Defiant Development’s Hand of Fate 2 is a mixed bag, pulling from many RPG subgenres. Like its predecessor, the main focus is a deckbuilding card game of the player vs. the Dealer, with the latter acting as a type of dungeon master as well. Throw in some tabletop RPG elements and a deceptively intricate action combat system and you’ve got a game that, while very good, definitely targets a specific audience instead of going for mass appeal.
Something that stood out to me right from the beginning was how well Hand of Fate 2 really nails the atmosphere that it is going for. The high-quality graphics and sound add perfectly to the mystery and mysticism at play here and the voice work for the Dealer is top-notch and give the character depth and personality. When sitting at the table with the Dealer, you can see the high level of detail present from the designs on the cards to the miscellaneous items strewn across the table. When switching to the more action-oriented combat, however, I felt some of this detail went out the window a little with characters and environments looking a little on the bland side. This was minor as much more of your time is spent at the table with the Dealer. Overall the look and feel of Hand of Fate 2 is very well crafted. So well, in fact, I’d personally like to see VR support to get the sense of sitting at the table.
While the atmosphere of the game is done very well, the gameplay is not for everyone. As you play with the Dealer he will present different scenarios based on the cards on the table. You choose how to react to these scenarios and your success or failure can depend on a roll of the dice or the cards you have built into your deck. Think Magic the Gathering combined with Dungeons and Dragons and you have the bulk of what Hand of Fate 2 is. For example, early on my character made it to a village that was in the middle of a celebration and I could choose to participate in the revelry. Part of this involved hitting a pinata that was based on choosing one of four cards presented to me. Three of the cards would provide a successful strike to the pinata and the rewards inside and one card would make my swing fail. The cards are shuffled and I chose one that provided a successful hit but then the Dealer explains a child from the crowd is trying to grab the prize that was supposed to be mine and I had to roll the dice to prevent my reward being stolen. I didn’t roll high enough and the child escaped with the reward. The only parts of this scenario that took place onscreen were the choosing of the card and the rolling of the dice. Everything else was presented as text or explained by the Dealer.
During the course of your card game, you will be beset by bandits and other enemies that try to take you down. These instances are played out in real time in action-oriented combat. At first, you can just hack your way through enemies but as you progress cards will provide abilities like increased attack power or a larger life pool that will assist in battle. In addition, you can recruit a few companions that provide support in these fights, such as a mage who can shield you from being attacked. Learning when to counter and use killing moves is also required to be successful in these battles and provide a nice break from the card and text-based portion of the game. That being said, these sequences are short and most of your time will be spent at the table playing cards with the Dealer.
This is where the targeting of a specific audience really comes into play. I think anyone who plays Hand of Fate 2 would agree that all the components that make a good game are here. The graphics and sound are fantastic, the mechanics of the game are easy to understand and are presented in very interesting ways, and the combat is fun and has some depth, albeit few and far between. These components mean nothing, however, if text and deckbuilding games aren’t your thing. The long stretches of sifting through cards and reading about the adventure you’re on can quickly become boring to many players. While it’s not as deep as Dungeons and Dragons and other games of that ilk, Hand of Fate 2 requires a similar patience and interest that is more niche and I’d imagine the opinions of it would be as different as the types of gamers that there are out there.
Hand of Fate 2 impresses in many ways and does everything it is trying to do right. The ambiance and the charm is there in spades and every aspect of its gameplay is well thought out. Nothing feels underdone or left behind in favor of something else. The only true problem here is that long sessions of play can become a little stale or boring. If you’re in this target audience, Hand of Fate 2 can offer a fun adventure that will keep you engaged for hours.
Hand of Fate 2 is available now on PlayStation 4 for $39.99. The game is also available on various other platforms/mobile devices and on Xbox One in December. A copy of the game was generously provided by our friends at Defiant Development and their PR.