It’s always a pleasure to see an Australian developer do well
Hand of Fate 2 is a weird one though. It defies the usual genre classifications, instead choosing to borrow decision-making elements from classic adventure games, gameplay from character action titles and mechanics ripped from board games.
It’s an eclectic mix of elements that really has no right being good, but it worked for the original, and its back in better form for the sequel.
What’s the same in Hand of Fate 2?
Hand of Fate 2 devotedly follows the formula of its predecessor. You’re back in the same carried, sitting in front of the same dealer—voice by the gravelly sensual Anthony Skordi—playing the same game of fate.
You make your way through randomized encounters, all leading to a final boss fight. The twist is that you pick all the encounters yourself from a deck of cards that are shuffled into a deck along with weapon and armour to help you along the way.
The result is that each challenge is a unique experience that can range from a stroll in the park to an agonising journey, depending on the whims of lady luck. Preparation and smart decisions can only stack the deck in your favour, but you have to be prepared for an occasional bad run.
This might not gel well with control freaks, but any tabletop RPG player will tell you that the threat of random failure only makes the successes all the sweeter.
Speaking of tabletop games, I’m hard-pressed to recall a game that feels more like playing a board game. A lot of that comes from the mechanics, but I think the general presentation deserves some credit.
It’s the little things, like the subtle music cues that change between the various menus, or the extra frames of animation put into making your character token wobble as its moved along the game board. With just a little care and attention, Defiant Development have made the small world between you and the dealer feel real.
I never played the first Hand of Fate, but even fans of the original admitted that the combat well… frankly sucked.
It was slow, repetitive and only came in two flavours: shockingly easy or infuriatingly difficult. Thankfully, that area got the most attention paid to it in the sequel.
While not even coming close to say Dark Souls in its complexity, Hand of Fate 2 has itself a decent little combat system.
You’ve got a variety of weapon types, each with different damage and speed. Axes are slower but hit harder. Swords are quicker but do less damage, you get the drill. On top of that, certain weapon types work better on different enemies. It’s not enough to stop you from playing a certain way, but a little flexibility goes a long way.
Outside of attacks, you have a parry a dodge. Each of which is responsive and feel great to pull off. Like I said, the combat isn’t going to change the word, but it doesn’t fall into the cardinal sin of action gameplay by not being fun to play.
The one area that needs a little bit of work is the enemy AI. You’ve got a wide selection of enemy types with different attacks, weakness, etc. However, they’re all a little stupid. In group fights, it’s real simple to isolate one from the group and take it out. The enemies don’t have very good self-preservation instincts, so this technique can be rinsed and repeated for an easy win.
It’s a little thing, but it’s a significant stumble from otherwise tight and tense gameplay.
Summary of Hand of Fate 2
Defiant Development started the Hand of Fate series with a clear game design. They wanted to make you feel like you were playing a board game. The sequel only improves on this design and tightens what didn’t work about the original.
It probably won’t be the best game you play this year, but it is hella original and memorable. Sometimes that counts just as much.