Hand of Fate 2 Review – A Winning Hand
Defiant Development is at it once again as they attempt to push the boundaries of a multitude of genres with their sequel to Hand of Fate. Hand of Fate 2 is a cocktail, a menagerie, a mix and match of mechanics and features from multiple genres thrown into a cauldron and whipped up into something new entirely – but diversity is not always a good thing. Does Hand of Fate 2 improve on the ground-breaking advancements made with the original, or did the team spread these mechanics a little too thin?
Hand of Fate 2 Review
My biggest challenge when playing through Hand of Fate 2 wasn’t the increasingly difficult campaign missions. It wasn’t building the perfect deck for the challenges that lay ahead. It wasn’t even the vital choice of which companion to bring to fight by my side. It was a simple question: how the hell do I define this genre when writing the review? As an entire project the game features RPG styled gear and progression, text-based RPG story missions and side content, action-based combat akin to the Batman Arkham franchise, deck building from today’s top Trading Card Games, and the resource management from popular sim style games.
You won’t find many developers that have the testicular fortitude to attempt such a brazen task, and those that have often fall to the mantra, “a jack of all trades, a master of none.” Even the most experienced AAA developer studios would struggle to pull this off, but independent Defiant Development truly live up to their name as they defy all logic and reasoning, combining a plethora of genres into a thrilling, rewarding and ultimately, genre defining game.
Hand of Fate 2 builds on the foundations of the original in almost every way, while still encompassing the core gameplay mechanics and style that made the original so appealing. Players go on a journey through multiple chapters, each with their own objectives, characters, and story to explore. It’s nothing Shakespearean in regards to the storytelling, but they are immersive, small nibbles of story that tick all the right boxes. One campaign you’ll find yourself hunting down a long lost foe, while another you’re searching for clues to identify an assassin before they kill the head of the Thieves Guild.
Outside of each individual chapter story, you’ll also find yourself often discussing your future and destiny with the man that holds all the cards, The Dealer. It’s clear from the offset that he has his own agenda and nefarious desires to thrust in your adventurers path, but the majority of these are not known to you until later in the game. A number of special cards also come with a certain depth to them, offering additional rewards for obtaining the cards’ Token. This is easily one of my favorite aspects of the game, as it tailors the story uniquely to you, and how you decide to progress.
These special objectives come at you from every angle imaginable. Early in my adventure, I looted a mace from the corpse of an enemy captain, a mace with a special Token attached that rewarded me with a special card upon completion. As my adventurer continued and I learned new ways of exploiting this mace and it’s Token objective, I obtained a more powerful version of the weapon with yet another Token. Another I received after catching a thieving scoundrel stealing from my coin purse, a random event that triggered several additional events later in my campaign.
Some of these objectives span multiple campaigns, providing you with your own objectives and goals that are uniquely tailored to what you’ve decided to be worth your investment of time. I took a feeling of empowerment from each, convincing myself that the all-seeing eye of The Dealer was unable to track my progress or prepare to counter my discoveries on these special excursions.
While Hand of Fate rewrote what a genre-defining game was all about, it fell short in many aspects. One of which was the combat, which very quickly became repetitive, mundane and lacked any real challenge. Hand of Fate 2 enjoys the same skill-based, real-time combat with simple attack, dodge, and parry abilities, but vastly improves on the versatility of the system with more weapons, different weapon styles, fatality moves, and special items.
This doesn’t remove the repetitive nature entirely, as the foundations still remain very simple. Some attacks must be dodged, while others can be parried. Each attack variety required is shown by the color of an icon over the attacking enemies’ head. Once you have these elements mastered you are typically able to dispatch the average foe without breaking a sweat. As you progress, more difficult enemies appear with AoE attacks and long-range abilities but the defensive maneuvers remain the same. Whereas the original felt repetitive and lacking challenge after just a couple of hours, Hand of Fate 2’s diverse range of weapons and possible attacking combinations meant I was thrilled throughout each and every battle until just a few chapters short of the end.
The developers have done a fantastic job with the pacing of the combat. Just as I felt I was unstoppable, I was introduced to a new enemy or a challenging battle objective that required more than brute strength and brawn. While far from a perfect real-time combat system, it’s a vast improvement on the original game and delivers a progressively rewarding combat system that just gets bigger and badder as you move on.
While the aforementioned elements would usually be enough for any modern indie game, Defiant Development’s seemingly insatiable appetite to allow opposites to attract comes to the front line with the games surprisingly, tactically deep, deck construction. In your typical CCG or TCG title you build your deck around positive bonuses to your forces, and negative aspects towards enemy forces. Hand of Fate 2 sets the idea of familiarity and common sense completely ablaze and instead gives you a rope to hang yourself with.
When building a deck prior to a campaign you get to choose different cards to bring with you. Companions, Encounters, Equipment and Supplies. There’s a huge variety of each and very few restrictions in place. Companion cards allow you to bring a companion into battle, but these can also offer additional effects on the luck-based elements of progression. More on that in a moment. Encounter cards are the adventurers bread and butter. These can be everything from finding a lost temple and receiving some Fame for discovering what’s inside, to an ambush on a bridge that rewards you with much needed food for your victory. Others can be entirely luck based but offer you a fantastic weapon should you succeed, and a harsh penalty should you fail.
Logic would suggest just bringing the sure thing, the easy win, but it’s not that simple. Some campaigns involve a lot of exploration, requiring large amounts of food to sustain your party. Others require you to influence great politicians in the area, needing a high level of fame and a blessing from the gods to win their favor. A quick glance is deceiving, giving the impression of a basic and stagnant deck management system but take a moment to look again and you will see a surprisingly robust, detailed and very much challenging element to the game.
Even building the right deck for the job doesn’t guarantee victory. Several games of chance and skill come into play. The roll of a dice, the stopping of a pendulum, the choosing of a card, regardless of your skill or desire, the only thing certain about your fate is that nothing is certain.
Furthermore you can bring Equipment cards into the fray, items and weapons you’ve unlocked previously that can be purchased from stores or stolen on your travels. And finally Supplies – which can consist of additional supplies of valuable resources or even a much more powerful starting weapon – the choice is yours.
Technically the game runs really well. I was playing on a normal PlayStation 4 and didn’t suffer any noticeable frame drops. I had a single crash, although I think that was more the PlayStation 4 showing its age than the game and a small audio problem with The Dealer – almost peaking at times with a strange crackling noise.
Hand of Fate 2 builds on the success of the original release in every way imaginable. More cards, more encounters, more enemy types, more weapons, more special abilities, more challenge…it’s an improvement across the board. All of these improvements are done without sacrificing the core elements or integrity of the series. If this genre-blending beauty has even peaked your interest in the slightest, pick this one up.