Monday, June 22, 2015

PC Review #117: Hand of Fate

Title: Hand of Fate
Developer: Defiant Development
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Price: $24.99 (PC), $19.99 (Consoles)
I've never been a fan of card games or deck-building; usually the inclusion of the mechanics are a turn-off for me. But Hand of Fate combines card game, dungeon crawler, and action RPG/brawler to deliver a brilliant and incredibly addictive hybrid of an experience.
It all starts with the cards. In Hand of Fate, you have two decks: the equipment deck and the encounter deck. The equipment deck contains all the items you've acquired: weapons, armor, shields, helmets, special abilities, and so on. On the other hand, the encounter deck contains all the potential events and situations you'll face during the game. Deadly trap mazes, ancient alters, rivers to cross and deserts to get lost in, bosses to face, and much more await you in that deck.

When you start out, you only have basic equipment, but you gain more powerful cards to add to your deck. Know you're going up against undead skeletons? Add more holy weapons and armor to your deck. Likewise, you can also choose what cards are in the encounter deck. However, this doesn't mean you can only add easy cards and make the next playthrough a walk in the park. Certain encounters provide tokens when you successfully complete them, and those tokens unlock new cards, thus new equipment and weapons to add to the decks. On top of that, the nefarious Dealer will include unique cards of his own into the game decks, adding more challenges and unpredictable encounters.
Those cards, laid out on the game table, essentially make up the tiles of a dungeon level. With each move, you deplete your limited food supply and if it runs out, you lose health until dying from starvation. This balance of risk and reward is the crux of Hand of Fate's dungeon crawling. Do you explore every card, or take a more straightforward route? You might get lucky, and find a shop or a priest or some new encounter that nets you a better weapon. Or you might find yourself cursed, or making a wager with a tricky Devil, or have goblins steal some gold, or get ambushed. Some encounters play out through choose-your-own adventure-style text; the choices are dictated by the items you might have or the effects of other cards.
Or you might be very unlucky and the Dealer will draw cards from the monster desk. Combat in Hand of Fate is modeled after the popular system seen in the Arkham games, down to counter icons over enemy heads and a shield bash that acts the same as Batman's cape. While the fighting can't live up to its inspiration in terms of animations or fluidity, it excels in other areas. Your early-game rusty axes and swords and light armor are soon replaced by more exotic equipment. Hammers that unleash lighting blasts, swords that set the undead aflame, armor that slows surrounding enemies, helmets that increase your movement speed. Magic abilities let you imbue your attacks with fire or send out magic blades in all directions or freeze enemies in the vicinity. All buffs and abilities stack, allowing you to tailor your play style as a damage-dealing powerhouse or a magic-enhanced tank. And at its core, combat is just fun, as you deflect fireballs from lizardmen, evade bandits, and face powerful Lava Golems and Mages.
All in all, that's the word that best describes Hand of Fate: fun. Other games may have more complex card mechanics or better combat, but combine the addictive nature of the gameplay with the engaging deck-building, the varied locations, and the excellent voice acting from the mysterious Dealer, and you have a compelling experience that you want to dive back into again and again.

Hand of Fate is available on Steam, GOG, Humble, PS4, and Xbox One.

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