Hand of Fate is back, and it’s prettier, bigger and better than its predecessor in pretty much every single way.
Genre: Action, RPG, Card Game
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Release Date: 7 Nov, 2017
Much like the first game, Hand of Fate 2 remains faithful to its concept by mixing elements reminiscent of collectible card games, dungeon crawlers, and aspects that resemble a choose your own adventure book. To go along with it, the game puts you alongside the card dealer from the first game, where you’ll be playing through a series of decks of cards where you get to relive your memories for the first time.
Personally, I was never a big fan of card games, but with Hand of Fate the story is different. The cards and decks that you acquire do not enter the game whenever you want to play them. Instead, they’re an intrinsic part of the game’s inner workings, plot, and storytelling. Theoretically speaking, each card represents a memory of yours that you experienced prior to this encounter with the dealer but, in practical terms, each card translates to some sort of combat encounter, a choose your own adventure event, or some situation where you’ll have to try and make the best out of it, either by playing some mini-game or by gambling your way out of it.
The game features 22 challenges, and as you complete these you’ll unlock new cards that you can then use on your deck when playing future challenges or replaying old ones. Each challenge presents you with a different plot and objectives, and while you are able to get away by not completing all objectives in the proper manner, that will reduce your rewards. Before you delve into each one of these you get to customize your own deck of cards from all the cards that you’ve unlocked so far, so this presents a good opportunity for replay, as I will explain. Now, once a challenge starts, a series of random cards from your deck are placed on the table facing downwards, and you’ll go through them unveiling what they are until you eventually complete your objective.
While each challenge has its own set of main objectives, some of the cards placed on the table also have the potential to grant you new cards if you complete a card-specific challenge. These usually involve surviving a certain encounter, like rescuing a family from a fire or executing a specific combat move a certain number of times. Besides that, you can expect some situations to be resolved based on rolling dice, which is not entirely random as one might initially think.
The game does give the player some freedom by letting them choose if they want to press on or quickly wrap things up. For instance, for the vast majority of the time you don’t even have to unveil all the cards that are in the table in order to complete your objective, but doing so might yield some extra rewards, or you might also meet your demise. However, more important is the fact that each one of these challenges comes along with some sort of gimmick, which really makes them feel unique and separate from each other. For example, there’s one where you must muster several Empire guards in order to prepare the defense of a town against undead hordes. There’s another one where you must help a member of the Thieves guild to find which of his minions is going to assassinate him by gathering clues, bribing, and then accusing who you think is the culprit. Then there’s another one where you must protect a potato farmer from the undead that are being sent by his deceased wife, whose goal is to kill him so that they can be reunited.
The thing is, while Hand of Fate 2 improves over its predecessor in every aspect, the most important one is most likely its variety. The first game was fun and engaging at first, but I found that if I played it for long periods of time it would get boring rather quickly, mostly because you’d start to see the same cards over and over. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in the sequel. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to come across repeated cards, but not as much as in the first game, and that only shows that the game succeeded in increasing its variety.
Another thing that players would often complain about when referring to the first game was the combat, and while it still retains the same format, it now feels much better and responsive. This doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. It’s still a long way from something like the combat present in the Batman Arkham games, from where it clearly draws inspiration, but, overall, it’s now a much more improved and enjoyable version. From different weapon types that handle different enemies better than others, to deflecting blows, bashing enemies, riposting and using finishers, everything about the combat feels a lot more smooth. This time around, the inclusion of companions also adds some extra flavor to fights, thanks to their own special abilities, and they even come with their own set of quest cards.
The dealer’s voice acting in the first game was certainly a surprise, especially coming from a small indie studio, and the same could be said here as well. The dealer’s narration is pretty much present throughout your entire journey, while you’re going through the cards on the table, but this time it felt like he was in the background for a lot of time while he was still talking. Notwithstanding, the soundtrack features a surprising mixture of instruments and vocals and, for the most part, the score felt like it was perfect for the game’s ambiance.
Overall, the game now looks fancier and sharper, thanks to the use of vivid colors and contrasting tones in the character models and the backgrounds. With all these things combined, Hand of Fate 2 keeps things rolling and manages to provide interesting encounters even if you’ve experienced them previously. Sure, you can complete each challenge with a specific deck, but that also means that if you play with a different deck the experience will be slightly different. Also, given the fact that the game mixes a decent but yet compelling combat system with extremely intriguing storytelling, the thing as a whole manages to stay fresh throughout its entire duration, mostly because you don’t spend that much time doing the same thing. There is still room for improvement, but this feels exactly like the worthwhile sequel that I’d expect Hand of Fate 2 to be. An easy and safe SAVE for me.