Hand of Fate is a card based, rogue-like, RPG, action game, isn’t that a mouthful, developed by Defiant Development who haven’t really hit the limelight just yet, only making 2 games prior. Hand of Fate is a mish-mash of several different genres and game mechanics that could put off button mashers due to the complexity of the game and its design. Can this new foray into gaming genres help the team make their mark on the world? Well, it has an announced PS4 release so that could very well be.
The game starts off as you gain consciousness and see a man on the other side of a table, with both random items and objects with a deck of cards in the middle of the table. Suddenly the cards burst from the deck and start to revolve around in the air, this isn’t any ordinary man it seems as he possess some sort of magical powers. He tells you that the deck is made of both luck and your memories, excluding the cards he adds in for “fun”.
You are tasked with beating the dealer’s gauntlet of cards and reach the end, obtaining his items of power for yourself to make your travels both easier and harder depending on what you encounter. Fighting through 4 sets of 4 cards you will gain items of power and progress along a long story where the Dealer will give out hints and tidbits to why you are here and what you must do to win.
Every leg of the gauntlet gets progressively harder and longer, meaning sessions times vary between play. The tutorial is around 20 minutes long and from there each sessions grows in length, the first leg taking around an hour to complete. With the failures and deaths taking a toll on my game time I found it hard to gauge the actual play time of the other legs but I would say it’s safe to assume that each one was around a half hour longer then the last.
Hand of Fate seems like a simple resource management adventure at first, your token moving over cards that will give you either gold or food or even replenish or extend your life. Every step heals you for 5 points and uses 1 food, but food depletes rather quickly over the course of the game so remember to pack heavy. The game then changes to a RPG/Action game when the Dealer draws a monster card, ranging in difficulty, race and amount. From the draw you are then brought to a boxed in area, from caves to houses, where your cards you have amassed with equip onto your Viking character as 3D models and give him their powers. You will then fight your way through the enemies to gain gold during the fight and gain cards at the end.
Now that first paragraph was long, but so is the complexity of the game, with combining mechanics from Oregon’s Trail, Card games and Arkham (Batman). Building a deck from the cards you unlock will choose what equipment you will be able to buy and find in the session you start and the boss you choose will depict the adventure you will go on. Managing your resources becomes a bigger task as the game continues on, with sessions lasting longer and longer with more and more traps and cards added to the deck.
You move on the card field by clicking a card, your token moving accordingly, and a randomly selected card will show itself, either being an encounter between your character and NPC’s, tradesmen or enemies. There are also random events like getting lost in a carnival or woods, to stumbling upon a treasure chest at the end of a hallway. The field starts off small but grows in size as you continue down the gauntlet and more cards are added to the deck.
When you enter a battle you will be rendered into a full 3D model, with all items and equipment being placed on your character. You can control your character with WASD and attack with mouse clicks, following a similarly Arkham battle system you can dodge and counter with fluid movements. Your equipment will decide what abilities you will have, without a shield you cannot block or deflect and with Artefacts you can use magic like returning your health to the starting amount, gaining gold per hit and more.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The early-access version of the game does contain quite a few bugs and glitches, both graphical and gameplay. The Dealer’s face can sometimes phase through his scarf and some models go inside one another, not to mention some attack and abilities not working as intended which can make some of them redundant. These are far between so they can be overlooked, though I do hope they are fixed for the final game as they do break the immersion somewhat.
The Viking design of the character is pretty appealing, but a game with such randomness and customisation for the Deck, I feel it would be better if the character was randomised or could be customised in some form besides equipment. Since we never see our actual character on the side of the table it would be nice if we could craft our adventurer to depict who we believe ourselves to be or even emulate our real life likeness.
Overall the game is pretty fun, if not for a session here and there, the gameplay is innovative and really makes you use your brain matter. People who hate thinking might be put off from this game as there is a lot to remember and control during a session, from your resources, how long the dungeon is and the strength of your adventurer against the strength of the enemies.
Hand of Fate is a brilliant mixture of genres, from the Deck-Building that allows you to craft your randomised arsenal and choose your own style of play, to the resource management of the field and your character which require more and more thought as the game progresses. The game contains so much replay value due to the randomised aspects of it, with strategies forming with each consecutive playthrough. The difficulty curve is something to get used to, the tutorial being absurdly easy, the first row being a slightly hard walk and after that having to dodge every blow and counter very attack to save your health for harder battles.