Hand of Fate was one of the best indie games of 2014 and has remained one of my favourite RPGs of the current console generation. However, in the year that also gave us top-flight roleplaying titles such Dragon Age: Inquisition, Divinity: Original Sin and Dark Souls II, it may not have gotten the attention it truly deserved. Still, the crowdfunded hybrid card game must have done well, as Defiant Development are now serving up a second helping.
It may look like a tough game to get your head around, but in truth it’s fiendishly simple. Like the original, Hand of Fate 2 takes the adventures, battles, and intrigues of an RPG, turning each encounter into a card that is shuffled into the Dealer’s deck. Combining a selection of pre-set cards with those you gradually unlock, they are laid out in a sequence that charts your journey through each chapter.
When a card is flipped it can lead to a growing number of encounters including fights, a game of chance, or an important event tied to your current quest. Even resources such as health, gold, food, and equipment all have cards, with their random distribution making each round as unpredictable as the last.
Hand of Fate 2 is like your typical RPG, but without the sometimes boring bits between. Yet, without spending hours talking to NPCs or travelling across a vast open world, I still felt utterly immersed. Instead of soaking in the lore or atmosphere, I became transfixed on collecting cards, seeing what stories they had to tell or rewards they had to offer.
Those who played and completed the original will also take note of the Dealer himself. Not only does he play the role of games master, he’s the narrator and, ultimately, the most important figure in this story. The quests themselves tend to have more of a narrative focus too, revolving around several key factions as well as your companions who each have their own series of cards.
Although pretty much identical to the original at its core, Defiant has added plenty of new systems and features to Hand of Fate, not to mention shedloads of new unlockable cards. For example, there’s now a Fame resource that is needed to use powerful equipment cards when out on a quest. There’s now more diversity in the games of chance too, including dice rolls, spinning wheels, and a pendulum. The latter is arguably more reflex/rhythm based, but it adds another dynamic layer to the game’s inner workings.
Combat has also been expanded with new enemies, bosses, and weapon types. AI companions will also become available over time, each with their own unique powers. The fighting system itself hasn’t changed, feeling like a simpler version of that seen in the Arkham series and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. For the most part that actually works in its favour, though there are times where Hand of Fate 2 can feel like a slog, either due to being swamped by loads of enemies or not having the equipment cards to kill them off quickly.
With 22 quests, each one taking between 15 to 45 minutes to beat, Defiant has put together a hefty roleplaying sequel. There’s a tremendous amount of replay value on offer too, mainly for those wanting to unlock rare cards and build a formidable deck to meet any challenge.
If the combat were just a touch more dynamic, Hand of Fate 2 would be essential. As it stands, it’s still a great sequel and perfect for anyone wanting the thrills of an RPG without feeling loss. Defiant constantly prod players into the unknown and the results are always fun and rewarding.
Version tested: PlayStation 4