Player One Reviews: Hand of Fate 2
The game begins, the cards are shuffled and dealt and the Dealer motions for you to begin. Next thing you know you’ve lost an event with a 3:1 success rate, entered a battle on 20 health and died horribly. But it was worth it, and here’s why.
Hand of Fate 2 is an adventure through a fantasy game world created by a mysterious figure who holds your life and death in his hands. You take the role of a character who has been drafted by the Dealer to help him beat the game of his own design and win back power stolen from him. Not being familiar with the first game does not impact play when undertaking the sequel, although the Dealer does make enough vague references to it that there is something to be gained from having already played the first one. I at this point should also add that this review will be full of comparisons to the first game, which was also fantastic, but greatly changed how I experienced the sequel.
The main selling point of Hand of Fate has always been its board game based feel. Chance based events are played out by you physically selecting a card from a randomly shuffled deck. This is a pretty neat way of visualising something that generally takes place behind the vale of game code. It also places any failures and successes more firmly in the hands of the player, you always feel like it was your fault for picking the wrong cards no matter the odds. Hand of Fate 2 has added new games of chance to the mix, with dice and a metronome. I personally love the dice because it feels like it is possible to regularly succeed, something that has never happened with the cards. The metronome however is a mechanic straight from the depths of hell, not because it’s bad just because every single appearance drives me into an all consuming rage. It is generally a very slim win chance, the player has to hit a tiny moving target whilst avoiding other moving targets, and this is one that is all up to the player’s skill. Which would be fine except the target stops about 1 second after the key input meaning your timing is that much harder. The metronome is generally only reserved for the most intricate of events so damn does it feel good when you actually succeed.
The biggest way in which the game has changed is within the variety between challenges. As the player moves through the game they must undertake a challenge, each of which has a fundamentally different theme, as well as an unique goal beside the usual: defeat the final boss. These goals vary from acquiring a certain amount of bonuses, to solving a mystery, to tracking down objects on the playing field. There are also almost twice as many challenges, 22 compared to the original 12, and there are a few available to attempt at any one time. This has been done to allow you to face the challenges in an order that more suites you, and allow for some variety if you get stuck on a particular challenge. This in particular saved me time and time again from giving up on the game as I could always swap to a different challenge if one was becoming too frustrating.
Not all of Hand of Fate 2 is played on the table top, 3D combat is also an important part of the game. Combat feels like it has been improved from the first game, although this has led to a drastic leap in difficulty. That said, being fluid and stylish in a fight is tough but attainable, and it feels that much better for how hard you have to work to get it. If you’re not careful though things can spiral out of control very quickly. Going into a fight on low health with even a few enemies can be a death wish if you don’t control the combat perfectly.
One redeeming feature of the difficulty increase in combat is that players no longer travel and fight alone, they are joined by a companion. Each companion fills a general class (mage, fighter, rogue etc.) and allows you to adapt combat a little more consistently to your play style, so that you don’t have to rely on getting particular weapons. Having a particular companion with you also allows for the player to explore some of the more robust side quests in the game by helping your companion with a particular problem that plagues them. The side quest cards can get a bit too involved however, completely sidetracking you from the challenge and sometimes leading to the end of an otherwise promising run. One of the most enjoyable factors of Hand of Fate has been that anything gained from a run carries over. So even if it ultimately ends in failure any side quests you’ve succeeded, equipment you’ve gained or new card tokens unlocked remain yours for the next attempt, meaning that not every run is a complete failure.
Otherwise the game has been tweaked in a few small ways. Say goodbye to the long set up at the start of each game as the dealer shuffles and lays out all the cards. As amusingly dramatic as it was, the way interval screens have been sped up has really streamlined play. The inventory screen is more accessible and swapping equipment before a fight much easier, which is important because certain enemies are now weak to specific types of weapons. Most importantly is the ability to camp and instantly regain a large amount of health which removes some of the awkward strategy of trying to get your health back up when low but still having heaps of food to consume. This time round the player is also given the option of personalising their character a small amount, which is a nice touch although doesn’t effect the game in any profound way. I took some small issue with being once again presented with a binary choice for gender which really didn’t seem like an important factor in the game but the character design is cool enough that I forgave it.
Visually the game remains impressive. The tabletop feel of the challenge traversal sections remains intricately represented in the card design, and the 3D combat sections are still beautiful. Sound design is also extremely well executed with the music being appropriately dramatic, and the sound effects, particularly in combat, making everything feel that much more epic.
Defiant created something unique with the first game and only reinforced that with the sequel. It is the same world and gameplay from the first only expanded and (largely) tweaked, mostly for the better. Being consistently angry on some runs kind of ruined my enjoyment of the game overall but if you don’t let the chance mechanics get to you, and accept the fact that YOU WILL FAIL A LOT, then you will enjoy it even more. In the end it is a beautiful, and exciting game that will keep you engrossed in what will be encountered in the next challenge, or even the next card. As long as the ever present element of chance doesn’t screw you over too badly.
If you want to take on The Dealer, Hand of Fate 2 is available now on PC and Playstation 4.
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
The player one team was provided with a review code for PC.