There’s a special place in my heart for games that try something new and do something different. At a time when everything seems to be Battle Royale or a generic FPS, Hand of Fate 2 shows innovation, daringness and an appetite for straying from the norm. While this would be reason enough to commend the game, its unusual formula has been refined to the point of near perfection making this an experience that is not to be missed.
“That sounds bizarre and will definitely not work”. That’s what you’re going to think when I describe Hand of Fate 2. In the game you must complete 22 missions which all have different objectives, but while these missions are heroic quests, mystic adventures and epic sieges – they’re all played as a table top card game. Imagine dungeons and dragons but you’re 1V1ing against the dealer. The dealer places cards face down on a table top – a mix of cards you’ve chosen, and he’s chosen – and each turn you move one ‘step’ flipping these cards as you go. Behind each card is an encounter described entirely in text.
The variation in these cards is what makes the game so fun. In one you might be ambushed by thieves or you might visit a temple for blessings, in another you could be playing dice games with an ogre or trading insults with goblins. Each card could include combat or a chance game, but it will always tie in to the story of the card. You unlock new cards as you progress, allowing you to stack the odds in your favour on more difficult quests that you’ll be faced with towards the end game.
The chance games are great and have been expanded on significantly from the first Hand of Fate. While the success/failure card shuffle is back, new mini games include rolling a targeted number in dice games, hit a certain spot with a swinging pendulum and stopping a wheel on the card you want. When you first start these can seem difficult but as you build up your deck you’ll unlock cards that make each one easier and the more you play, the easier it’ll get too.
Combat on the other hand will remain tricky no matter how long you play for. Of course, you’ll get better as time goes on but there’s always a chance you could mess up – it’s all down to skill after all. It works in a similar vein to the Arkham Batman games. You can evade, attack and parry some attacks, choose to use light, medium or heavy weapons depending on your enemy and take a companion into battle with you. Combat is pretty much the only part of Hand of Fate 2 that I had any issue with.
Unfortunately, the camera angle can get a bit whacky at times due to the fact it’s fixed in place. You can get used to it, but it’ll always bug you. A couple of times I failed missions really close to the end because someone attacked me off camera and I didn’t see them coming. This would be frustrating in any game, but I a game in which some missions can take 45 minutes to an hour it’s downright infuriating.
Thankfully, the ever so slightly annoying combat scenarios aren’t the only place your companions appear – because they’re part of what makes the game so fun. Over the course of the game you’ll unlock four people who will accompany you on your adventures. You can complete companion card encounters to help them with their personal vendettas or quests, learn more about them as you progress through the story as they chip in here or there, or use their unique abilities to shift balance of chance towards you in the mini games.
Hands down though, my favourite thing about Hand of Fate 2 is The Dealer. While he’s not as openly antagonistic as he was in the original, he’s still a great character. He brings an otherwise text based game to life and is part of the reason I still can’t put the game down. I’m filled with equal parts loathing and wanting to impress him, so I plough on, collecting every token and mastering every single challenge. Voice actor, Anthony Skordi, deserves every ounce of praise he’s received for voicing The Dealer. What the games lacks in overarching, cohesive story, he makes up for just by being there.
I also want to mention the card art and general presentation of the cards and the game. The effort that has gone in to illustrating each one, from the rare platinum cards to the most common junk cards, is fantastic. You’ll find Easter eggs hidden across them, be impressed with the picture they paint of the world you’re reading about and want to go out and pick some up yourself. Not going to lie, I searched to see if there’s a collector’s edition that contains physical copies because I love them so much.