Genre: Action, Indie, RPG
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Release Date: Nov 8, 2017
Edited by KnightAvenger
I’m trudging through a large field filled with swathes of patches that are alternatively plentiful in resources and dangerous—all to track down a few relics. I reach the location of one, but the village refuses to part with it because I’m not a renowned hero, or something. I try to take it by force and duel the villagers into submission, but, as it turns out, the fighting was a distraction and the relic gets destroyed in the process. Kids, fighting doesn’t solve everything.
The sequel to the wildly popular Hand of Fate (HoF) released two years prior by Australia-based Defiant Development, Hand of Fate 2 (HoF2) is, all at once, an exceedingly more packed prospect than its predecessor with much needed improvements in key areas and new features in others.
Minor plot spoilers here.
You play as a nameless adventurer, once again playing the card game that is the key feature of this game. Your goal is to progress through all the levels and defeat Kallas, who was the protagonist of the first game but becomes the villain here after defeating the Dealer in the first.
Plot spoilers end.
If you’re not already well-versed with the basics of HoF, it is a card game rogue-lite. You cobble together a deck of encounter cards in order to take part in adventures (in this game, they are called challenges). The Dealer, who returns from the first game, arranges and shuffles the cards and lays them out. You go from card to card, opening up each encounter and resolving the encounter therein, at times making choices that determine how the encounter resolves. Satisfactorily resolving encounters in a specific manner will unlock new cards for you to mix and match.
The map traversal system has been likened to Oregon Trail; I, personally, find it closer to FTL: Faster Than Light. Of course, travelling requires food, but a key improvement over the first HoF game is that you no longer consume food (which also heals you a bit) if you explore a card that has been previously explored; you can camp and choose to cook food to heal instead, giving greater flexibility.
Besides the encounter deck, you also need to build a few other decks. Like the first game, you can also set up a deck of equipment that you can potentially loot during the run. New to HoF2 is the choice of a companion, who can aid you in combat, as well as a few key scenarios that are unique to a specific companion and cannot be explored if you’re not travelling with them.
Whereas in HoF you were fixed to the default looks of Kallas the usurper, in HoF2, you’re now actually able to customize your character to a slight extent, choosing your gender and a few characteristics. While welcomed, at times, the characters looked a bit silly, for lack of a better word.
I found combat to be one of the weakest aspects in HoF—clunky, generally not fun, and repeated counters look unrealistic as your character just flies from enemy to enemy, all while in dreary slow motion. Thankfully, this is rectified mostly in HoF2—no more silly slow-mo stuff, better counter indicators, and all this paired with a much more distinguished variety of weapons and combat styles. Yet again, another improvement over the first game is that it recommends the appropriate type of weapon depending on the encounter that you will be facing, and you’re given a window of opportunity to open up your inventory and change it up before combat actually starts.
The first game was limited in scope, as you only could travel from point A to point B in each stage. Once more, HoF2 is a step-up, as there is greater variety in the challenges. An early challenge requires you to identify a would-be betrayer out of a group of three individuals, extracting clues out of them in order to figure out which of them plans to assassinate their guild leader; the challenge I mentioned at the start requires you to traverse a huge map hunting down relics. There is some consensus that the Strength challenge, which sets your health at a low amount and prevents healing from food, is among one of the hardest and downright frustrating challenges to complete; other challenges also have strict (and, at times, hard-to-reach) requirements or you’re not going to be able to solve them completely.
One of the best aspects of HoF, the Dealer, thankfully, makes his return, still with his trademark sharp and acerbic wit intact, thanks to Anthony Skordi reprising the role in yet another standout performance from the English actor. He looks none the worse for wear, save for a few tell-tale disfigurements on his left arm and side of his face (probably due to the ending of the first HoF). Defiant Development manages to explain away a few of the new additions (the wheel gambit, pendulum game, and the dice game, all of which are interesting in their own right and add some variety) as the Dealer’s own refinements, perfecting “the game” in the 100 years that have passed between both games.
While his inclusion is much welcomed in itself, you cannot help but feel that he takes a bit more of a backseat role. Consider the plot point. Because your goal is to defeat Kallas, who the Dealer totally loathed in the first game, here, he seems like more of a fatherly figure shaping you into the “instrument of his revenge” and loses some sense of malice. While this does tie up some plot ends, it does feel a bit disappointing that he no longer provokes you as much as he did in the first game.
Instead, it is the encounter cards themselves that really shine. There is a lot more text and branching paths in each encounter, not to mention the cards are a lot more hilarious as well. Progressing through one of Malaclypse’s (one of the companions) encounter cards, there was a pretty humorous exchange that left me in stitches, and there are bits of this humor sprinkled throughout other cards as well. It doesn’t just end there. If you are a Twitch streamer, HoF2 allows you to link the game to Twitch and get your viewers to vote on rewards/punishments but also allows the developers to come into chat and do wacky stuff like change up the appearance of the Dealer.
Jeff van Dyck also returns to compose the soundtrack. Like the first HoF, it is thematically appropriate and beautiful. The Lucidity theme, one of my favorite songs from HoF, makes its return in a redux version.
My only gripes at this point, besides the slightly diminished nature of the Dealer, are the graphics. They’re pretty good, a step-up over the original, but also meant that, even on the lowest settings, I’d experience some frame rate drops from time to time (something which I can’t say about the first HoF, as it ran like a dream). However, it feels like the game’s optimization has been getting better since launch, as I experience it less and less. Also, like the first game, RNG plays a huge factor and, at times, probably too much, especially when it comes to some of the new mini-games. Lastly, as I write this review (patch 1.011), Endless Mode, a key feature in the first HoF, has not been implemented. Ultimately, it’s not a big concern for me at this stage, as this game is already far larger in scope than the first one.
- Much more ambitious in scope than the first game
- Oodles of polish, refinement, improvements
- Encounters are generally more hilarious
- Greater variety in challenges
- Interesting new minigames
- Jeff van Dyck nails the soundtrack yet again
- Anthony Skordi returns as the Dealer!…
- …but he feels (somewhat) less menacing here
- More graphically demanding than the first game
- Some challenges are painful
- RNG can play too much a factor at times
- (as of writing) No endless mode
K3W3L gives Hand of Fate 2 a Drastik Measure 9.5 out of 10 (95).
Ultimately, HoF2 keeps most of what made HoF such a crucial, enticing prospect while adding on even more such that it is not merely a retread but elevates itself into a much more superior sequel. The infinite replayability and the drive to always achieve something new by fulfilling objectives easily makes this worth the $29.99 (USD) asking price on Steam or consoles, and that’s in spite of Endless Mode not available yet.
You know…as 2017 goes by, it becomes harder and harder to pick out a GOTY. I thought West of Loathing was brilliant…but so was Cuphead and Divinity: Original Sin 2. Now, HoF2 enters the fray. I still haven’t made up my mind on which of these would win (personally speaking, of course), but, at this point, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of these four.