As I sit across from the sarcastic, abrasive, but incredibly interesting dealer, I wonder where the next card will take me; a much-needed rest in a travelling shop where I can purchase food and replenish my health, or dive straight back into combat against any number of foes. Hand of Fate is a wonderfully wrought “choose-your-own-adventure” game that doesn’t only allow a huge variety in how you complete each level, it also incorporates a fun – if flawed – combat system in order to shake things up.
The Defiant Development crafted title works by laying out a series of cards in a series so that your in-game character must traverse through them to reach the boss battle at the end. The cards include combat challenges, shops, interactions with unique characters for personal gain and cards that require you to pick the success card at random to win the prize accompanying it.
Each level includes new cards and the dealer will change up the game by throwing in more random cards that either help or hinder your progress. Whilst it sounds difficult and complex, Hand of Fate is extremely simple to pick up and is even a bit too easy in the beginning with the dealer helping you a lot instead of dropping curses upon you.
Hand of Fate is all about courage and being able to risk more in order to receive the best reward. Every card you win in-game is then put into your deck to be used in a subsequent level. There is a lot of freedom with the deck-building; not only do you create the positive aspects of your deck – better weapons, armour and shields – but you must also add in the in-game interactions, meaning that you can choose what challenges and enemies you must face. This is augmented by the dealer adding his own cards to increase the challenge. Risk-reward works strongly here as the harder the enemies you choose to battle, the better the spoils of war will be. By the end of the ten-hour campaign, my deck bore no resemblance to the original deck given to you by the dealer which was a great joy as each level was genuinely unique to play through and this translated perfectly over to the endless-mode in which you must fend off the dealer for as long as possible.
It was rather difficult to become bored during the campaign, though when I eventually did the main reason was the shaky combat. With only a few moves to perform, the combat quickly became repetitive and monotonous. The enemies frequently change round but mostly combat lasted no longer than a minute and I found that only being able to attack, parry and dodge really dampened the whole complex spirit of the game. The character you control for combat looks impressive – think Game of Thrones mixed with an early God of War – but is disappointingly not customisable. The graphics as a whole are reasonably good but are nothing to write home about and I was frequently frustrated by audio cutting out and animations being jumpy.
By far my favourite aspect of Hand of Fate is the dealer; his frequent use of sarcasm and a general air of derision towards your character makes you actually want to work harder to beat him and get greater spoils of war. He is a slick character that works hard to make the game constantly interesting and rarely allows it to get boring.
Hand of Fate is an incredibly rewarding game that urges you to risk it all in return for a near unlimited deck and more interesting levels. Although the combat leaves a lot to be desired, it does not detract enough from the unpredictability and intellect of the game, let alone the fantastic dealer who, quite frankly, gives the game a strong replayability. Each level is a blast to play through and just when you think it can’t get any better the dealer manages to pull an ace from his sleeve.