Hand of Fate is wonderfully unique, taking on the guise of a Rougelike mixed with a Fighting Fantasy novel, Batman Arkham series combat, and card collecting. It’s a wide casting of the net, picking up a collection of genres, and they meld together remarkably well, enhancing the sense of adventure and the enjoyment of the experience through great design that’s fascinating to play through.
In a cabin at the end of the world you find yourself facing off against a mysterious figure in a strange game of cards. The deck is built from equipment cards, loot cards, monster encounters, story events, character interactions and scenarios, and boss encounters. You have a set amount of hit points, a basic set of armour and weapons, some food you consume after every turn, and a gold kitty. The dealer casts a set of cards on the table that act as a randomly generated map made up of multiple events, and each turn you move your counter through the map and face the challenges that arise from each card you step on. It’s reminiscent of a game of D&D but with the cards dictating the flow more so than a dungeon master.
A card may reveal an Elven stranger who wants to aid you with increased health or wealth. Perhaps a stranger in a tavern wants to aid you with a new weapon for the small price of a conversation. Or any number of other unique scenarios may be revealed, offering you multiple choices as to how to proceed that can result in benefits or drawbacks. It very much feels and reads like a Fighting Fantasy novel.
Then there are scenarios that offer a more hands on encounter, such as a party of goblins that have stolen some of you gold and food. These events transport you into an arena where you must fight however many monsters the cards have dictated. These control very much like combat in the Batman Arkham titles, with a similar rhythm of attack and counter, and occasionally environmental objects can be used to aid you or used against you. Other scenarios transport you to a maze of traps for you to navigate, all the while affecting your persistent health for that particular hand in the game of cards.
As you complete the dealer’s challenges, more and more cards are unlocked, enhancing your deck with beneficial equipment and events, and filling the dealer’s deck with deadlier encounters, curses, scenarios and threats. You can even modify both yours and the dealer’s deck, choosing precisely what cards from your collection, and that of the dealers, that enter play each game. However, the dealer gets to seed his own deck with a selection of cards as well.
It all comes together so brilliantly. The dealer is essentially a dungeon master, using his cards to create the world and fill it with challenges. Meanwhile, you are tasked to play through these mini adventures, never 100% sure what you’re going to encounter and when. It’s Rougelike but unlike any other of its ilk out there. It’s card collecting and arena combat but again like nothing else out there.
It’s not entirely without fault, however. As exceptional as the voice acting and writing is, the dealer soon runs out of original material. Additionally there seems to be some audio problems with the dealer’s voice, sounding as if he’s topping out the mic occasionally. Loading times are also a bit on the long side, and you’re also witness to some judders in animation from time to time. Meanwhile, combat, though clearly very much inspired by the Batman titles, lacks the same smooth flow, so can feel inaccurate and delayed.
The aforementioned flaws, however, are really only nit-picks on an otherwise exceptionally good experience, however, some may find the repetition a little off putting: there are only so many cards and choices you can make before you’ve seen all that’s on offer. Largely though the repetition doesn’t matter, Hand of Fate’s innovative use of its mechanics and the terrific melding of its concepts is so different to play that anything else out there that it can easily transcend the flaws, and we can’t recommend this title enough.
Hand of Fate will be available on Xbox Live from 4pm PST / 12am GMT.
Thanks to Defiant Development for supplying TiX with a download code
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