Hand of Fate 2
The basic premise of Hand of Fate 2 remains the same as the first game. However, Defiant Development have not just rehashed their action combat, table top inspired, card-based RPG. They’ve improved, refined and embellished the game, seizing upon its best aspects and bringing them to the fore, while beefing up the combat and adding wider features to bolster longevity. The sinister dealer returns but with a subtly different purpose this time. The player’s progression through the game is still filled with familiar fantasy tropes, random dice rolls, double-edged decisions and unexpected encounters. But this time the proceedings are contained within a more sophisticated framing device. There is a world map and a wider backstory to consider as you face 22 card-based challenges.
The initial tutorial stages, has your token move across a map of cards triggering an encounter on each one it lands upon. At times these are just story text, but others result in a decision or an outcome based upon the roll of a dice. Some encounters will end in combat, where the game adopts a third person Arkham-style fighting perspective. Combat this time round has been beefed up with companions and a greater variety of skills. You can also change the gender of your avatar and make some basic cosmetic changes. Beyond the tutorial, the importance of customising your deck and selecting appropriate cards ahead of the challenge becomes apparent. Picking the right selection leads to greater loot acquisition. Completing challenges and winning tokens provides new cards and new ways to explore and play the game. But you have to be on your toes. If you die in combat or due to a bad run of cards, then you fail and have to replay the entire challenge.
It is the greater depth of Hand of Fate 2 that makes it a superior sequel. The challenges often have sub-requirements that must be met before you progress. The new companions have their own unique backstories as well as engaging personalities. One is not especially bright and is afflicted with a potato fixation. The expansion of the narrative along with the augmented role of the dealer (once again brilliantly voiced by actor Anthony Skordi), means that the game is even more immersive this time round. The new mechanics means that replaying failed challenges is not as repetitious as expected. The in-game combat is still relatively simple compared to games based entirely upon this mechanic, but it is an improvement over the first game. There is more to do and those who are not great twitch gamers have the option of building a deck of buffs and debuffs.
Unlike many contemporary titles, Hand of Fate 2 has a unique quirky charm and character. Both the sound design and a subtle score by Jeff van Dyck enhance the game and contribute to its brooding atmosphere. However, out of all the games embellishments, it is the saturnine soliloquies of the dealer that are the most enjoyable and effective changes. He hints at a broader lore and sinister purpose behind the players progress across the virtual game board. It is these characteristics as well as a credible and balanced use of random chance that makes the game exciting. Overall Hand of Fate 2 is a worthy successor to the previous instalment in the series and a step forward in the games development. Mister Lionel may be absent this time round but there is still plenty of alternative Goblin based mirth to be enjoyed.