Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox One, PS4
Without a doubt, I’m drawn to games that combine classic genres and mechanics in new and interesting ways, and Hand of Fate is a game that feels like a mashup. In Story mode, you are tasked with beating a series of boss encounters, but instead of your typical dungeon crawl to reach the end, instead you move through a series of cards, all of which have some sort of encounter on them. Some paths are very linear – like when the cards are dealt in a single row. Some offer many choices, and discovering an exit card early forces you to choose whether you prefer to explore the rest of the cards, or keep moving towards the conclusion.
Due to the card game mechanics, this game features a lot of randomness. Maybe even too much randomness. Sometimes, you stumble on an equipment upgrade before meeting your first monster, and sometimes, you’re going up against the boss and his minions with the same rusty axe you started with. Sometimes it feels like every other encounter is a shop, which would be great, if you’d managed to pick up any gold at all. If the rounds were longer, this would probably be a deal breaker for me – but rounds go by quickly, and since the fail penalty is just replaying the level with a potentially very different layout, even hitting a round where it feels like you’ve missed out on every possible win condition isn’t too painful.
To me, playing with a keyboard and mouse, combat feels like a world of random button mashing and hoping for the best. However, the game does feature controller support, and the controller key binds seem much more logical. When I play again – and I do plan to play again – I will try out my controller and see if I feel any more, well, in control.
There are three difficulty choices, and an unlockable endless mode. There is also the Wildcard DLC which offer several other options for alternate play styles. For someone who enjoys the game, its replay value is immense. However, for the player who prefers a single, cohesive story, and needs a feeling of fair play and skill based successes, Hand of Fate will be a series of annoyances. Story content is splintered everywhere, and some encounters are resolved by what basically amounts to a flip of a coin. This is a game that would really be well served by having a playable demo.
If you’re comfortable with a game that is more reliant on luck than skill to complete, and you enjoy unpredictability and the strategy that comes with deck building, Hand of Fate is probably a good investment, especially if you pick it up on sale along with the DLC. But if you prefer traditional role playing games, with a constant stream of power upgrades and high rewards for skillful play, give this one a pass.