The wonderfully unique Hand of Fate made quite the impression with its D&D-esque adventuring combined with a collectable card game and Batman Arkham series combat. The sequel has now arrived bringing with it enhancements to every aspect of the original, resulting in a marvellously compelling, genre-splicing title with enough content and challenge to keep you entertained for hours on end.
The mysterious, card dealing stranger from the first title returns to act as your, for lack of a better term, dungeon master. With his own deck of cards – covering a wide selection of events from monster encounters to narrative driven scenarios – as well as a mixture of cards you’ve selected from your own deck that gradually grows as you play, layers of cards are set on the table that act as a randomly generated map made up of multiple events. Each turn you move your counter through the map and face the challenges that arise from each card you step on. This builds the adventure with enough randomisation to challenge and surprise you as you take part in a grander narrative.
New to the sequel is the addition of companions. These companions offer benefits in both combat – granting buffs or even participating in the fight – and when navigating the challenges of your adventure, aiding in the gambits of dice throws, card wheels and pendulums. They also have their own self-contained stories to experience, adding a lot of depth, some well-written escapades to enjoy, and making the journey less lonely and isolated than in the original title.
The combat has been improved markedly, with a far smoother flow and animations resulting in an easier, fairer system. It still doesn’t capture the excellence of the Batman Arkham combat mechanics but it’s certainly closer to it than before. It’s also more nuanced, with a greater selection of opponents requiring different strategies to fell, and your equipment and the special abilities they grant playing a bigger role. Moreover, there’s more variety this time around, with elements such as primary targets on the battlefield and groups of allies supporting you.
Indeed, with Hand of Fate 2’s smoother combat, new and interesting cards populating yours and the dealer’s decks, as well as a larger, more involved set of stories making up the lengthy campaign, many of the nit-picks of the original have been quelled. Certainly, after a few hours you’ll find the dealer’s quips repeat a little bit, alongside the events on the cards, but each new location adds enough variety of new events to the decks that there’s always something intriguing to discover.
Once again the random nature of Hand of Fate 2 can lead to some unfair deaths, but largely the health, provisions, equipment, companions, and of course the events dictated by the cards, are balanced well enough to provide a challenge but with enough opportunities to stave off death. Its innovative use of mechanics and concepts results in a fantasy adventure that’s fresh yet oddly nostalgic, tapping into the allure of D&D and Fighting Fantasy. It comes highly recommended.
Thanks to Xbox and Defiant Development for supporting TiX
Fable Fortune is a Collectible Card Game (CCG) borne from tragic circumstances. Development for the game began at Lionhead Studios alongside Fable Legends. When Legends was cancelled and Lionhead Studios closed down, Microsoft granted the Fable license to Flaming Fowl Studios, an independent developer that rose from the ashes of Lionhead, so that the game could continue development.
Flaming Fowl turned to a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in May 2016, aiming to raise £250,000 towards the game’s development costs. But the campaign failed its target and was cancelled in June 2016. Flaming Fowl CEO Craig Oman cited difficulties in crowdfunding a free-to-play title, and the unfamiliar genre for the Fable universe as reasons for the failure. The game did however attract private funding, allowing its development to continue.
Fable Fortunes is now available on the Xbox Game Preview program for the low price of £9.99, which some may see as a risky strategy with the majority of its competitive set being free to play. However, I will say straight away that the game is great value for money at that price, especially as its also part of Xbox Play Anywhere, meaning its also playable on Windows 10.
The immediate hurdle that Fable Fortune has to overcome is its competitive set. Hearthstone is probably the most famous of these, and is well established and loved. Blizzard has a great track record for producing games that are designed superbly, and they will look after their established player base for years to come. So, Fable Fortune may have a difficult job to get their foot in the door, however launching on the console where the franchise made its name is a very good way to start.
So, lets move onto the “teaching my granny how to suck eggs” part of the review, which is how to play the game in one or two paragraphs! Or, you could watch the video below, which will more easily demonstrate.
The aim of Fable Fortune is to destroy your opponent with the use of cards. Both players start with 30 health and by placing units and spells and using special powers, the players aim to reduce that health to zero. Each card has 3 main stats, Gold, Strength and Health. Gold is the cost of playing that card, strength is how much damage the card does and health is how much damage the card can take. Cards can either take the form of characters (Units) that are placed on the board, or as spells that can be used to cause damage or to boost stats. Cards can also have another special power, for example the Commanding Officer gives +1 Strength and +1 Health to every card already on your team on the board. Cards can also be placed into Guard for the cost of 1 Gold, so they have to be attacked first, and your character also has a special power that costs 2 Gold.
