Two of the things I enjoyed the most about Hand of Fate was the game’s story and its deck-building. Even though the combat was rather lackluster, those two things stood out like beacons in the night, reminders of those “make your own adventure” books I spent much of my youth playing.
Crafting my own adventures and challenges was engrossing and satisfying, like I had a hand in my own fate. So when I had the chance to try Hand of Fate 2, the direct successor to that wonderful RPG card game, I couldn’t help but dive back into that world.
And so far, I have not been disappointed.
Hand of Fate 2 starts the player against a familiar antagonist — The Dealer. Even though we’ve seen this enemy before, the game has changed, evolved into something different. One of the major evolutions from Hand of Fate to Hand of Fate 2 is the introduction of the map — a playing field with 22 different and challenging meta-games. These tell the stories of what’s going on in the world and contain stories within themselves.
Combat has also somewhat evolved with a number of new weapons and combat styles. From wielding a mighty warhammer to a roguish set of dual-wielded daggers, there are new layers to combat other than the God of War-like single-button spamming of the original. A personal favorite of mine? The additions of critical strikes, artifacts, and companion characters, all things that really tease out some of the best aspects of Hand of Fate into something more tangible.
Every weapon has a something unique about it — whether it has a particular enemy it’s more effective against or if it’s imbued with special powers like The Cardinal Blade. Additionally, more powerful pieces of equipment have “fame” level requirements, such as certain legendary weapons that can’t be used unless you meet certain requirements by progressing through the challenges. This keeps players from “stacking the deck” so-to-speak and giving themselves access to overpowered weapons at the beginning of the mission.
Speaking of power, the addition of artifacts is something that is quite welcome to combat. I was playing the “The Lovers” challenge where I received a powerful artifact to help me combat the hordes of undead I was faced with — and it was a boon for my strategy. Artifacts can be immensely powerful but come with drawbacks, too. In my case, I found that I only had three bombs total where I thought I’d have three per encounter.
Another welcome addition is the companion characters — quirky partners with their own fighting styles and abilities. Malaclypse — the first companion you meet during the tutorial challenge — is a roguish character that can help you negate damage and occasionally dole out splash damage to grouped enemies. There are a number of companions that you’ll come across during your challenges, some of them even tying into the story in their own interesting ways — like the comedic relief/annoyance of Oswin, the potato farmer.
Other great additions to the meta-game include dice challenges, card roulettes, and even a pendulum timing challenge — adding a bit more skill and luck to your adventures. It feels so satisfying to thin the tide of foes with a lucky dice roll or a perfectly timed pendulum game — especially when you’re low on health and resources.
Visually, Hand of Fate 2 has been overhauled from the original. Gone are the lack-luster, but passable graphics from the first game. The characters look good, if still slightly cartoonish. The Dealer’s new den looks great with a number of subtle supporting environmental quirks that really bring it to life, and the battlegrounds are well styled and really feel whimsically fantastical. I personally really like the encounters from the High Priestess challenges — snow-covered mountain passes and roided-out Viking-like Northmen.
The music is also very fitting, as are the sound effects. A lot of the time they’re blended into the background so well that I hardly noticed them, and I like that — they don’t overplay in the collective whole of the game. And once again the voice acting of Anthony Skordi — the voice of The Dealer — evokes a range of emotions.
If you liked the concept of the first Hand of Fate, then this is a game you should pick up. The new additions to “the game” are well integrated and feel fairly balanced. Combat has a few additions that add some more options and makes it slightly less “spam the attack button.” And the stories from the challenges have been fun and engaging.
If Hand of Fate 2 sounds like a game you’d enjoy playing, you can find it on Steam for the PC — as well as the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One — on November 7. No retail price has been announced at the time of this review.
[Note: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for this review].