Birthed from a couple of “grizzled industry veterans” based in Brisbane, Australia, comes a rogue-like, three-dimensional card game within a video game. Hand of Fate 2 is the direct sequel to Hand of Fate, Defiant’s first successful game. They’re also known for mobile games such as Heroes Call and Ski Safari. Still relatively small, this Indie Developer shows promise and may even gain a bigger name for itself once the promising Hand of Fate 2 is released come November 7th.
Spiritual Content: Hand of Fate 2 has much spiritual content, including references to gods, magic, raising the dead, necromancers, arcane mages, wizards, witches and live skeletons. When viewing the map, adventures are represented by tarot cards; that card will be the theme of the adventure chosen. For example, when the strength adventure is chosen, then you will probably encounter a very strong opponent at the end.
While the use of magic and sorcery has a feel that of any pen-and-paper RPG tabletop adventure game, it does not delve much deeper into than, say, facing an enemy that can cast and use magic spells. I personally don’t find it offensive since RPG games generally involve things such as these.
Violence: Upon striking one’s enemies, blood will splash, but that is all we see. Once an enemy has been defeated, there is no blood present. There are also trap challenges in the game, some of which show blood on them.
Alcohol/Drug Use: There are mentions of taverns, drinking alcoholic beverages, and inebriation. A few challenges end with the result of the main character waking up from a drunken night of adventure.
Gambling: I had to mention this because Hand of Fate 2 bases much of its challenges on the foundation of gambling. Dice rolls, pendulum swings, random card draws, betting coins on a possible outcome, stopping a spinning wheel of cards—all of these are a gamble of some sort and the player will have to master every single one of these if they want to succeed in this game. It can become quickly addictive, which can be a problem if not controlled.
Positive Themes: The game centers itself mostly around heroism and “doing the right thing.” The card dealer himself will make comments when you choose the evil option and the game’s difficulty will usually increase if the righteous option is not chosen. This is not always the case though, since the game at times will punish the player for trying to be righteous by pitting the player against harder enemies. Sometimes, the player can choose the selfish option and avoid combat all together by, for example, choosing not to protect a random villager from abuse by Imperial soldiers. But you also forfeit the reward you would have gotten if you had faced the encounter.
Rogue-likes seem like they get a bad rap for simply being the sort of game they tend to be: enormously challenging. Classic rogue-likes like Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Darkest Dungeon have claimed hundreds of hours of play due to a simple case of either bad luck or being ill-prepared. Hand of Fate 2 is no lightweight when it comes to difficulty level. I spent nearly four hours on one level that should have taken me thirty minutes to complete. I do not even want to mention how many times I died due to sheer embarrassment. But these games all have a central theme in them and that theme is the thrill of gambling. Eventually, the player reaches a point in the game where supplies are ridiculously low, but victory over an enemy or a challenge is mere inches away and the game stops you to ask you if you should turn back or continue. Which do you choose? Well, maybe you aren’t a gambler, but it’s that small chance of victory over impossible circumstances that is so tantalizing, it has us returning for more and more.
Hand of Fate 2 is a game full of challenge, intrigue, adventure, and fun. Every time I started up a challenge, I genuinely felt like I was about to go on an adventure. Upon choosing a challenge, which is represented by a tarot card, the player has to choose a companion, and the allotted number of encounter, equipment, and supply cards. Once these are chosen, the dealer then levitates all cards into the air and sets them all down in their proper places on the table to begin the journey. Your character, represented by a golden figurine, moves from card to card, making their way to the goal of the challenge.
You begin each challenge with 100 out of 100 life points, five food, zero gold and zero fame. Going from card to card spends a food, but also heals you five life points at the same time should you be in need of it. Food is extremely valuable and allows the player to heal and to also be able to traverse the map of cards. Having gold is important as well, especially if the challenge requires the player to bribe people for information or buy items of certain significance. Fame should be sought after since some good weapons and equipment can only be equipped once the player acquires the correct amount of fame. It is also important for swaying and convincing allies and enemies alike of your capabilities. It can sometimes mean the complete avoidance of a tough combat sequence too.
