The original Hand of Fate was, in my humble opinion, one of the most criminally underrated games of 2015. By combining deckbuilding, “choose your own adventure” style storytelling, and enjoyable hack ‘n slash combat, developer Defiant Development crafted a unique experience unlike anything else. Hand of Fate 2 takes the same great gameplay and makes it easier to understand, welcoming in newcomers while still providing a solid level of difficulty. It may look overwhelming at first glance, but Hand of Fate 2 does its best to avoid too much complexity. Let’s see if this sequel is just as surprising as the first, or if Hand of Fate was a one-shot success.
The Hand that Feeds
The first Hand of Fate was intimidating at first, partially due to the lack of a good tutorial. Hand of Fate 2 fixes that problem immediately, by guiding the player through each of the game’s features over time. Instead of throwing you into the system blindly, the game does a great job showing you how to play, rather than telling you. Your entire first adventure is hand crafted to teach you the ropes, and before you’ve wrapped up the third challenge, you’ll have a good handle on things. This is a great thing, because Hand of Fate 2 is at its best when all its parts are moving in unison.
Hand of Fate 2 is very different from games like Hearthstone, Gwent, and Magic: The Gathering, but I wouldn’t fault you for assuming they were similar. Instead of being a competitive card game, Hand of Fate 2 tells its stories through cards, contained to specific challenges on a map. There are more than twenty challenges in the game, each with their own objective and narrative. After picking the challenge you want to attempt, you make a few decisions. You select a companion to take with you, a handful of cards that may appear during the challenge, and some gear and items to find along the way. Sitting across from a mystic card dealer in a shabby carriage, you look down on a table, where he deals the cards associated with the challenge. From there, your adventure begins.
Choose a Card
Using a small figurine, you move from card to card, revealing them as you move. Each card tells a different story; an encounter you must progress through. The cards present you with narrative scenarios, and then you choose how to proceed. For example, you may uncover a card called “Wrecked Carriage”, in which you find an overturned carriage in the middle of the road. You are then presented with a choice. Attempt to loot the carriage, investigate the area, or completely pass it by. Each choice has a different reaction, and a big part of Hand of Fate 2 is knowing how the cards play. By looting the carriage, you are presented with a game of chance, and succeeding nets you gear and loot for combat. Investigating the area may present a completely new scenario, while passing the carriage by will take you to the next card. With hundreds of unique cards in the game, some repeatable and some only found in specific challenges, a lot of the storytelling comes from the choices you make.
Many cards, including equipment cards you collect, have tokens. By “completing” the encounter on the card, the token unlocks, giving you new cards to experience. Because of this, card scenarios play out similar to quest lines in RPGs. A lot of the charm of Hand of Fate 2 comes from its writing, which is both interesting and consistently entertaining. As a bonus, fans of the original Hand of Fate will see the return of characters from the first, and appreciate the strings of lore that connect the games. There’s also a better amount of depth to the stories than before, providing a solid level of world building through memorable characters and events. In many ways, Hand of Fate 2‘s storytelling is superior to the original, both in quality and quantity.
Through the Vortex
While reading card encounters and reacting appropriately is fun, it can get a bit tedious. Thankfully, Hand of Fate 2 breaks up the tedium with hack ‘n slash combat. Card encounters can often turn to combat encounters, depending on your choices. When this happens, the robed dealer extends his hands, pulling you and the cards into a colorful vortex. You pop out on the other side in a combat area, and battle the enemies that you just encountered. Combat plays out similar to the Batman: Arkham games, using a sort of rhythmic style. You can attack enemies, counter their attacks, shield bash, and evade. Additionally, each companion you choose has unique combat skills and buffs, and they can be activated to give you a boost when needed.
The variety of enemies and weapons are just as varied as the number of cards, all who have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thieves and assassins fall quickly to weapons like daggers and knives, whereas hulking Northerners are best handled with swords and maces. Ogres, goblins, zombies, and many more enemies make appearances, and the variety is a welcome improvement from the original Hand of Fate.
The Bottom Line on Hand of Fate 2
Hand of Fate 2 is a deceptively deep game that does a great job teaching the player. With hundreds of unique stories to see, enjoyable combat to master, and over twenty campaign challenges to overcome, there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back. It’s also a noticeable improvement over the original game, giving players a larger variety of quality content, both in relation to storytelling and pure gameplay. As you progress further into the game, you’ll start to employ strategy in what cards you choose, what gear you equip, and how you approach various scenarios. As you attempt to balance your resources of food, gold, and health, you’ll quickly find just how tactical the deck building can be, but only if you so choose. Most of the more complex aspects of Hand of Fate 2 can be completely avoided, thanks to a handy “use recommended” option.
The game is not without its flaws, as I encountered a handful of hefty glitches in my many hours. These ranged from simple visual glitches to progress-stopping ones, the latter being much more frustrating. I can specifically recall two instances of having to restart entire challenges due to some sort of glitch. Considering I played well over 20 hours of the game, the issues didn’t pop up too often, but when they did, they were noticeable. While Hand of Fate 2 is a visual improvement on the original, the combat isn’t especially great looking, and some may find it a bit tedious.
Due to the game’s unique nature, it’s hard to say exactly who Hand of Fate 2 is for. If you poured over “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid, you’ll definitely find something to love. If you fancy playing Dungeons and Dragons or other tabletop games, you too will enjoy this game immensely. Ultimately, Hand of Fate 2 is a mash-up of several great genres, and while its target audience may be small, I think its a game that players of all skill level and genre preference can enjoy.