An original and exciting blend of genres, the first Hand of Fate game was very well received. Now, there’s a sequel – how does it fare? We played the PS4 version to find out.
I actually didn’t play the original Hand of Fate until quite recently. I had heard it was good when it was released, but since a Vita version was also in the works I decided to wait for that one to hit before starting. When it got canceled, I moved on to other games and didn’t circle back to the PS4 version of Hand of Fate until just a few months ago. I loved its blend of card game, table top game and action rpg, so I was looking forward to the sequel.
In Hand of Fate 2, a new dealer sits down with you to play a life or death adventure – unfolding through cards, encounters and the roll of the dice. As its creators say, it’s a “living board game” and there’s a narrative element to it all that makes it feel even more alive. From the moment you meet the enigmatic dealer, you’re sucked into a game where the stakes are clearly high and your destiny is uncertain. At least to you – the dealer appears to have other ideas about this.
Despite its eclectic array of influences and game styles, and perhaps being difficult to describe in words, Hand of Fate 2 is easy enough to learn thanks to a good tutorial system. It explains how you can move your character across the table, hitting cards as you go along. This might trigger a narrative component, but very often it’ll also throw you into a battle scenario. These play out as real time combat sequences – deeper in design than Diablo 2’s hack and slash method and closer to something like Arkham Asylum, though not quite as intricate.
Win the battle, and you’ll be rewarded with loot. Later on, you can enter a battle with a deck of cards you collect and assemble, which influences both the flow and outcome of the fight. The fighting stays mostly the same though and can start to feel repetitive after a while – especially to players who are most fond of the board game elements and aren’t drawn to action sequences. Navigating cards on the game board is complicated further by the stipulations that the game/dealer lays on you as well, requiring you to perform certain actions in a certain order before moving on. As these occur randomly, replayability for the game is high.
Something that wasn’t in the first game but mixes up things this time around is the use of companion characters. These can join you through special cards in your deck, allowing you to summon them in the heat of battle to help you turn the tide. After using them they’ll need some recharge time, but they also feature in a story-context on the game board so they’re more than just extra hands in combat that you can summon. Since this is a game that’s filled to the brim with quests you can undertake, combining different cards and companions makes for almost endless ways to play.
Despite the changes, Hand of Fate 2 is still very much like its predecessor – but it does enough new things to warrant a purchase. Its mix of making the decisions on the game board, going into battle with the right (card) tactics and a bit of luck of the dice is still as exciting as it was before – and the narrative element makes for a more immersive experience as well. I’m glad I didn’t wait for the game to come out on different platforms this time.