Title: Hand of Fate 2
Available On: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Genre: Action Role-Playing
Official Site: https://www.defiantdev.com/hof2.html
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Where to Buy: PSN, Xbox Live, Steam
Every encounter in Hand of Fate 2 is drenched in anticipation and anxiety. I’m not talking about when I had to cross foes with ragged barbarians or sword-wielding skeletons, I’m talking about the moments when your only weapon is luck. When you need to choose the right card or roll the proper combination of dice to secure a victory.
It’s a game that constantly keeps you on your toes, thanks to its nuanced writing, randomized quest progression, and the various decisions that could leave your purse bursting with gold, or leave you bleeding at the side of the road.
Like its predecessor, Hand of Fate 2 tells the story of the player as narrated by the mysterious dealer. He looks a little worse for wear this time around, but his narrative-weaving skills have been honed to a fine edge. There are 22 challenges to work your way through, each telling its own story. The completion of quests nets you new quest cards that continue existing stories or open up new narratives altogether.
He lays down cards in a path – often with branching options – and the player moves their piece from card to card, uncovering the secrets that each space holds. It will usually be a handful of options, each with its own unique gameplay elements. The card will be flipped as you land on it, and the details will be revealed in short, well-written excerpts.
One time you may be making your way through town when a pickpocket quietly lifts your coin purse from your waist. You’re given a chance to reclaim your lost fortunes, though. Four cards appear before you. The options presented chance from scenario to scenario, but you’ll often have a chance or two to succeed, and several chances at failure or extreme failure. Depending on which card you randomly pick, the events play out differently. Sometimes in your favor, but often not.
In the first game, you would only every select from the four cards, but the sequel has upped the ante. Sometimes you will be asked to play one of two other games of chance that can be equally as brutal. The first is a simple rolling of three dice. The game outlines a number you need to hit. Fail to roll the proper amount and misfortune befalls you, but score some high numbers and you may walk away with some extra food or a shiny handful of coins. The second new addition is a wheel of cards. Each one has a different outcome, with only one or two chances for success. You spin the wheel and pray that you don’t land on one of the less rewarding spaces.
When You aren’t testing your luck, you are testing your skill. All battles play out in real time. Your enemies are displayed before you in the form of cards. After adjusting your equipment and making the requisite preparations, you are thrust into combat.
Battles take place in small, enclosed spaces. The action is nearly identical to that of the first game, and if you haven’t spent any time with the original, it is very similar to the combat of the Batman Arkham games. You can attack, dodge, parry, and kick. Build up a high enough combo and you can unleash your weapon’s special skill. It’s a simple system that never proves too challenging if you keep your wits about you and parry quickly and take advantage of all openings. Thankfully the wide variety of weapons keeps things fresh, changing the pace at which you crush skulls and deliver death blows. There is also the new option to perform a finisher when an enemy’s health is low enough. It’s a quick way to dispatch foes and stylish to boot.
Your gear is acquired on your travels – either purchased from vendors or earned from quests. The only other attributes you have to pay any attention to are health, food, and gold. Health and gold are self-explanatory, but food can be troublesome. Every time you move to a new card, one food is consumed. Run out of food and each movement costs you ten health. If nothing else, you always want to make sure you have at least a few scraps leftover, because cut it too close and your journey will come to an early end.
Hand of Fate 2 is a welcome improvement to the original. The story mode is refined, the writing is as superb as ever, and quest design has more depth, meaning you won’t always be traversing small mazes of cards. Instead, you’ll sometimes need to tackle massive fields of cards, with several relics strewn across the expanse of the playing field. Everything is bigger, but the adventure itself still maintains the same feeling of small-scale, personal character interactions.
Your character is a blank slate. Exploring the world and the bizarre, fantastical scenarios it presents allows you to slowly shape your avatars motivations and ideals, like any good text-based role-playing game.
The fusion of brutal action and subtle storytelling may seem like a strange one, but once you see it in action, the conflicting ideals mesh into one beautifully paced experience. The two styles complement each other and offer respite when things become too action-packed for too long.
The game’s only real downfall is that a lot of the outcomes are decided by chance, so you may not be able to unlock certain routes or options just because you chose the wrong card. It’s unfortunate and can make for some frustrating play sessions, but the creativity and presentation make up for these shortcomings.
Verdict: If you’ve been on the hunt for a fantasy game that offers a more focused experience, Hand of Fate 2 is the one to delve into. Its flaws are outshined by the brilliance of its writing and the cohesive vision that is carried through until the credits roll.
- Fantastic writing
- More streamlined
- Fun, engaging combat
- Graphics aren't impressive
- Almost everything is left up to chance