I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Hand Of Fate when it came out a couple of years ago. And I have been keeping up with Defiant Development ever since, following them on Twitter, stalking them on Facebook, collecting all the tidbits they threw out for the sequel, conveniently named Hand Of Fate 2. So its safe to say, I was pretty excited when the game actually hit the Stores earlier this year. But did the sequel stand up to the legacy of its predecessor, or did it fall under the weight of its own cards. Let’s find out.
Hand of Fate 2 is an action role-playing video game developed and published by Defiant Development. The game was released in November 2017 on Steam, PS4 and the Xbox One.
Hand Of Fate 2
Gameplay & Mechanics
The original Hand of Fate succeeded largely on the strength of its concepts. It combined the rules of a table top Dungeon And Dragons playthrough with a deck-building card game , along with ever-present Dealer the Dungeon Master was actively trying to stop you to create something unique. It was a great idea, but had some major issues. It was a good game and most people yourself included, believed that the sequel would build upon the groundwork. I am happy to report that it indeed did.
The core concept of the game remains the same: you select a campaign, which is basically a series of encounter cards placed face down. As you move through these encounters, you either depend on games of skill (combat, text based answers) or games of luck (rolling dices, picking cards etc.) and reach the end of the campaign. Each step you consume food, running out of which starts depleting your health. Run out of health and the quest ends, though it may not be the only way to fail it. As you successfully clean encounter cards, more cards are unlocked which increase the sample size of future encounters. But Hand Of Fate 2 is a better game than its prequel in every possible way. There are subtle differences which a returning patron would appreciate immediately, while for a new visitor it would feel natural and obvious.
The biggest difference seen is in the preparation for the quest. Now before you start any one of the 22 quests you get a clue as to what kind of campaign to expect. Is it going to be a long trek, so you can stock up on food. Is it going to have lots of traders, so you can equip items which help you with gold. Or whether the campaign would mostly have thieves, where dual wielding knives are better than slow moving two handed axes. There are also tips alongside each card, which help you decide whether you should use one during your adventure. Another choice that you make depending upon the hints given before beginning the quest, is to pick a companion card with each one bringing its own perks during combat and during one of the 3 types of luck based games that you come across in quests.
I would have preferred if the game did not put so much emphasis on luck based games, but in their defense only the dice roll is purely luck based, while the rest just involve some mad memory skills on the part of the player. While luck does play a huge role in the game (Sometimes too much), your skill in combat is also important and required in Hand Of Fate 2. The game employs a simple one button counter Arkham like combat which moves smoothly and is responsive enough for encounters that rarely last longer than 2 minutes. Prowess in combat is rewarded with better equipment and in some cases precious resources with which the game is still pretty stingy with. So keeping your health up during such encounters is extremely important because you never know when you could run out of food or be burdened with a curse.
Story & Narrative
Another major change is in the structure of the campaigns. While in the first game, almost every campaign ended with a boss-fight, this is not the case in Hand of Fate 2. While there are standard boss fight quests, there are also others where the end game does not involve any combat at all. For example one of the quests called the Hermit, have you meandering through a forest competing with the imperial army searching for a legendary monk, each encounter costs you some days, and the campaign literally becomes a fight against time. While in another quest, you are partnered with a companion who has attracted the affection of an undead wizard, and you need to escort him to his village safely, putting a new spin on the escort mission as he devours your precious food every step of the way.
Most quests also offer sub objectives this time, like collecting enough fame before meeting with the barbarian princess, so that you are already too popular to prove yourself in her court. All of these small encapsulated narratives, explained as your experiences during your past life give a much more personalized and refreshing feel to the randomly generated dungeons, and pushes your curiosity enough to explore through the 22 quests which unlocks as you progress further.
Among all these changes however, there is something which has stayed the same. Its the dealer. They could have added hundreds of improvements to the game but it probably wouldn’t work as well if the Dealer didn’t feel so real. The dealer hasn’t changed a bit in the 100 years between the 2 games, he laughs at you when you fail, he mocks you for playing favorites when you repeatedly pick specific cards for your load-outs, emptily sympathizes you when you run into bad luck and matter of factually congratulates you when you do something good. But most of the time, the dealer is a slightly sadistic Dungeon Master, in a one on one game of tabletop Dungeons And Dragons.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
Hand Of Fate 2 like its prequels has opted for a hand drawn art style, which has resulted in some beautiful looking cards. On the other hand, the 3-D model renders of the players themselves along with the enemies and NPCs do not do their original concept art justice. There is much more depth in character creation this time, letting you pick your attire, hairstyle, your skin tone and even your gender. But the Dealer and the cards still remain the most beautiful things to look at in the game. Especially the platinum and the hellfire cards which offer a silver and orange tinge respectively and look amazing.
With not a lot happening on the screen, you would expect the game to run smoothly, but that is not the case, especially when it transitions from the card table to the combat encounter. The loading stutters quite a bit and the starting few seconds of each battle are quite laggy. There were clear frame drops during combat and a few crashes along the way.
When it comes to sound, the game does a decent job. Decent because it has an average background score elevated by the excellent voice acting of the dealer. I should probably find out who he is and ask him to record lines and then replace Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant with him. That’s how good this guy is.
Its the closest thing to Dungeons And Dragons, even better than the Dungeons and Dragons video game. Hand Of Fate 2 fulfills the potential of the first game in almost every aspect. If you liked the first game, you would surely enjoy Hand Of Fate 2. If you are a new comer, Hand Of Fate 2 is a perfect place to jump in.