By Steve Baltimore / February 17th, 2015
|Title||Hand of Fate|
|Release Date||February 17, 2015|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One|
I am always on the lookout for any kind of RPG that will provide me with something unique. I’ve been gaming for around 30 years, so there is not much new for me out there. When I first saw Hand of Fate, with its roguelike mechanics based on cards and great combat, I knew I wanted to check this one out. Did it meet my expectations or disappoint me? Let’s find out.
The story takes place in a cabin at the end of the world. It is just you and the dealer, playing a game of life and death. The basic idea here is for you to beat 12 of the most vicious monsters the dealer can throw at you in the Game of Fate. Each set of three will get progressively more difficult. I like that each set starts with the Jack of a suit and ends with the King, just like playing cards. The story will change a bit each time you play, as the cards make this a choose-your-own-adventure type of game. I really love the way this is set up, since it is very fresh and unique.
Graphically speaking, this one looks really nice. All of the art on the cards looks like old tarot cards. I love the style they chose here and found it fit this game to a tee. When you go into combat, the worlds on the cards spring into 3D life. When that happens the environments and creature models are equally impressive. There are not many creature models to be found here, however. Hopefully, if they make a sequel to this, there will be more variety.
There isn’t a lot of music to speak of, either. There are some very medieval-sounding tunes playing here and there when certain events take place. These are all well placed and add much to the overall experience. I think the best part about the sound is The Dealer’s voice actor. I’m not sure who they got to do this, but he was perfect for that job. The way he sounds as he tells the stories of the cards, the world or just taking jabs at you is fantastic.
The gameplay starts out like a card game. You will pick some equipment cards and encounter cards. The encounter cards are the story of this adventure. Any place, person or event that occurs will mostly be from these cards. Some cards will require you to give resources for greater gains later, some you have to win a success/failure shuffle and others will have you battling monsters. The success/failure shuffle is really important. Not only will doing well give you greater rewards, but you can also win the card’s token. When you win these tokens, they will grant you more cards for your deck. You will get to keep these even if you do not complete the level. You can also fail at these shuffles, though this can cause you great pains, especially if it is a huge failure, as this will carry some nasty penalties.
Equipment cards are just what you expect; they grant you equipment as your progress in the level. You will not start off with all of this equipped, however. You will have to acquire it through encounter cards, rewards or other means, but, if it is not in your deck, you will not be able to use it. There are three different types of equipment — weapons, armor and artifacts. As you can guess, these come in varying strengths, and some will give you better bonuses than others. Some will have other special effects, such as saving resources, giving you special attacks and more. There is a great variety here, which helps keep the game fresh and interesting each time.
As the game starts, the Dealer will deal a number of cards face down. You will placed as a game piece on the starting card. You can move one space in any direction at a time. Each time you move, it will consume one of your food supply and restore you five health, that is, unless an effect has otherwise changed it. As you move onto each card, it will flip over and reveal itself. Here is where the game truly begins. Will you get lucky and get one of your encounter cards, or will you get one of the cards the Dealer has added in to spice up the game? Yes, the Dealer adds in some rather nasty cards to impede your progress. These can be nasty monster encounter, traps or other means of causing you ill.
The object of each stage is to navigate through the cards of each level gaining the best equipment and defeating the boss. This all sounds simple enough but this requires a bit of luck, as well as skill. Combat with monsters is done in a 3D environment. When the battle begins, you will have free movement to move around your enemies. You can attack them with standard attacks or bash attack to deal with shielded enemies. If you have acquired a shield for yourself — which hopefully you have — you can block and dodge enemy attacks with a single button. This makes combat simple, yet really fun. If you have not gained one, you can use the dodge roll to at least attempt to dodge the attacks. Remember those special abilities I mentioned earlier? You can activate those at the touch of a button, sometimes turning the tide of battle in your favor.
Another interesting thing to note is, depending on which card you draw, or the enemies you fight, the battlefields can be quite different. Some are flat, straightforward battlefields, while others are trap-laden messes. The traps will hurt the enemies, as well, so you can use them to your advantage if you’re in the right position. If you die in a level before reaching the boss, you will have to start that level over from the very beginning with a new shuffle of cards. Meaning you could come out better or worse depending on your fate, no pun intended.
This is a very general outline on how Hand of Fate works. I could go on and on about every little detail, but this review would be enormous. What makes this even nicer is, when you complete so many Story Mode levels, you unlock Endless Mode, and it is exactly how it sounds. You play on random boards for as long as you can survive. This is a ton of fun and will have you gritting your teeth trying to make it just one more level.
Despite having a few technical issues, a few crashes, sound stopped working once and few other small bugs, this is a very solid title. There is a ton of replay value, as the game is different each time you play it. The presentation is top notch, from The Dealer’s voice acting down to the artwork, this looks great. The combat is fun, even if it can be a bit unbalanced at times, but this is likely because I got a raw deal in the shuffle. If you are looking for something new and interesting and like action RPGs or card games, I would have no issues recommending this title at the $20 price tag on the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live Arcade.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Editor’s Note: PSN and XBox Live versions to go live today at 4 p.m. PST
Action RPGcardsdefiant developmentHand of Fate