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Hand of Fate 2 review

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

Hand of Fate review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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First Impressions Video: Hand of Fate

It’s time again for another First Impressions video, this time looking at the unique mixture of Rougelike, CCG, and action that Hand of Fate has to offer.

This extra long episode sees Video Editor, Greg Giddens, take on the first two boss encounters, whilst learning the ropes of what we believe to be a highly innovative, genre mashing success.

Xbox One is dealt a ‘Hand of Fate’

Launching February 17 for Xbox One, Hand of Fate mashes together an action RPG with a deck building card game – sounds intriguing doesn’t it!

The game comes from Australian based studio Defiant Development, starting life as a Kickstarter. Build your collection of cards and explore enemy laden dungeons in a game that takes its inspiration from tarot cards and tabletop fantasy board games – well, it’s certainly an interesting concept – take a look at the videos below and look out for our review soon on TiX.

http://youtu.be/LpcPJYxg27A