Title: Hand of Fate
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac, Linux, Steam OS, PS4, Xbox One

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Action RPG, Rogue-lite

Players: Single player

Written by Dragoon 18th February 2015

Defiant Developments new title Hand of Fate has to be one of the most surprising and unique games I’ve played in a long while and is already a contester for my game of the year. An interesting mixture of genres creates a fresh experience that is both challenging and fun. Hand of Fate is a hybrid of Rogue-like, Action RPG and Deck Building games which creates a unique and, most importantly, fun game.

You play the game against a mysterious man known only as The Dealer who pits his deck of enemies and obstacles against the deck you construct of unique encounters and equipment. Every area is represented by a boss and each has its own challenges. Once you select the boss you want to face you then have to construct your two decks, one containing your Equipment and another consisting of Encounters. Once you have decided The Dealer adds in a few of his own cards and the game begins.

Your cards are laid out in a pattern and your token is placed at the start of the area. You move one space every turn, every move consumes food and if you run out you start to lose health, and each space is represented by an encounter card. These cards give you various choices to make, for example one card has you come across the tomb of a dead king. You see that the tomb is guarded by monsters, which are chosen at random from The Dealers deck of monsters, and you can either choose to leave them be and move on or try to sneak up on them to take one of the groups out before they realise you are there.

If you choose to sneak up on them you are then given four chance cards consisting of cards which represent success or failure that are shuffled and placed face down. If you manage to choose a success card you get to take out one monster card before the actual battle but if you fail you must face both groups. Once the encounter is resolved the battle begins and the game shifts into a 3D arena. The monster cards turn into a group of enemies and your equipment cards become the tools you use to battle them.

In combat you can swing your weapon, roll to evade attacks and (if you have a shield) counter enemy attacks and shield bash enemies. You can counter both melee and ranged attacks, melee counters are followed by an evading slash while ranged counters knock the projectile back at the attacker. There are certain attacks that cannot be countered so you must move out of the way. You can also find various effects you can access in battles such as a spell that causes enemies to drop money when hit or a shield that absorbs ranged attacks. Combat is good but feels a tad simplistic with a wide variety of weapons with varying effects, although it can feel a tad floaty at times and some of the animations feel a little sluggish. A few of the fights can feel a tad unfair as well and the counter seemed to not work properly which often left me trying to counter the air.

If you manage to defeat the encounter you can then open the dead king’s treasure and draw Gain cards which give you things like equipment, gold or food. Your goal in each area is to find the card that will let move onto the next area and this continues until you find the boss card. You can also gain Curses (which hinder your journey by applying negative effects like making ranged attacks hit you harder) and Blessings (which help you with effects like giving you another chance at picking a success/fail card.) Every boss is unique and represents one of the 4 main enemy races which are Bandits, Lizardmen, Ratmen and the Undead. Bandits are the easiest enemies to deal with, Lizardmen have shields and can’t be counter hit, Ratmen poison you and are often in large groups and the Undead come back to life if you don’t kill them all fast enough.

Every time you defeat a boss you unlock more cards which you can add to your deck. You gain new cards by completing certain encounter cards which give a coin, which is cashed in for cards when you finish the boss or die. These special cards are usually a continuing story which you can carry on in other runs. For example in one card you meet a mysterious stranger who asks for some of your health in exchange for gold. If you accept his offer he takes your health and pays you, remarking on your surprising willingness to give your health for material gain and refers you to a blood auction. You then gain a coin which unlocks said auction and you can then use in your deck in your next run. This is a really interesting feature and makes you feel as though you are going on an evolving and continuous journey.

Another feature that really increases the atmosphere is the constant commentary from The Dealer himself. He often quips in with a sarcastic or mocking comment about pretty much everything you do and these are delivered excellently. For example whenever you gain a new piece of equipment he will give you a brief rundown on it and when you equip it he will say something like “Are you sure that’s the right approach?” His commentary is influenced by how you play the game so you will often hear something new every time you play. The Dealer is also nicely animated and detailed with a lifelike spark to his eyes. He also possesses various animations like fidgeting around with his bracelet which altogether gives him a lot of character and really improves the feel of the game.

The arenas are quite good looking and each has its own unique style. There are multiple layouts and a few of them have various traps strewn around them which you can use against your enemies or fall victim to yourself. The game table is also very atmospheric with various interesting things laid about it and the hall the game takes place in is also quite interesting with crumbled statues and tattered banners. Nothing is explicitly said about the game itself or where you are playing but it is all hinted at throughout the game which creates a great sense of mystery.

The sound in the game is generally good but I did have one or two points where the sound bugged out and wouldn’t play properly until I reloaded the game. This was a rare occurrence but it did happen multiple times. The music was great and fit the theme of the game well, increasing my immersion without being overly intrusive.

Hand of Fate is an excellent game that dared to try something new and innovative and it definitely paid off. The excellent choose your adventure inspired cards and the fun combat made it a joy to play and The Dealer is a fantastic character that made the game even better. It has fantastic replaybility with both a story and endless mode and a massive variety of interesting cards to unlock. The end of the game is pretty unfairly difficult though but this is something Defiant Development can definitely fix down the line but overall the game is great achievement.

Fantastic character in The Dealer,
Fresh, innovative ideas,
Great replayability,
Engrossing atmosphere.

Sometimes clunky combat,
A few bugs,

Final Verdict,
Hand of Fate draws a 9/10.

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