The original Hand of Fate was a fun mashup of a deck-building style trading card game meshed with combat reminiscent of the Batman Arkham series. In practice Hand of Fate was fast, simple, and overall very easy to figure out and play. It proved that remixing a few familiar ideas with a unique presentation can create a fresh original experience.
Hand of Fate 2, developed and published by Defiant Development, is a refinement and expansion on the core concept in nearly every way. Though there are some notable additions to gameplay, the sequel sticks to what it knows. Hand of Fate 2 is still at its core a roguelike deck-builder with art style, writing, music, and presentation that are very reminiscent of the Fable series. Narrative-wise, Hand of Fate 2 straddles that fine line between sad and funny, creating a similar sort of melancholic mood. You, the hero, attempt to fulfill challenges set by the Dealer by traversing across each card and then facing the consequences, good or bad, when that card is unveiled. At the same time, you’ll need to manage your supplies of food, gold, and fame. As you progress through each quest, you have the ability to influence what you come across by introducing your own cards with different scenarios, equipment, and weapons. The sequel also introduces new elements which not only rebalance the card playing and combat sections, but also grant the player further influence through mini-games of chance and special cards with their own specific challenges.
The most noticeable addition in Hand of Fate 2 is the inclusion of companion characters. These companions, from a spellcasting bard to a duel-wielding barbarian, act as support during combat with their own unique special attacks. Outside of combat, each companion can help by adding an extra die to dice rolls, or slowing down a spin-the-wheel challenge. In all cases, helping out in the card game often means a temporary absence during combat, so it’s important to choose wisely what kind of help you need. Your new friends also come with their own specific sets of cards, and meeting the challenges can yield you these new cards for later use.
When everything clicks in place, the game moves at a very steady but brisk pace. Hand of Fate 2 doesn’t linger, nor does it rush the player. Each card challenge can be solved through combination of decision-making, chance, and often a round of combat. At the end of the day, Hand of Fate 2 is a trading card game that strips out the need to nip down to the local supermarket for a booster pack. Nearly every round played will net you more cards for you to give yourself more of an advantage the next time you play. This is an easy to learn, difficult to master setup with a seemingly endless combinations of card layouts that changes with each quest you undertake. You’ll traverse a path from one side of the board to the other, with small off-shoots leading to new opportunities, such as climbing a mountain while trying to avoid damaging blizzards. Sometimes the board will be completely filled with cards as you traverse through a deadly forest, tasked with locating or chasing down a moving objective.
Combat still retains the same feel as before, for better or worse. This is where Hand of Fate 2 becomes more about skill than simple chance, as even a hero with low level weapons and armor can be victorious, even in overwhelming odds. Attack, defense, dodge, and bash (stun) moves are laid out in their appropriate buttons or keys. Though the combat is still overly reliant on the Arkham/Shadow of Mordor style of combat, new weapon types like two-handed and dual wielding weapons add some strategy and flavor.
Chance plays a big part every time you land on a card, and leaving yourself at the mercy of luck can be exhilarating or frustrating. Hand of Fate 2 requires not only a level of combat competency, but also a willingness to take a risk. If that’s not what you’re interested in, then Hand of Fate 2, and maybe roguelike games in general, might not be for you.
The first Hand of Fate shined in the presentation department, and Hands of Fate 2 returns with the same level of fun and mystery. The extra layer of presentation even reflects on your hero, as you’ll now have customization options when creating your character. While the selections are paltry for the most part, it’s a nice addition to be able to choose your hero’s gender, skin color, hair style, and the color of their clothes. Once again, we’re reintroduced to the Dealer (reprised by the excellently sinister voice of Anthony Skordi) who is more than a little bitter at the loss he suffered when he last played. According to the Dealer, your story is spread out among the cards, which will reveal just what kind of hero you are. The caravan where you and the Dealer play is dark, intimate, and brooding, with the music perfectly lending itself to what’s happening on screen. The Dealer will comment, critique, and cajole you on every step of your quest.
The card game nature of Hand of Fate 2 means that each interaction with the Dealer will be a little different, making every playthrough somewhat unique. While it has yet to be released, Hand of Fate 2 does promise an “Endless Mode,” which is exactly what it sounds like, and will offer even more replayability. If you liked the previous Hand of Fate, then you’ll easily become acquainted with the sequel. Even if you’ve never played the previous game, Hand of Fate 2 is a good place to start.