Hand of Fate 2 – Review

Title screen. Your hero will no doubt look completely different.

Hand of Fate 2 is a hard game.  It starts hard and then gets harder.  When it’s finished pummeling you into the dirt it’ll give you a few extra kicks for good measure and steal your lunch money.  For those of you who are up for the challenge, you can expect to enjoy lush visuals, fantastic voice acting, deck building, visceral combat and a deep, rich story.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Hand of Fate 2 has been developed and published by Brisbane based team Defiant Development, makers of the original Hand of Fate title that released in 2015.  It’s clear the team has been working hard on the game, just take a look at some of the screenshots and video content from last year when I met them at PAX Australia 2016.  It’s evident that the last 12 months have been spent on polishing the title and pushing the visual fidelity to the next level, tightening controls and just generally making sure the game is 110%.  It’s the sort of quality you’d expect from a larger developer like Blizzard, which really makes me proud to see a team of Australians producing such a high quality title.

For those of you who played (and possibly finished) the original Hand of Fate and defeated the dealer, know that some time has passed but our old foe has returned.  Events have transpired between the two games and to learn more about that you should turn your attention to the Hand of Fate: Ordeals board game made in conjunction with Rule & Make, another Brisbane based team.  You can see our coverage of that particular gem on our sister website ATGN right here.

In a mission against The Dealer. Players move their hero across the cards, revealing them as they go and having encounters.

For those of you who have never played the original, let me explain the premise of the game.  Your character will move across a game board that consists of locations and events randomly drawn from a deck of cards.  That deck can be tweaked both by yourself and The Dealer for better or worse.  Some of these events will include a fight, and the scene will change to a combat arena that will have you fighting bandits, knights, barbarians, undead monstrosities, goblins and a menagerie of other creatures.  Other events will require a game of chance; a roll of the dice or randomly picking a card.  Others still will require reflexes such as the metronome and wheel of fate.  Each of these locations and events will include their own story, often fitting in to the larger story of the mission or quest itself.

The overall game consists of many missions, each more difficult than the last.  Thankfully though, if you’re getting stuck or frustrated in one mission there are typically others available at the same time for you to tackle.  Or if you are really feeling the pinch you can go back and replay missions you’ve already completed in the hope of acquiring better cards for your deck so that you might better be able to complete more difficult quests.

Hand of Fate 2 looks fantastic and everything is richly detailed.  From the enemies that you will encounter all the way down to the wood grain on the table and rough texture of the cards.  The combat sequences and character designs give off a distinct ‘Fable’ look which I admire.  The artwork on the cards have that 80’s look that reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons or Fighting Fantasy novels and tickles me nostalgic.

Sound, music and voice acting are likewise all top notch.  The Dealer sounds particularly ominous and you’re never really quite sure what his intentions are.  At times I did feel that he prattled on a little too much, breaking my concentration as I tried to read what was happening at the current location while he waffled on about how pathetic I am.  Thankfully, if you’ve become a veteran of the game and heard everything your opponent has to say you can simply turn down the voice volume in the settings.  While combat noises are nothing new in most video games, it’s the sound of dice rolling and cards slipping against each other (or the deck riffling) that really adds to the games atmosphere.

A fight in progress. Top Left – Your Health. Top Right – Super Charge. Left – Companion Health.

Okay, let’s get stuck into some of the mechanics of the game as this is what can really make or break a title.  Let’s start with arguably the biggest one – combat.  I’ve played (and completed) a swathe of third person action games, such as the Assassin’s Creed titles, Fable, Darksiders, Middle-Earth and many more.  I’m pretty good at those games; timing is important and even as my reflexes decline as I age I can still keep up.  Combat in Hand of Fate 2 though can be pretty punishing; I got my ass handed to me on multiple occasions.  The window of opportunity to block or evade an incoming attack felt, at times, painfully short.  Admittedly, I was using a keyboard and mouse setup, so perhaps a controller might make things a little easier, however for those of you without top-notch reflexes you’re going to get pounded as the game difficulty ramps up.  Difficulty aside, combat works really well and I never felt I had to fight the controls or the camera, which is great.  I’d really like to see a difficulty slider added to the game to allow those without ninja reflexes to dial things back a bit.

To aid you in your fights you’ll have the help of companions and as you play the game you’ll unlock more of them.  Companions not only help you out in a fight, they often have a ‘tabletop’ buff of some sort as well, such as allowing you to re-roll a die for instance.  They also come with their own storyline that you can pursue, which if completed will unlock further reward.

The other major mechanic in Hand of Fate 2 is luck.  You’ll be doing an awful lot of praying to RNJesus. If you prefer skill and wit over luck then Hand of Fate 2 is not the game for you.  Unlike games like Diablo III where you can simply grind until you get what you need with the outcome of a mission dictated on your own ability, missions in Hand of Fate 2 can come to a complete stop through no fault of your own.  A couple of bad dice rolls and a nasty flip of the cards can end an entire run.  I wont lie, I’ve gotten frustrated with it more than once. I’m the sort of gamer to prefer chess to roulette.  Of course there are things you can do to help mitigate that random element to a small degree, but there are simply going to be games where you get hit with the unlucky club over and over again.

Rolling the dice.

If you can deal with the above two elements of reflex difficulty and luck then Hand of Fate 2 is the game for you.

Deck building also plays an important part and you will want to consider carefully what cards you bring to a mission.  Failing at mission isn’t the end of all things, and instead can be an opportunity to take the knowledge acquired from that play through and tweak your decks accordingly.  You might hit a mission that features many Rogues, so adding quicker weapons to your deck is a smart move.  You might encounter a mission that is particularly taxing on your food stores, so putting more food cards in your deck will be the way to go.

As you play the game and defeat challenges you’ll unlock more and more cards to add to your deck, some more powerful than others.  Other cards will feature a token that will require you to perform a special task (often particularly well) when the card is encountered in order to claim the token and win the prize.

One topic I haven’t been discussing in my game reviews lately but something I feel I really should is game stability.  Too often a new release game is riddled with bugs, sometimes simple cosmetic glitches, other times complete system crashes.  I’m pleased to say that I experienced no problems at all during my time with Hand of Fate 2.  As I’ve said more than once so far in this review, clearly time has been put in to polish this title.

Now words are all good and well but obviously seeing the mechanics in action as a game is being played can be far more beneficial.  So to that end I put together this quick video for you.

It’s hard for me to give Hand of Fate 2 a specific score, if only because the gamer in me isn’t a huge fan of the twitchy combat and random nature of the game, however the reviewer in me is wise enough to see what a polished game this is and in the right hands this game is going to be simply amazing.  There is definitely a target audience, the question is simply whether you are in that demographic?  Some people are absolutely going to love the RNG nature of this game and look forward to the challenge.

If you played and enjoyed the original Hand of Fate this is a no-brainer and a must buy.  For everyone else I hope this review has been of benefit to you.  Currently the game is reviewing very well on the Steam page and most agree that Hand of Fate 2 is an improvement on the original in every way.

Hand of Fate 2 is available now on Steam – http://store.steampowered.com/app/456670/Hand_of_Fate_2/

Review PC: Intel Core i7 6700K, Nvidia 1070GTX, 32GB DDR4, Black Widow Ultimate Keyboard, Razer DeathAdder Elite Mouse, Plantronics RIG 500 Headset.

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