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Hand of Fate 2 Review

February 7th, 2018 by

HOF2 001Hand of Fate 2 is the follow up to Defiant Development’s breakout console title from 2015. Much like its predecessor, Hand Of Fate 2 has kind of blindsided me, mostly because of my aversion to PR announcements and release schedules for the majority of 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSpT0SFVeOk

If you have never played the series, Hand of Fate is a blend of arcade combat, Collectible Card Game, Old School D&D Roleplaying, Choose your own adventure with a slice of Rogue-like mechanics added for good measure.  As the unnamed protagonist, you must select from your card deck a selection of encounters, weapons and armour; these are then mixed with “The Dealer” cards that contain further encounters, enemies, curses and blessings. Once shuffled, the game board is selected from the encounter cards to make up your game board, and you progress one card at a time to uncover and defeat the final boss of the level. Finishing specific encounters, those marked with a token, will unlock the cards contents releasing new weapon, encounter and armour cards into your inventory for selection.

Though the above core mechanics have not changed in the sequel, the original ideas have been expanded upon considerably, with far more depth and story added to proceedings.

Rather than appearing as the antagonist, as he was in the first game, The Dealer has returned this time to guide you through the 32 levels that make up your story, and with a great deal more dialogue and exposition this time building greater context and story around each of the levels.

Encounters have been expanded, with more choice and interaction added to allow you to discover more depth in each of the individual encounters, along with a plethora of new mechanics for deciding win conditions.

While the previous game had a version of 3 Card Monte, where the cards are revealed before being shuffled on screen face down. You have to try to keep an eye on the relevant card and pick it from the 4 displayed. These cards are made up of Great Success, Success, failure or complete failure options, and picking the right one usually defines whether the encounter token is won or lost.

New to Hand Of Fate 2 though, is the addition of other mini games, where the original had only the above option to define your successes. Added to the mix are a card roulette game, a metronome timing game and the obligatory dice game to judge your successes in specific events. These additional options give the game greater variety, preventing the player from getting bored of the single option to decide an events outcome. This is where the rogue-like aspect of the game begins. A single encounter can have multiple outcomes. Pick the success card and you could find yourself rewarded with a meagre amount of gold and no further options, while failing could see you challenged with a further encounter which may, or may not open up different paths and new encounters for your to experience. Sometimes, getting the best results is not the result the game expects you to get in order to unlock the cards secrets. Sometimes you have to stumble first to find greater success.

A perfect example is when encountering three trolls gaming in a tavern. Join in and you find that the aim of the game is to roll three times, with the third roll being the decider and therefore needing to be greater than your previous two rolls. Roll high on your first cast of the die, and you are instantly disadvantaged when it comes to winning the game overall.

HOF2 003

At the core of the game are four resources. Hit Points, Food, Gold, and new to this sequel, Fame. Hit Points obviously dictate the win condition; lose them all and the board is lost. Each step you take heals some of your hit points back, and shops in the wilds can offer potions to restore lost points for a large portion of your gold. Another new addition, is the inclusion of a base camp. Resting here allows you to swap the food resource for health restore, but given that food is needed for every step you take, there is a fine balance act needed, as if you run out too soon you will start to starve and lost hit points drastically at each step. Gold allows you to purchase items and buffs from travelling merchants and healers, while Fame is required to equip some items or pass criteria in certain encounters.

Further rogue like aspects comes from your selection of encounter cards. Most of these cards carry benefits, whether it be additional resources, a reward of additional armour, or even a blessing boon, which can aid you in your future battles. By strategically selecting cards that will benefit you on a given level, you can gain an advantage against the rules of that particular board. Some boards are large, and require numerous moves to complete so the risk of starvation is high, but place enough food gain encounters on the board and you can negate the risk.

Some of these can be somewhat distracting, as stumbling across a farmer mourning his lost harvest while navigating city streets over run by the plague, is not exacting in keeping with the aesthetic. This minor quibble aside, the variation and options available by selecting your own encounters, the number of which grows as you progress through the game, allows you to cater to most eventualities.

Combat has been refined for Hand Of Fate 2 as well. The core mechanics are still the attack, defend, block that the batman series made famous, but for comparison I would say, given the graphics and style of the game, that it feels similar to Prince of Persia than the Arkham series, but that is not a bad thing.

The inclusion of execution moves, and special weapon abilities when you hit a combo limit, as well as the inclusion of two handed and dual wield weapons instantly improves on the first games “sword and board” only mechanics. To expand further, you now have companions who join you in battle, and activating their battle ability can grant you benefits such as an over shield that will protect you from one enemy blow, or a melee attack that stuns or knocks down enemies.

These companions also bring with them their own quest chain, increasing your encounters with events that progress their backstory during the core game.

The final new elements worth mentioning, are the inclusion of platinum & brimstone cards and equipment slots. In the previous title, until you defeated specific bosses, your equipment always started the same and was dictated by the game. With the equipment slots, you can now pick certain upgrades to equip before venturing forth such as a new sword or axe, or even more food in your pack to help you progress further.

Platinum cards on the other hand, tend to focus a lot on your fame and Demon cards offer more challenging encounters, but on both counts the reward is typically worth their inclusion. Platinum cards tend to be a great deal more powerful than their standard counterparts and as such, increasing your chances of retrieving one with a platinum encounter is normally.

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The Hand of Fate series is a unique action RPG, with a distinctly old school pen & paper feel, whose execution far outweighs the sum of its parts. Whether you like a basic action RPG, CCG’s or rogue-like games, there is something here for all types of players. With distinct improvements over its predecessor, and the removal of some of the biggest gripes levelled at the first game, it is definitely a title I will highly recommend.

Midlife Gamer Rating: 8.5/10     Format: Xbox One / PlayStation 4 / Steam    Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Hand pf Fate 2 by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 5 days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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