One of the best and most improved parts of the game is the combat system. This is one aspect Defiant seems to be very proud of since it’s been completely rebuilt. Before, in the first Hand of Fate, combat was quite simple, players and enemies seemed to move about in a sort-of invisible quadrant-like area, where an action such as a dodge would move the player away from the enemy exactly one square area away. In the sequel, the character can freely move around, attack certain enemies, and counters are a bit more challenging to catch. When an enemy attacks, they are highlighted in green for a few seconds, giving the player time to act on this. When the enemy turns red, no counter can occur and the player must either dodge or take damage. Before, the combat felt tacky and like a cheap copy of the Batman: Arkham games; whereas now, it feels more like Path of Exile in an enclosed, confined space.
Despite the enhanced combat system, there still seems to be some trouble with attacking certain enemies. There is absolutely no targeting system, which can be annoying at times when there is a specific enemy you want to silence first before defeating the grunts. I found I would have to dodge toward that specific enemy and swing in that general direction. It took some work (definitely not perfected yet), but eventually I was able to do okay with it.
Despite the few flaws, one of my favorite parts of the game is the ability to unlock other cards by completing the requirements of its direct predecessor card. The dealer refers to this as the “expansion of the game” and it is rightly so. Some cards have their own story they follow outside of the main challenge you might be playing at that moment. If the player completes whatever requirement is needed for that particular card, another will be made available for choosing at the beginning of other adventures—continuing the story of that group of cards.This makes the game feel even bigger and more challenging since the cards do not outright tell you the circumstances that need to take place for it to be successfully unlocked.
One thing that deserves critique is the amount of gambling there is in the game and the fact that so many of the results depend on chance. If you want to try winning an arm-wrestling match, you have to roll some dice. If you want to save people from a burning house, you must stop the wheel of cards on any “Success” card. Otherwise, face failure of the challenge or worse, take damage. Do you need to attempt to steal a weapon or money? You must stop the pendulum on the silver or gold bar to succeed. The game relies heavily on good hand-eye coordination, but also on the fact that if you have bad luck then you will most likely fail this adventure. Some would say that it is normal to have this much chance in a rogue-like, but I disagree. Success relies too much on having good luck in the game—at times it almost seems unfair. Despite the chaotic nature of the game, I still very much enjoyed myself.
Unfortunately, the protagonist character creation is lacking, giving few options for changing the overall look of your character. The rest of the art and graphics do a great job of presenting the player with a good visuals to go along with the storytelling. Each card has a picture on it to help describe the encounter or item. The enemy cards almost look like suites from a regular deck of playing cards with the number and the enemy type laid out like clubs or diamonds. Once in combat mode, you get to fight real 3D character models and these environments and designs are neat. Enemy models look like tabletop figurines that have come to life and they are pretty detailed.
The parlor-sounding soundtrack that plays in the background gives you an earthy, old tavern feeling as you play with the dealer. I searched for the Hand of Fate 2 soundtrack, but it is not public yet, so here is a taste of Hand of Fate’s shop theme. This theme is very similar to the sequel’s shop theme, so it gives a decent idea of what to expect. The composer, Jeff Van Dyke, is an incredibly talented guitar player and posts many of his videos on his website and youtube channel. Check him out! Also, the voice of the dealer, Anthony Skordi, is excellent and not only has a great voice full of character, but voice-acts well. He’s been in several other video games such as Battlefront 2 and Diablo III. He’s also guest starred in The Blacklist and The Last Ship, both successful TV shows.
In the end, Hand of Fate 2 is a grand slam. It’s a true rogue-like, it keeps its players interested by adding an “expansion” of secondary cards that can be unlocked for more story, and it has a much-improved combat system that will be warmly welcomed by players of the first Hand of Fate. Even though the combat can be annoying at times, if you keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine— just try not to rage quit. I am hoping for better character creation once the game is officially released since as of now, it feels neglected and tacked on. But with good gameplay and an intriguing story, Defiant Development really did a phenomenal job with this one. If you’re a fan of rogue-likes or a fan of card games (or both) don’t pass this one up! It is well worth the price and your time.
The Bottom Line
Hand of Fate 2 greatly outdoes its predecessor with a much better combat system and gameplay that will keep you enthralled for hours upon hours.