Ever wondered what a combination of a table-top card game and an action-RPG would look like? Hand of Fate offered just that when it released back in 2015 and gave gamers a very unique but enjoyable experience, albeit one that had its flaws and was a little too random at times.
Now the developer is back with Hand of Fate 2, a sequel that expands upon the original with some all-new mechanics, a more fleshed out story, and improvements to the visual design. After releasing on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC earlier this year, it’s now made its way to the Nintendo Switch. Does the port actually hold up though, or is it a bit of a dud?
Hand of Fate 2 offers a clever little adventure that is determined by two factors: your luck when drawing cards and competing in mini-games, and your skill when taking down foes on the battlefield. With an abundance of quests to go on that each have their own little twists and turns, you’re guaranteed to have an interesting adventure that’ll feel different every time.
This is thanks to the fact that The Dealer (the narrator of the show) draws different cards each time you play through a quest, with each one offering something unique. It might mean heading into an epic battle, seeing some of the story unfold, having you take part in a mini-game, or even just forcing you to make a tricky decision – each cards plays out completely differently, but always progresses your journey that little bit further.
Each quest you go on will have different win conditions that need to be met if you want to progress, whilst others might impose some handicaps upon the player and their deck of cards. It might sound a little intimidating, but the game does a lot to ensure you settle in fine – despite his mysterious and often intimidating appearance, The Dealer is there to help you and ensures you know the ‘ins and outs’ of exactly how Hand of Fate 2 works.
Hitting a card where you have to make a decision is one of the more enjoyable endeavours of the game – not only is it a lot of fun to dictate how each quest unfolds, but its adds to the replayability of it too. There’s just a great variety of scenarios to come across and your input in them helps expand the fantasy-adventure elements of the game. The mini-games are a lot of fun too and your success in those can determine how a quest might unfold, so you’ll want to make sure your reaction speeds and dice throwing… erm… ‘skills’ are up to snuff. The mini-games add a nice twist to the formula, even if they can be a little bit too dependent on luck at times.
As you progress through the game and complete quests, you’ll unlock additional cards that you can add to your deck. Each of these cards offer something different, be it a stronger piece of gear or even a blessing to help your character out. You only start the game with a small selection of cards, but you’ll eventually find yourself armed with a deck that’s worthy of a true adventurer.
Every so often a card will force you into battle, but luckily Hand of Fate 2’s combat mechanics are pretty slick. Combat itself plays out in a similar fashion to the Arkham games, which might seem surprising given the game’s action-RPG setup but actually works quite well in-game.
Attacking is broken down into simple buttons presses, whilst the player is also able to dodge and counter incoming attacks from the enemy. You can spice things up a bit by using your special weapon abilities too, whilst blessings you assign to your character can also come into effect. It’s simple, but effective – the combat of the first game felt a little underwhelming and whilst it’s hardly the deepest of systems here, it at least does enough to keep you entertained.
The only real problem I came across was that enemies could land a lot of cheap shots on you. The quick-paced nature of combat means you’ve got to stay on top of your enemies and keep countering them in order to protect yourself, but I noticed that they’d often hit me with damage even if I interrupted their attack in time. It was unusual and often broke the flow of a combo, especially when trying to bounce around between multiple foes at once. It wasn’t common enough of an issue to ruin the game though, so it’s nothing players should worry about too much.
You won’t be adventuring alone in Hand of Fate 2, with a small selection of companions available to join you on your journey. They actually prove to be a great help too, both on the battlefield and during the card-based sections. During combat they’ll be there to offer you protection or even unleash a strong attack on enemies, whilst during some of the mini-games they might provide you with the likes of an extra dice roll – either way, they’re always handy to have around.
Hand of Fate 2 will easily last you well over ten hours, with over twenty quests available in all. Those who enjoy building up a slick arsenal of cards will get even more time out of the game from re-playing quests to improve their deck, though in honesty they’re worth taking a second look at just to see how they can change based upon your decisions anyway.
Despite it always being fun to play though, the only real problem with Hand of Fate 2 is that it could feel a little repetitive over time. The combat is effective and works, but broken down into little scenarios so it can feel a little difficult to really get invested in it at times. Venturing across the card-based scenarios can feel familiar too – whilst storylines differ between quests, the concept behind them remains the same. Still, the repetition won’t stop you being totally engrossed in the game, even if it can make some aspects of it feel a little too samey at times.
At least it runs well on the Switch though, with the visuals looking sharp and the animations fluid throughout. This is the case in portable mode too, which might I add feels like the perfect way to play Hand of Fate 2 – it really is a great game to pick up and play when you’ve got a bit of spare time, especially since some of the quests are shorter than others. That being said, I’ve been completely hooked in, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending marathon sessions with The Dealer.
The only real issue with the Switch port came with how battles loaded in, with there seemingly being a small loading period that causes the on-screen action to stutter into play. It’s not a brief thing either, with it often taking close to twenty seconds for the action to actually start. It’s a little weird and there have been some issues with the game on other platforms, but it felt a bit more noticeable here. Still, it’s not game-breaking and it didn’t stop me enjoying the game, even if it could delay the action at times.
Hand of Fate 2 offers an addictive experience that improves upon the original game in almost every way, with the card-based questing mechanics seeing some varied enhancements and the combat also feeling a lot more refined. It’s a pretty unique game and with your deck of cards constantly growing as you work through the game’s twenty-two quests, there’s plenty on offer to keep you engrossed in your daring little adventure.
It could be a little guilty of getting a bit repetitive over time and the strange stuttering when loading battles could be annoying, but neither of these issues will do enough to stop you enjoying Hand of Fate 2. Being able to play it on the go on the Nintendo Switch just adds to the whole experience, and it’s quickly become one of my ‘go to’ games when I’ve got twenty minutes or so spare. Action-RPG and table-top adventure fans definitely don’t want to miss out on this one.
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux