Hand of Fate is an interesting twist on the card game genre with battles fought action-rpg like dungeons, described as “Magic the gathering meets Nethack meets Diablo”, I think that is a reasonable group of games to compare it too.
The idea of the card building side is you have two decks, one for your equipment including weapons, shields, armour, trinkets, helmets etc and another deck for the dealer which will decide the sorts of challenges you will face and specific scenarios which as you build up your deck will give you a greater amount of influence about how you play and can allow you to somewhat make it easier than if the challenges or “dungeons” were completely predetermined. That being said the cards you pick can also give you greater rewards so picking an easy lot might not always be a good idea.
You build up your decks by collecting tokens which you get for certain battles, or based on the actions you choose on certain cards, bosses also yield a token or two so its important to always keep these cards in your deck so you can build up a great deck with more powerful equipment.
The story mode is built up of 12 cards of bosses to fight, you pick the boss and work your way through multiple levels to fight the boss, if you’re still alive, as you move to the next card you see what is on it and can do things such as fight enemies in dungeons, buy items from shops, or do tasks related to the card which can yield positive or negative results or nothing. Some of this results are based on chance you get 4 cards (a mix of success, huge success, failure, huge failure depending on the situation) which are shuffled and then you pick one and this decides what happens next, you get things like gain/pain cards, equipment cards, blessings/curses and tokens or you go to another option. When you get to zero health left you die or when you beat the boss the level is over and you can look at your spoils and decide whats next.
At the end of every row (every 3 bosses) you get a special benefit card which will give you various perks and upgrades including better starting weapons/armour, more food and so on, this is balanced out partly with each boss having a pro and a con to fighting them which could affect a specific attribute or something.
As you move through the cards you use up 1 food for every move and if you run out you lost 10 health per step until you get more or die, so keeping your food up is important, this can be gained from various cards or bought in the shop with gold which again is earned as you go through. Gold can also be used to heal you, remove curses, get a blessing or buy items and equipment to help you on your quest
There is a deep game within Hand of Fate that is very well executed and combines two different styles of game very well into a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience, the challenge increases reasonably as you move your way through the board and there is an endless mode too which will allow you to keep going for as long as you can.
When fighting enemies it’s a nice change of pace from the card side, trying to focus on preserving health and you’re aided by your weapon, sword and shield which is very important for block and counters, you can’t really play effectively without even a very basic shield but as long as you have one in your deck you’re good to go. Combat can become a tad frustrating as very infrequently it puts you in situations where there are far too enemies for the size area in which you need to fight (like 10 enemies on the ship), its frustrating when it does happen but as I said it’s not that frequent and only happened in the latter stages of the story.
The biggest problem I had was that whilst the difficulty scales reasonably as you go through and the challenge is finely balanced between requiring you to use your skill in battle and the blessings and equipment you get, the story mode gets a massive spike on the second last boss card. When you go through the board you get a curse card every 4 steps and this makes it incredibly difficult to last very long namely because if it’s not taking away all of your gold its reducing your max health, enemies also gain overpowered attacks which take off huge chunks of health and make it difficult further. I have no problem with it being challenging – it is the last level after all I’d be disappointed if it was easy and I enjoy the challenge and trying to push myself through against the odds but when its consistently taking my max health from 100 to anything between 1 and 35, combined with these overpowered attacks mean that the odds aren’t stacked against me, I have little hope at all.
Endless is a great additional mode with each layer of cards representing a rising difficulty as shown by the progression of bosses in the story mode, you get a total score as you go through for all the things you do and it does offer a nice change of pace to see how far you can go and what high score you can get. It’s a good example of a developer seeing that they have a good formula and wanting to allow the player to challenge themselves and keep going as far as they can, its more of the same but in a great way.
Hand of Fate is a very enjoyable game that takes several different genres and brings together in a really great way, its got deep solid mechanics backed up with fun gameplay, decent variety, a story mode that’s plentiful in content without feeling too long and an endless mode that offers a different challenge of longevity and scored based competition and certainly worth playing.
Thanks to Kim at Defiant Development for sending me a review code!
Formats: Xbox One (Played), Playstation 4, PC
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
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Buy: Xbox Store – PSN Store – Steam