on playing the first Hand of Fate. Not for any preferential reasons, it simply slipped past me due to life being, well, life. I was ecstatic to take on the review process for Hand of Fate 2 however, because it was supposed to be a better version of its predecessor. I have no context myself to inform you as to whether or not that’s the case, but I can reliably say that this game was definitely fun to play.
I can’t tell you how many hours I put into Hand of Fate 2. I got lost pretty quickly in the story, although there’s not as much of that as you might think given it’s dungeon crawling nature. It’s delivered in isolated segments that aren’t required to work off of each other to form a cohesive experience. I think this is why I got lost though. Everything is delivered fresh, so there’s ultimately no chance of you getting bored with what’s happening. This, however, has its hangups too, which I will discuss to some degree down the line.
Never The Same Twice
Welcome to the game, where here it is a matter of life and death. It’s uncertain in the beginning whether this game is reliving your life, or if you’re in fact living through the game. Nevertheless, here you are, and the stakes are high.
Your first mission has you playing as an unnamed character who starts by simply looking for a stolen family heirloom. Upon finding it (and making uneasy friends with the thief) things get weird. You’re permitted to select your appearance through a small assortment of looks as well as a non descript familial lineage, colors, and emblem. From there, who you are really doesn’t matter.
Finishing the first quest, assigned to you by the thief now turned ally, opens up the rest of the gaming experience and sets you on the road to completion. From here you can choose any newly opened quests available to you, but be careful. You might not be fully equipped for such endeavors yet.
Because this game strongly hails as a CCG, each completed quest unlocks new cards for your character that will change up the course of the game. These cards will generally consist of companions, dungeon experiences and encounters, equipment, and items. Getting them at the end of a chapter doesn’t guarantee they’ll be in your hand all the time however. At the start of each new adventure you’ll “redraw” cards, always starting with some form of you base equipment.
These story segments, or chapters (they don’t have any official category in this game so I’m not sure what to call them) open with cards both from your deck and the dealer’s. You can choose what goes in at the start of each segment or have the game do it for you. It’s up to you.
Then Things Get Tricksy
It’s not always that simple though. Hand of Fate 2 desires nothing more than to keep you on your toes. The occasional dice roll will be thrown into various scenarios to ensure meeting a victory condition (not unlike D&D). Other puzzles will consist of something I’m loathe to call a quick time event, but am not certain what else it could be. Then there are secondary requirements that can be met in other missions, usually offered up by exploring the card-based dungeon as you go. This will be things like “find all the townspeople” or “achieve 20 fame”, and so on.
Be careful though, because each move eats food, and if you run out mid journey you’ll be taking a very painful ten point hit to your health until death eventually claims you. Furthermore, the game’s rogue like attributes means that death starts your story segment all over again, so manage your inventory – and your movements – wisely!
Gold can be used to purchase food, equipment, to bribe officials or buy information. Sometimes this takes place through in game events, or it can happen when you break for camp – something that can be opted for at almost any time in the game. It can also be earned through these same means most of the time, though bonuses and luck within the game’s mechanics can often grant you more or, just as often, nothing at all.
Fame is another attribute that seems to mostly be secondary in nature. Fame can unlock more advanced weapons or exploration opportunities, but obtaining it is a laborious prospect. It’s usually gained through fights, but also through impressive acts of heroism if you’re so lucky to land a few of those during your game.
In the end though, gold and food are your most important assets. They’ll guarantee you continue your journey, so make sure you’re up for a lot of inventory management.
The arena fighting was probably the most satisfying aspect of Hand of Fate 2, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a violent person. The experience works akin to that of the Batman games from Rocksteady, so if you’ve played those you’re already in a good position to succeed here. The only downside is that the game sometimes fails to tell you how to defeat certain enemies as they can’t be killed by conventional means.
Mostly you’ll be up against various sets of enemies that can be bashed to pieces fairly easily. The HUD will display when someone is about to attack you, giving you a quick time event option to counter, or allowing you just enough time to dodge out of the way completely. It may take a few times to get the timing of your movements just right, but eventually this will be a piece of cake.
Some enemies are better taken down by one weapon over another. This will come into play the deeper you progress in the game, as you’ll open up new weapon and enemy types alike the more you play. For the most part things will operate in about the same manner. You have a standard attack, a disarm, a dodge, and then a charged ultimate attack. Companions will also have abilities that you can use in battle, just make sure you stay nearby to facilitate them.
Items that can be used in battle are unlocked eventually as well. However, much like aforementioned specialty mechanics for defeating enemies, the game sometimes fails to tell you how to use these as well. Fortunately no items that I’ve come across couldn’t be figured out without ample button mashing. Perhaps not the most professional tactic, but when you’re in a fight with less than ten hit points left you’re going to try anything to make it.
Actions Are The Seed of Fate
While I was at times frustrated at how intense the complexity curve in this game could get, I essentially enjoyed the time I spent playing Hand of Fate 2. The game has balance and variety, though I might argue the variety ought to be spread out a little more. It’s sometimes hard to get a grasp on the game because so much changes from one chapter to another, and at times even within the same chapter.
Furthermore, it doesn’t appear as though you need to have played the first Hand of Fate to enjoy this one. Therefore you shouldn’t feel obligated to run out and buy it unless you really like this one. Since I did, the first game is going to stay on my “to buy” list as I would like to see how the mechanics evolved between the two.
If you’re into dungeon crawlers, fantasy experiences, or just feel like you’re in the mood for something different, Hand of Fate 2 is definitely worthy of your consideration. It plays very nicely on the PlayStation 4 with only a few frame rate hiccups to speak of. Defiant Development has a real gem on their hands here, and I can’t wait to see where they take this series next!
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed); Publisher: Defiant Development; Developer: Defiant Development; Players: 1 ; Released: Nov 7, 2017; ESRB: T; MSRP: $29.99
This copy of Hand of Fate 2 was given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.