Slinging cards, whether it’s real life cardboard or a deck-building video game, is a special cocktail of entertainment; it’s hard to match the strategy of fine-tuning the optimal deck or the rush of drawing the perfect card to save your hide or clinch victory.
Fate Hunters is a streamlined, lightweight deck-building rogue-lite that captures this essence without bombarding you with unnecessary features. Its defining trait is also what gives it this unencumbered, weightless feeling: there’s no resource management. You don’t have to worry about mana, action points, or intrinsic limits to how many cards you can play, you’re only limited by how many cards you draw.
This makes Fate Hunters very simple to pick up and learn, and though it’s hilarious fun drawing and playing 15 cards in a turn, it has its own drawbacks. Drawpower becomes incredibly overpowered, to the point where digging further into your deck is always the optimal strategy. There are also very few cards that provide defence, so drafting healing cards is vital to any run.
This limits the organic, varied deck-building aspect to an extent, but it’s not enough to spoil the fun of clearing your way through Fate Hunter’s multilayered dungeon. You start with only the Inquisitor, but there are five classes to play in total, each with unique play-styles and card choices. There’s still a pool of universal cards that they all dip into though so the gameplay doesn’t vary as much as something like Slay the Spire. There’s still enough difference to make each class feel interesting though.
Acquiring treasure is the main objective of Fate Hunters – which serves as a currency to unlock new classes and cards – but it’s no simple task. You’ll earn treasure by defeating enemies, but it must be added to your deck in the form of cards that are usually useless in your hand. You cash in your treasure by either fighting your way out of the dungeon, or reaching the end of a level, which lets you end your run and keep your gold.
They’ve devised an excellent balancing act that constantly pulls you in multiple directions. Can you afford to take more treasure at the risk of it imbalancing your deck? Do you carry on and risk losing all your gold, or escape while you still can? You’re always making little decisions that could have massive unforeseen repercussions on your run and I love this unique challenge.
I do feel like the progression leaves something to be desired, though. This might only be because I’m used to min-maxing decks and playing as optimally as possible, but I was able to clear the dungeon on my third or fourth attempt, earning enough treasure that I could unlock all four characters in one fell swoop. It would have felt more rewarding if they were tiered differently, as anyone could end up with an exceptionally lucky run that almost robs you of an organic feeling of completion.
You can also spend treasure to unlock different starting cards for each class, but I found most of these weren’t worth spending money on as the starting decks are quite efficient. Once you’ve unlocked the extra classes, your only real goal is unlocking Hard Mode for each character, something that can be done by defeating the final level’s boss: The Master. I found this relatively simple for a couple of classes, but Hard Mode is a real test of your luck and deck-building skills.
Fate Hunters spent around ten months in Early Access before releasing this year, and it’s undergone some significant changes. In the final few patches alone, they decreased the overall difficulty, added a large number of new cards, and implemented a card library. This is particularly useful for theory-crafting builds and knowing what options you’re hoping for along the way. It’s obviously for those of us that like min-maxing builds and minutiae, but that likely describes a deck-building rogue-like’s main audience!