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