In Hand of Fate, every step of your quest to defeat the dealer’s bosses is determined by the flip of a card. At times completely unpredictable, as well as a different experience every time you play each of the myriad bosses made available to you, you’ll always be offered a challenge. With Hand of Fate, the team at Defiant Development has dealt us a game that will keep you in your seat, wondering what kind of adventure the next deck will offer you.
There are two game modes that you are able to play in Hand of Fate – Story Mode and Endless Mode. Story mode pits you against 12 different bosses, tackling a dungeon for each before you take them on and offering an artifact after the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th bosses are defeated. Endless Mode takes on a classic rogue-like approach as it draws from the deck each level to add new challenges for as long as you can manage to last!
One of the best words to describe Hand of Fate is “unpredictable,” as the decks of cards wielded by yourself and the dealer handle every action or event in the game. From NPC encounters, shops, what enemies are encountered, whether you pass or fail an encounter and more – the cards dealt out as you traverse the dungeons handle every bit of the game.
Every game starts out drawing you to the table with the mysterious dealer, who deals out fate to whomever has the courage to challenge it, and you’re offered a choice of deck with its own boss to challenge, followed up with the deck selection.
The premise is quite simple, yet different than anything else you may have seen before – the player has a customizable “encounter” deck, which deals out the various events of the game, and an “equipment” deck, which is drawn from when an encounter allows you to draw a piece of equipment. The twist is that the dealer’s deck is also mixed in with your cards for encounters, offering up some extra challenges you didn’t expect.
Navigating through the dungeons created by the deck of cards is no easy feat, especially as you progress deeper into the game. If you want to survive, managing your health, gold, and food are essential to your success. Each space consumes a piece of food, and once you reach 0, health will begin to deteriorate instead. Gold is the resource that allows you to manage food and health much better. Earned through encounters, Gold can be used to purchase health, food, equipment, or special abilities at vendors drawn up by the deck.
As your hero progresses level by level through a dungeon, every step is fraught with peril – whether it be a tumble down a ravine as you seek to reclaim a skeleton’s sword, a mysterious traveller, a maze that you must navigate without being taken down by traps, or just a random encounter with some bandits or skeletons. Many of these encounters have a success/failure draw in which you will pick from a series of 4 cards that are a mix of (huge)success/(huge)failure. Should you succeed, you’ll move on, but should you fail, you can lose health or even become cursed. Curses last the entirety of the level and can only be dispelled for a whopping 75 gold if you happen to draw the traveling mage!
Speaking of combat, the system used in Hand of Fate feels like that of a mix Fable’s hack and slash mechanics mixed in with Batman: Arkham Asylum’s counter system and offers up a few types of enemies that are determined by the draw of a card – the number indicating how many enemies and the suit of the card indicating whether you will encounter rat-men, lizard-men, skeletons, or standard bandits. Of course, this doesn’t include the end-of-dungeon boss who has a skillset of his or her own.
Should you encounter a group of roving rat-men or a maze filled with traps, you’ll be whisked into the encounter and offered a third person view of your hero wielding the equipment you have chosen to equip for battle. Combat is fluid and incredibly fast paced, requiring you to quickly dispatch enemies, dodge blows, and chain up combos in order to win. It’s worth noting as well that the controls work great on keyboard and mouse, as well as on a controller – so it really comes down to preference.
As you progress through the game, level by level, dungeon by dungeon, and boss by boss, the dealer fiddles with small trinkets in a covered bowl – offering them up for completing both the dungeon itself, as well as various tasks as you make your way through it. At the end of the dungeon, should you succeed, the trinkets you earn will grant you new cards for your adventures. Whether you survive the dungeon or not, you’ll receive cards for any trinkets you’ve earned from the dealer.
From the background music and voice of the dealer, to the detail on the cards – the game feels mysterious and just drips with mystery, magic, and a sense of adventure as you step to the table. It’s hard to put into words what it feels like, but if I had to try, Hand of Fate makes you feel as if you’re inside a dimly lit tent that’s placed on the outskirts of a travelling carnival, and a mysterious person with a deck of cards invites you in to challenge the deck.
When you take that scene and add light music that feels ominous at some times and light and adventurous at others, as well as a narrative from the dealer that feels completely natural, it’s hard to not get sucked into the game. By far, and as I’ve mentioned before, the dealer is what makes this game special – as his words and reactions perfectly align with what is happening in the game, and offering players something of a naturally reacting dungeon master. Easily one of the best features of the game.
There are really only a few downsides to Hand of Fate, and they’re only trivial. The biggest complaint one could have would be that the enemy variety is a bit scarce and repetitive, forcing players to essentially “go through the motions” for some battles as well as a counter system that can at times be frustrating. Though it may seem extremely minor, the choice of “Arenas” can be a bit confusing at times as the locales change between rooms in the dungeon, and the descriptions on cards don’t quite match what you’ll see. One room you may be in a maze inside a cave, then the next inside the forest. Minor, but mentionable!
Hand of Fate is an incredibly well-crafted experience that quite literally puts your fate in the hands of the cards. With an incredible card-based dungeon delving system, RPG elements displayed through your deck, and an experience that gets significantly more challenging each time you play – Hand of Fate is a game that is well worth your time.
Disclaimer: This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on PC.
With an incredible card-based dungeon delving system, RPG elements displayed through your deck, and an experience that gets significantly more challenging each time you play – Hand of Fate is game that well worth your time.(Review Policy)