It’s all in the cards.
Being quite the RPG player, both in video game and pen and paper form, I have always been drawn to unique experiences that have me making choices and putting me in situations where skill, cunning and intelligence are required. Hand of Fate offers up a deck building game mixing a simplistic Dungeons and Dragons adventure with some simple combat that would make Batman crack a smile.
Players sit down at a table across from a masked card dealer who essentially serves as the dungeon master. He deals cards and places a player token on a card. The player then chooses which card to move to next, and the card is flipped over. Cards are basically encounters that can range from an ambush of enemies to a travelling merchant. When posed with a new encounter, players make choices on their adventure. One card may be a canyon where, at the bottom, I could see a glistening weapon. I can choose to either attempt to climb down the canyon wall or leave. Choosing to climb down will result in my having to choose a card from four that are randomly shuffled. Two are success cards while two are failure cards. Picking a success card will result in me drawing an equipment card from my deck that could be a special weapon I can then equip. Choosing a failure card can result in me falling and sustaining damage to my health. It’s all about the player’s choices and, of course, the luck of the draw.
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC, Vita
Price I’d pay: $19.99
Action in the cards.
When going into encounters that result in a combat scenario, the game changes to a real time action game similar to a fight in the Batman: Arkham games. Depending on what I have equipped, I can attack enemies with a single button, block and counter attacks and dodge roll out of the way of unblockable attacks. While not as deep as the Batman games, the combat offers up a change of pace from reading cards and making choices.
The rogue-like elements implemented are the facts that when finishing a game, or starting a new one, players start off with simple equipment. Starting from scratch and building up my arsenal with new weapons, armor, blessings and other equipment is really part of the fun. After defeating a certain number of bosses, the dealer will up the ante and the player will start with higher stats and better starting equipment, but the dealer’s monsters will grow stronger, as well as more treacherous encounter cards being added to his deck.
The game is all about variations. Granted there will be many times players will come across the same encounters, but many of them are easy opportunities to build up their character in the early stages of a game. When being successful at new encounters that have never been seen before, the player will unlock even more cards to try out in the next game. There’s always a good stream of new things being added while playing the story mode, which can last up to around 10 to 12 hours.
No need to be this slow.
There are a few hitches here and there. While the card variety is well done, the enemy variety is a bit lacking. Bandits, skeletons, ratmen and lizardmen are the main monsters I encountered, and even with them being powered up by the dealer, it all played out the same way. The Xbox One version, while still very competent, suffers from some major slow down while loading. When the dealer is shuffling cards, and when the combat arena is loading with all the enemies, the game seems to crawl. When the fight started, though, the slow down stopped, so it never really hindered my game play.
The big draw for me while playing Hand of Fate was the presentation, particularly the comments and style of the Dealer. He always has something to say, sometimes funny, sometimes just sage advice, but it was always well done and always welcomed while I played. It added that feeling of mystery and intrigue that kept me wanting to see more cards, just to see what he would say about them. It added a nice personality that I enjoyed a great deal. After beating a few bosses in the story mode, Endless mode opens up and allows the player to play the game non-stop until they die. Each round, the dealer adds a new curse to hinder the player and the enemies get stronger. It is a fun way to play and to see all the cards in action.
Hand of Fate is easy to pick up and play, and even easier to understand, even from the beginning. The adventure feel of the game is what really kept me going, and the combat, while a bit too simple at times, offers up a change of pace from the constant reading. It also has enough RPG elements and new encounters to keep things fresh and keep players coming back for more. With a rough play time of 11 hours for the full story mode and an endless mode that can last even longer, for 20 bucks it’s a pretty great deal for adventure fans and RPG players. I highly suggest picking Hand of Fate up.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.