Dealt A Great Hand
High The inclusion of a story.
Low The dice minigame never seems fair.
WTF What is my motivation again?
For me, the best things about roguelikes are the elements of chance and change. I also enjoy the feeling of adapting and overcoming unforeseen challenges. Some may stay away from the genre assuming that it’s all about difficulty spikes or unfair drops, but Hand of Fate 2 seems to land in a middle ground between standard fantasy adventure and a randomized roguelike, allowing players some agency in picking what events that will appear, but not when.
Hand of Fate 2 picks up a few year after the first. Players awaken sitting across from the Dealer, a mysterious figure that holds all of the cards that will reveal the player’s past and allow the story to unfold.
Mechanically, each level is laid out like a series of cards on a table. The player moves his piece from card to card, and when they land on a new one, they will reveal encounters, story moments, games of chance or small battles. Players will move through each of the cards until they reach a final boss fight. After each boss, the player will earn new cards that they can add to their deck, and these cards will add new elements to be experienced in the next round.
Before starting a run, players will be able to customize their deck by drawing from cards they’ve unlocked. These include encounters, equipment, supplies, and one companion card. Encounters offer chances at getting free resources (such as food and health) and new equipment to use in battle. Supplies and companions allow the player to select between a couple of allies to fight with while also having a few additional resources like armor, extra food or gold. This flexibility allows players to structure their deck in a way that best suits them, and mitigates difficulty. Of course, keep in mind that the Dealer will also add cards of his own, so while the player can select some favorable options, there will always be new challenges. It’s also impossible to predict in what order any given item or event will be drawn.
The combat in Hand of Fate 2 is nothing unique, but it’s executed well. Players fight in real-time in small arenas. The customizable character can strike, bash through armor and counter to deal damage, as well as utilize items or their companion’s special ability to defeat enemies, who vary in their tactics. Bandits are quick and can easily dodge heavy weapons, while the northern barbarians will attack fiercely and more frequently, requiring multiple counters or dodge rolls. Enemy types within each group also differ — players may want to focus on support healers or ranged marksmen before the melee fighters.
When a card’s challenge (combat or story-based) is met, the card will sometimes award a token. These tokens can do various things like continuing a mini-story embedded in them, or change a card over time. One card I had was a battered and worn helmet. After meeting its challenge (using the blacksmith card with it), it turned the battered gear into a finely-crafted helmet card permanently.
The core of the game is great and the mechanics are interesting, but I did have a few minor nitpicks. Hand of Fate 2 strays a little too far away from the roguelike genre for my taste, being a bit heavy-handed with hints on what the players should put in their deck for each challenge. It makes the campaign a bit easier, but also gives a defined path for how to best attack each obstacle, as opposed to keeping things more random and allowing players to try and adapt accordingly.
My other nitpick is the overarching storyline. Hand of Fate 2 does seem to have a connected story that links all of its challenges together, but it seems a bit disjointed at times. One challenge has players finding a relic that thieves stole from the empire, and the next has players working for the thieves to find a traitor in their midst. Of course, some of this is understandable since the player is trying to piece together all of their memories, but it also prevents a solid motivation from being built up for their actions. Character creation was fairly unsatisfying as well, providing only a small number of options for how the character looks.
These small issues aside, Hand of Fate 2 is finely crafted and beautiful. The challenges can be difficult thanks to the element of chance, but never overly harsh. If something presents too much of a problem, a different deck can be created to solve it. There’s nothing quite like it out there, and while the campaign might run a little too long, I still enjoyed every minute.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Defiant Development. It is currently available on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4. This copy of this game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS4. Approximately 32 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes, but there will be additional single player modes added at a later date.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Violence, and Alcohol References. The combat is fairly violent, but not gory. Alcohol references are nothing too extreme, just standard fare for a generic fantasy setting. I would say there would be no trouble for teens in this game, it’s pretty tame overall. Blood can also be turned off in the settings.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does have the option for subtitles for when the Dealer speaks, and all of the cards have text for players to read to show what happens in each encounter. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls are remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are minimal colorblind options for this game. Enemies will have a marker to show which attacks can be countered and which can not, and players can alter which colors show for these indicators.