Most of the reviews you will probably read on Hand of Fate 2 are going to entail direct comparisons with its predecessor, Hand of Fate. Let this review be a breath of fresh air for those of you that have not played HOF, because I hadn’t either. However, if you’ve played HOF, you may still find this review helpful. Let us know in the comment section below. Defiant Development’s HOF2 is a hybrid card game/action adventure game with some light RPG elements. There is really a mix of everything here, but to succinctly describe it is difficult.
You play the game against (or with, depending on your point of view) the Dealer, a dark figure who sounds like he has an even darker past. The Dealer serves as the narrator and will doll out cards, tokens, and challenges as you navigate your way through a variety of scenarios arranged on a game board. There are a bunch of scenarios for you to navigate and complete, and each offers a specific challenge element (or gimmick as I’ve seen others refer to it as), so not all scenarios play the same way. This is a great way to break-up some of the repetitive elements inherit to a game like this.
Because this is my first introduction into the HOF games, I was not expecting anything other than trading cards and battles. This was all I encountered while searching screenshots on the interwebs. As I alluded to previously, I was pleasantly surprised by what the game dealt me, including the different scenarios, the “choose your own adventure” challenges, and the strategic management of resources like health and food.
Assuming you’ve never played before, each scenario is played out by a deck of cards, with each card being revealed as your token moves along the path as laid out by the Dealer. I admit, there is a certain thrill involved with each card being turned face up, revealing what reward or challenge awaits the player. Board game players will understand the anticipation of a card flip when the odds are stacked against you, or if you feel you’ve finally found the card you are looking for!
The other cards that you pick up and/or “win” along the way include equipment, gold, or scenario-specific cards. Certain cards, like equipment cards, can be incorporated into the deck that you build for each scenario and will be anxiously waiting for you to uncover it as you complete challenges. While your character might always start the scenario with a cruddy shield, you’ll likely pick up another from your deck as you advance. There is a good mix of items and equipment for you to use, but I wish there was some sort of option to start the campaign with better equipment that doesn’t penalize you (ie, using up one of your bonuses at the start of the campaign).
When you jump into combat, it feels like a brawler. I echo those who have said this feels like an Arkham game, using tactful attacks mixed with blocks and dodges. I would mix in a Fable feel to it as well, being a fantasy setting and already drawing similarities to Arkham as well (although they technically did it first).
While you’ll start with pure melee attacks, you’ll eventually mix in some magic as you take on a variety of enemies. In some cases, you will get to choose your equipment load out before you fight, employing certain weapons that gives you advantages against the enemy. There isn’t a lot of variation in the types you’ll fight and how they are setup, but for a game like this, I think that is okay. Also, these encounters can be repetitive depending on the scenario you are playing, like every other encounter being the same set of barbarians (called Northerners) as the last. However, there are boss battles, so make sure you get yourself a good set of equipment before you reach the end of the scenario.
Aesthetically, the game looks good. I’m sure they improved upon the predecessor in this department. The sound design is also spot on as the thrown dice were hitting the wooden table or during the dramatic flip of the card (bet you can hear this in your head. Inventory and menus are easy to navigate, and you can apply filters to the cards in your deck to help sort through them.
HOF2 borrows more than just the mechanics of a card game. As a busy gamer, I really enjoyed that each scenario felt like a self-contained game: I was able to jump into a scenario or two and then jump off if need be, just like sitting down to play a round of a card game. I never felt like I was on a continual cliffhanger with save points and having to lay awake at night plotting my next move. Of course, you can spend hours going through the scenarios, finding different ways to complete them for more tokens or just to test out another path.
In the end, Hand of Fate 2 is a good game. I think the price point shows where this game is at in the spectrum of gaming, and I think that it offers a lot of content that some big budget games can barely scrape together. If you are a fan of board games, strategy games, or just enjoy the digital adaptations of board games, you’ll love this game. Others who are big fans of action RPGs or RPGs in general should tailor their expectations, because the depth of your character doesn’t exist in a normal character sheet, but in your deck of cards.
Hand of Fate 2 is available for PlayStation 4 in North America and Oceania regions, and via Steam. An Xbox One version, as well as European PS4 release, will be available soon.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
It's fate is in the cards
Gameplay - 8/10
Design - 9/10
Challenge - 8/10
+ Hybrid action/card game that works
+ Would play as a board game
+ Looks good
- Lacks depth of typical RPGs