Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4
In terms of novel ideas, Hand of Fate 2 ranks pretty highly. The original game was a dungeon crawling RPG played out as a tabletop card game. Players would work their way through a board, revealing cards as they go. Each card represented a new encounter, a chance for loot, or something else entirely.
The objective of the player was to work your way through a deck composed of cards you picked yourself and cards placed in the deck by the enigmatic Dealer, beat the boss and win the challenge. Rinse and repeat about a dozen times until the credits roll. So what does Hand of Fate 2 do differently to its predecessor? Not a lot, honestly. Instead, the sequel chooses to improve upon some of the key aspects of the game to make the overall experience much more enjoyable.
For starters, challenges are no longer just about reaching the boss fight at the end. Though the climactic fights still remain, the objectives you encounter along the way vary. One challenge sees you earning enough fame to wield a mighty hammer and gain entrance to a bandit camp, whilst another tasks you with hunting down a would-be assassin in a thieves guild.
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The differences in objectives between each challenge help keep the game fresh, making Hand of Fate 2 more appealing than the first game, but it does have the possibility of creating immersion breaking situations depending on the cards you encounter.
One early challenge sees you scaling a mountain to have an audience with a tribe leader, and the game constantly reminds you of the treacherous conditions your character must endure. Probably not the type of environment you’d expect to find a friendly innkeeper, but depending on what cards are in your deck, that’s a possibility here. It’s a small issue, sure, but one that feels bigger given the strides that Defiant Development have made in improving each challenge’s individual storytelling.
Players are often given the freedom to choose from multiple challenges at a time, so if you’re having difficulty scaling that damn mountain, you can try your luck with another challenge, then come back with an upgraded deck or new companions. You upgrade those cards by encountering them during the game and completing the desired outcome.
For instance, the friendly innkeeper can only be unlocked once you’ve dealt with some drunken empire soldiers causing trouble in the inn. Once completed, the card evolves into the friendly innkeeper, which becomes a haven for you during each challenge. The key to building a successful deck comes from blending a mix of risk/reward encounters and cards that give resources or items without any risk of danger.
But that isn’t the only change. You are now joined on your quest by one of four companions who will aid you in battle, offer buffs for the many new games of chance that the dealer throws your way, and they have their own questlines that almost act like an adventure within the adventure.
While regular cards usually come in the form of one encounter and one decision to make, these special quest cards are constantly evolving based on the choices you make and the success of your games of chance. Sneaking into a fort to take out two sets of armed guards can quickly and unfortunately turn into a brawl against an entire barracks. Or you could get lucky and stealthily dispatch of your foes. They’re easily some of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of the game as a whole.
Those aforementioned games of skill and chance help give each campaign a sense of unpredictability. A trip through the woods could lead to sweet loot or precious resources, or you could trip over a branch and take some damage. Like a putz. Though the unpredictable nature makes sure that cards you’ve seen before can lead to new outcomes, it can be hard not to feel cheated when your fate lies on the roll of the dice.
Combat however, is not dictated by chance. When it does kick in, the action is best described as “Arkham-lite”. Square is used to attack whilst triangle controls parrying when an enemy flashes green. X is used to evade and circle is used to break an opponent’s guard. It’s exactly the same template that Arkham popularised, but without the flair or style that the freeflow combat of the Batman games possessed.
Despite making some improvements in the combat, like certain enemy types being weak to certain weapon classes, this is largely the same combat from the first game, which is annoying when you consider the advancements made in other aspects of Hand of Fate 2. This isn’t to say that the combat is bad necessarily, just unoriginal. It serves the function required, but doesn’t do enough to leave a memorable impression, especially compared to the much more interesting card system.
Still, the combat doesn’t do anything to really detract from the overall quality of the game, and there is satisfaction to be had from taking down multiple enemies in one fight. At the very least, the range of enemies you encounter on your quest require you to use different strategies in the fight. Taking on thieves requires light weaponry, so if you’re swinging around a big hammer, you’ll be hitting air more often than not. Meanwhile, the Empire soldiers are armoured, negating 3 damage on all attacks. Those guys require more brute force.
All in all, Hand of Fate 2 offers an improved version of what was already an interesting take on the fantasy genre. If you missed out on the first game, give this one a go. Chances are you might like it.
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