Innovation is something that has been lacking in the industry so it’s always refreshing to see a studio not only innovate in its genre but succeed in doing so. Hand of Fate is one of those titles, blending a unique combination of deck-building and arena combat in which developer Defiant has created not only a great action game but an entertaining and in-depth card game to boot.
The story in Hand of Fate sees the player challenge the dealer, a mysterious cloaked figure who accepts your challenge but warns you to back out before it’s too late. As far as the story goes there isn’t much else to tell you about. The beauty of Hand of Fate is that the player creates their own story, much in the same way as players create their own stories and scenarios in Dungeons and Dragons except in Hand of Fate these scenarios play out in the cards that players draw. The goal is to eliminate the dealers twelve servants which act as the game’s boss battles. The game consists of two game modes: ‘Story’ and ‘Endless.’ ‘Endless’ mode simply starts you with a small amount of cards and players play through the game completing dungeons and building their deck until they inevitably die, collecting a total score bonus the longer they continue and the more tasks they complete.
The game has two distinct play styles. The first is deck-building, where players select not only the equipment they have a chance to draw but also their scenarios and blessings which act as buffs for your character; this can be done manually or automatically. Once all cards are selected, the dealer randomly selects a number of cards and places them on the table face down. You begin with three stats your health, food, and gold. Outside of the health, food is the most important aspect players will have to pay attention to. Food drains as you move around the cards. If your food runs out you begin to lose health as a substitute until the player either dies, replenishes their food supply, or finishes the dungeon by defeating the boss. Gold is used in shops to buy more food, heal wounds, buy equipment which you can equip instantly or buy blessings and cure curses.
The cards vary in their scenarios and see you completing a card shuffle mini game where you have to select a success card to receive a positive outcome in that particular scenario. For example "The player encounters a treasure chest card." You are given the choice to either attempt to acquire the chest or walk away from it. Choosing to acquire the chest, you will be presented with four cards, depending on the situation some cards will have "success," huge success, “fail," and "huge fail." The cards then get mixed up and depending on what you select will see you either: “open the chest,” “bypass a trap,” “receive a curse,” or “lose all your food.” The further the player gets into the game the more difficult these shuffles become to the point where failing just one of them can lead to your death by draining all your health or costing you all your gold.
The second portion of the gameplay has you entering a battle arena where you must battle against the drawn enemies. When entering an encounter you will draw one or up to three cards which will display the number of enemies you will counter and the type of enemy. As most third person combat games these days, Hand of Fate borrows heavily from the Batman: Arkham franchise. Striking and moving from enemy to enemy and counter attacking when an icon appears over an enemies head is simple enough but grows in difficulty as more enemies are encountered, traps are added to the arenas; going into combat without a shield which is required to counter enemy attacks. It also doesn’t help that the frame rate has a hard time keeping up when too much is happening on screen.
Outside of combat, the other encounters see you running through a multitude of traps to reach a treasure chest. The other setback are the games loading times between entering combat and shops. These loading times can sometimes take up ten seconds.
With the random factor added into the game, I can safely say that most of my deaths and failures were not always my fault. There wasn’t much I could do when cursed with the inability to heal, and lose all my money right before I reach the shop to buy supplies. This is the type of scenario you will most likely encounter more often than you would like.