26th Jul2018

‘Hand of Fate 2′ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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I played the original Hand of Fate for the first time only a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a fan of board games such as Hero Quest, it felt unique in the way that it combined action /adventure- style combat with card-based adventure games and even a hint of the old-school ‘choose your own adventure’ books (thinking about it, there the faint hint of Moonstone about it as well). The sequel then is a pretty much direct continuation of the first but with a new polish and work under the hood but still very similar to the previous title. This is a good thing as the Hand of Fate series is such a unique (and fun) beast that an updated version still feels fresh in its own genre niche.

For those who haven’t played the original, Hand of Fate was a game in which a deceased hero proved his worth to the Dealer, a robed figure that is gaunt of frame and raspy of voice that teased and goaded the protagonist as he provided myriad challenges and quests on which he had to prove himself. The game is essentially in two halves, the travelling / bartering and narrative section of the game is told in the back of a travelling wagon on a pockmarked table across from the Dealer (who is scarred from the events of the first game). Here, cards are dealt, equipment is equipped and the player plays dice and card-shuffling mini-games in order to try his luck at defeating the Dealer at his own machinations. The second half of the game is set in small arenas (of which there are a nice variety) where the combat takes place following whatever event has cropped up in the story.

The wagon-based sections of the game are very similar to the first, the dealer taunts you and hints at your past as you make your way through the game. The voice acting is spectacular; each richly-delivered, deliberately nuanced line that the dealer growls at you is just as atmospheric as it was in the first game. The visuals are strong and smooth (aside from some irritating twitches during the loading screens for the combat sections) and the music is epic and completely sets the scene for this seemingly endless game of life and death.

Of course, the game isn’t endless (well, there is an endless mode but that’s not the point here, stop being pedantic) and the campaign is split over twenty-two scenarios laid out on an over-world map. Some sections can be completed out of sequence leading to greater challenges should you fancy a higher difficulty but it’s clearly marked how to proceed in the standard learning curve. This feels far more expansive than the first game where it was a simple case of defeating the jacks, queens and kings of each suit in order to ultimately challenge the dealer. Here, the different scenarios and narrative flow hint at a more over-arching plot that is more meaty and satisfying to tuck into.

The combat section is again similar to the first but there’s been a clear improvement and a mark-up in difficulty which makes the stakes higher and the outcome more rewarding, Using an ‘Arkham’ style system of blocks, dodges and counter-attacks, the newest addition here is that you can take a companion into battle with you who can assist you with some of the stronger or more numerous foes, casting a shield spell or perhaps a ranged attack to help you out whist also distracting some enemies, giving variation and much-needed breathing space to the action.

Hand of Fate 2 is essentially a far more refined and updated experience than the first whilst also offering a new, more expansive narrative that feels much more inclusive towards the player. You can recruit soldiers in some areas to help you with the final boss, collect blessings to make meetings run more smoothly and collect artefacts to give you an edge in battle,. The small touches such as the dice-rolling game of chance and the multi-branching choices combined with the companion characters all add to the overall enjoyment of the game and the writing is as sharp and pacey as ever, meaning there is nothing that feels superfluous or padded. The dealer is a memorable and mysterious character that oversees the game whilst goading you into playing further and further into his web and with a game this much fun, it’s hard not to follow.

P.S – I’ve seen some reviews that lean towards the negative that focus on the random chance elements of the game such as the dice rolling but this comes from the board/card game history behind Hand of Fate and will be familiar to anyone who grew up on Hero Quest / Dungeons and Dragons. To me it’s all part of the fun but it could be worth bearing this in mind if you dislike random factors in games and like to proceed based on your skill set as a player, for example..

Right, I’m off to throw some bones. Heck, maybe the third game in the series will be local multiplayer (be still my beating heart!)

#moonstone4life

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