I’ll admit I never got around to playing Defiant Development’s original 2015 game Hand of Fate. While the game’s card-slinging, dungeon-crawling premise looked and sounded interesting, there were just too many other games that were higher up on my “must buy” list at the time.
However, when Defiant released its sequel, Hand of Fate 2, earlier this month and the initial reviews proved favorable, I decided to finally take the plunge. Now, while I don’t have any direct gameplay experience from the original Hand of Fate to compare it to, I can confidently say after having sunk several dozen hours into Hand of Fate 2 that, overall, it’s a very solid (and fun) mix of strategy simulation, deck-building, and action combat gameplay.
Pick A Card...
Much like in the first game, Hand of Fate 2 players find themselves caught up in the machinations of the enigmatic (and oftentimes hilariously condescending) figure known as The Dealer. Weaving together his various decks of cards, The Dealer tasks the player with guiding their character through 22 different challenges, each of which features a custom ruleset and special parameters the player must adjust to.
Even though each challenge involves navigating a board of facedown cards in order to complete a specific goal, the exact nature of the board and what the facedown cards do can vary wildly from challenge to challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much gameplay variety Defiant Development was able to squeeze out of Hand of Fate 2’s central gameplay concept.
One challenge, for example, plays out like a classic whodunit scenario with the player having to sniff out which of a master thief’s lieutenants are planning to murder him, and another involves escorting a hapless potato farmer while he is assailed by hordes of reanimated skeletons sent by his dead (now undead) lover.
At the beginning of each challenge, the player can also construct their own personal deck of scenarios, equipment, companions, and supplies using cards they’ve unlocked from previous challenges. This allows the player to inject a small bit of certainty into the otherwise randomized layout of each challenge, but at the end of the day, a particularly nasty run of bad luck can ruin even the best laid plans.
However, while some of the game’s later challenges can be particularly grueling, I never really felt stuck or frustrated. There are always multiple challenges to tackle at once, so if you find yourself stuck on one, you can just go attempt another, get some better cards, and return to the challenge that’s giving you trouble later.
One of the things I really liked about Hand of Fate 2 was the various ways it recreated the experience of playing a real-life Dungeons & Dragons session, only in a digital solo experience. As you encounter certain scenarios within a given challenge, you are oftentimes tasked with participating in a mini-game like choosing from a series of facedown cards, rolling dice, or a reflexes-based pendulum game where you have to align a beam with a constantly moving target.
Having certain companions at your side (one of Hand of Fate 2’s new features) or items in your inventory can improve your odds in certain respects (one companion, for example, grants you an extra dice to roll if needed), and even if you fail a mini-game challenge, the consequences are usually not too hard to soldier through. Speaking of soldiering through, if there’s one other thing you’ll be doing a lot of in Hand of Fate 2 aside from exploring various challenge boards, it’s engaging in combat encounters.
I found Hand of Fate 2’s combat system to be mostly enjoyable, if a little repetitive after a while (though that’s mostly due to the game’s small total number of different enemies to fight). Being able to equip different weapon types (slow two-handers, quick dual-wielders, and the classic sword and shield) helps to keep things feeling fresh, as does the fact that combat functions in a similar manner to the Batman Arkham games with players able to strike and stun enemies, evade, block and counter, and even unleash powerful special attacks if they build up a big enough combo chain.
Bells and Whistles
As an RPG fan, I also appreciated some of Hand of Fate 2’s more ancillary features like being able to create and customize my own character, decide how I wanted to handle certain scenarios, and immersive myself in the game’s structured narrative. The game’s limited gameplay scope means that playing it over long sessions can start to feel like a slog.
However, if you keep yourself to only playing one or two challenges at a time, Hand of Fate 2 can feel like a quality slow burn experience that any fan of RPG’s or deck-building games would definitely enjoy. Plus, the game’s main menu teases the upcoming addition of an ‘Endless Mode’ variant, something which will hopefully address Hand of Fate 2’s lack of longterm replay value (a minor quibble, but one worth mentioning).
Overall, it’s not perfect, but Hand of Fate 2 still manages to improve upon its predecessor in all of the best ways possible, and it has certainly made a fan out of me. Those who are looking for a faithful recreation of the D&D experience in digital form may not find everything they want in Hand of Fate 2, but they’ll most assuredly come pretty darn close.
- A fun digital recreation of classic D&D themes.
- A simple yet engaging combat system.
- Many different gameplay scenarios to enjoy.
- Combat can get repetitive.
- Long play sessions can feel like a slog.
- Not a lot of replay value (for now).