And I am not going to go into any more basic detail than that. The reason being is that the official Fable Fortune website does a much better job of explaining how to play than I can, and with the lack of a tutorial mode in the game currently, its a great place to learn if you are not familiar on how to play these types of games. I am not a follower or huge fan of CCG’s so a tutorial would have helped me in my first few games where I made lots of mistakes.
So, what else does the game have to offer over and above other CCGs. Well, there are six Heroes to choose from in Fable Fortune. Each Hero has their own unique brand of card skills. Marshall the Knight aims to flood the board with low level peasants and then use buffing spells to turn them into a powerful force. Miracle the Alchemist manipulates the Unit card stats with vials and potions, to buff and swap stats. Crimson the Shapeshifter is all about dealing direct damage and strengthening her Units as she does. Barter the Merchant uses Gold as his power, hoarding it to play higher unit cards earlier or investing into Units to make them more powerful. Temple the Gravedigger uses the power of the undead, reaping the benefits of their destruction to become more powerful. And finally, Sand the Prophet is all about increasing health and healing units to keep them alive.
Each of these heroes has their own special powers and unique cards, meaning there is a real strategic difference to each of them, and how they fight against others. Unit and spell cards are also available that are neutral to all classes. And yes, of course, there are card packs to earn or buy, giving you new cards to add to your decks. Crafting is also a feature in Fable Fortune, allowing you to create your own decks and cards. This is a game feature I have not delved into too much, as I feel it comes more into play once the game is mastered.
Once you are ready to play you (currently) have 3 options. PVP, Co-Op and Training. The latter option is the best place to start, and the developers actively encourage this, as it is a great place to learn the different Hero skills and powers. However the basic CCG gameplay is not all Fable Fortune has to offer. When you get into a game the first thing you are required to do is pick a quest to complete in order to get a reward of a spell card. These include such tasks as “Spend 18 gold” or “Play 3 spells which cost more than 1 gold”. As you complete each quest the game allows you to pick another, so you can build up the strength and depth of your deck quickly.
At certain points in the game you also have to choose your morality, and it is a straight choice between good and evil, which is a very definite nod to the previous Fable games. Depending on which one you pick affects your aforementioned special power, which changes to match the choice you made.
Winning or losing a game will earn rewards, such as silver, new cards and will level up your character. Opening card packs will increase your roster of cards, which makes you potentially more powerful, etc, etc, etc. Once I had played a decent amount of the training I jumped into PVP, which is currently set up in seasons, winning earns you medals that increase your ranking and earns rewards.
So, as a gamer who doesn’t play an awful lot of CCG’s just why did I get to review Fable Fortune. Well, to put it simply I love the Fable universe. I adored the first two games in the series, although I missed out on Fable 3 when I took a few years sabbatical from gaming. Although Fable Fortune is quite clearly set in the world of Albion, with the likes of Hobbes and Balverines, it does feel slightly forced. Take out those references and it could be a new franchise. Humour played a great role in the Fable universe and again, it is present but only in the character soundbites, which don’t quite hit the standard I expected. However, with the original games featuring the vocal talents of the likes of Stephen Fry and John Cleese, it does have a tough act to follow.
But lets not lose sight of the fact that Fable Fortune is in Game Preview, and over on the official website the development team have created a roadmap of further development until the full, final release, which promises two more heroes, a tutorial mode, Daily Bounties and a PVE mode. It feels unfair to criticise too much at this stage, at its heart there is a very good CCG. And although it slightly misses the mark on how “Fable-y” it is, it has a charm to it and it is great value for money.
Fable Fortune’s greatest feat is that it made me want to go and re-play a Fable game, and it also keeps the franchise active. Surely if Microsoft wanted Fable to quietly fade away after the cancellation of Legends, it wouldn’t have thrown it a lifeline with Fable Fortune. Thats my optimistic view anyway…
Many thanks to Mediatonic and Flaming Fowl Studios for supporting This Is Xbox!
A new video takes you behind the scenes of the recent announcement trailer for GWENT: The Witcher Card Game, showcasing the community-powered creative process.
In GWENT, you clash with your friends in fast paced duels that combine bluffing, on-the-fly decision making and careful deck construction.
Play your cards right and manage a three-row battle formation as you unleash your hand over a best-of-three series of rounds. With heroes, spells and special abilities that dramatically turn the tide of battle, deception and clever tricks will be necessary parts of your arsenal.
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