Your Fate is Not Sealed
Hand of Fate 2 (Steam, $29.99 at the time of writing) is not an easy game to describe. A direct sequel to the first game by indie developer Defiant Development, which I had never heard of prior to being tasked to review, HoF2 is a blend of several things both old and new. It is part text adventure, part card game, part board game, part action-RPG, with a touch of Dungeons & Dragons mixed in. That’s about the most concise way I can say what it is! It is both a game of chance and a game of tactics blended together.
The game starts with you inside a carriage, sitting at a table across from the mysterious Dealer – clearly a mage of some sort – who invites you to play a game. A game that tells a story. As you start off, the Dealer places an array of cards on the table before you along with a pawn which you control and move over the cards. With each step you take, one of the cards is revealed and an encounter takes place. As you go, the Dealer will comment on the encounters, your situation, and your actions. In each encounter, text dialogue presents you with a situation which you must handle – a damsel that needs help, an arm wrestling competition, goblins making shady deals, and such. Depending on the decisions you make (and the chance cards you draw or dice you roll), you may find gear, food or item cards, or you may be sucked into a battle. The game is divided into a series of missions which each tell a story, and when completed, you will win various cards with which you build a deck to influence the next mission. Some cards have Tokens on them, which will grant you additional cards at the end if the encounter is revealed and completed successfully.
Ace (of Skulls) Up the Sleeve
The first thing I will say about the game is the graphics are quite beautiful. You really feel like you are sitting across the table playing a card game with a creepy old man. This game is very text heavy but the world you are in (and the one you are sucked in to) is very well crafted and sets the tone for the game flawlessly. Together with the audio, which is at times eerie and other times dramatic (and very well done I might add), the game immerses you in the experience very well. The attention to detail is, in a word, exquisite, especially for an indie studio. Your own appearance in battle encounters is also very well done, but while customization options are offered, they are kind of limited. For this game, however, I wouldn’t call it terribly important.
You might expect, given the name of the game and the deck of cards that are central to it, that there would be a heavy amount of chance involved, but that is only partially true. By building your deck carefully, you have great control over the difficulty of each mission and how rewarding it will be. There are various encounters with luck elements within them, such as picking blindly from a set of cards marked “success” or “failure”, rolling dice, or stopping a wheel of (mis)fortune, but if you don’t like these elements, you can build a deck without them. Bad luck may mean having to deal with fewer resources, fighting more enemies, or taking them on without help or less health, but if you make the right decisions and perform well in the (well crafted) battles, you can overcome the chance elements not working in your favor. In short, the game almost flawlessly balances the elements of skill and luck.
Speaking of skill, you’re going to need that with the game’s battle system, and what a work of art it is. The controls are straightforward and the mechanics are easy to understand yet tricky to master. While fighting, you will find yourself flowing almost gracefully around the battle area as you unleash a flurry of blows, dodge an attack and flow right into another attack against a different foe, all while watching your enemies carefully for incoming attacks to deflect or leap away from. Landing enough attacks in a row without getting hit will reward you with the use of your weapon’s special ability. New in this sequel are companions that will join you in battle, attacking enemies and supporting you. I had such a good time with the combat, I found myself deliberately choosing actions in each encounter so as to seek out the battles!
After giving the first game a try, I’ve come to the conclusion that Defiant has improved on the first game in every conceivable way. They clearly haven’t been content to leave it at that, releasing several patches to polish the game even further (If there were any bugs the patches needed to fix, I did not notice them). They have certainly caught my eye, and I will be looking out for what Defiant Development does next after this experience. This game was a delight to play, and if you’re looking for something decidedly new and unique to play, you will definitely want to give Hand of Fate 2 a try. You won’t be disappointed.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review copy provided by Defiant Development. Screenshots taken by reviewer.