Review: Hand of Fate (Computer)

Hand of Fate: Official GBAtemp Review

Computer 1,793 view 1 like 7 comments
Reviewed by Brandon Boui, posted Mar 11, 2015
Mar 11, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): February 17, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): February 17, 2015
  • Publisher: Steam
  • Developer: Defiant
  • Genres: Card game, action
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Hand of Fate is a new and independently developed rogue-like card playing game that unfolds into action battle sequences. Developed by Defiant Studios, this Kickstarter success has become a Playstation 4, Vita, XBOX One, and Steam title.
Brandon Boui

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Trying to sum up Hand of Fate into a single sentence is a difficult feat. It's an action game, a rogue-like game, a card game, and a story game all at once. It has survival elements, dungeon crawling elements, and even a tabletop game element. It has so many different identities that it's hard to discern what the game is trying to do, but that thought is washed away at the vividness and the haunting atmosphere that wafts over the game. So, pull up a chair by the fire and let's get started with this review, shall we?

Hand of Fate (Steam)

Hand is an extremely interesting title in its execution. From the beginning, the game raptures and puts players in this mood to kind of sit down and enjoy a story with this dealer, a figure cloaked in purple who masks his identity. The voice acting on the dealer's behalf is perfect - he has a distinctly medieval tone that gives off this vibe of magic. The moments when the dealer is introducing the game's overall concept to you provides one of the most intriguing openings for a title that I have experienced for a long time. The execution of the introduction is superb in many different ways because of the vibe.

Getting started, you play the role of a nameless fighter who gambles on card games. These card games are constructed from the memories you acquired on your journeys. These memories serve in the form of a "Choose your own adventure" type question. As you do battle on a field of cards, you will be provided a backdrop of what is to come through the dealer's hauntingly mystical sounding voice, followed up by options you must choose in order to proceed. This game is also a cruel battle of luck. For some of the card choices, you are required to choose between several cards that will detail your great success or your abysmal failure. For me, being the cursed fellow that I am, I tended to end up on the unlucky side of the board, earning me a yelp of frustration about how full of it this game is - I have four cards, three say that I will win, and the one card I choose is the losing card. The dealer is a unique character, he's constantly analyzing you and looking at you as a comparison to prior combatants. Displaying extreme confidence, he's always intrigued to see that you somehow have survived the death game.

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So, how exactly is this card game a death game? Each card often has a scenario that involves doing battle. When battles are to begin, the already dark environment of the dealer's table fades to black to open up onto a landscape that seems brought out from the dreams of rabid role-players of tabletop games. The environments are often stark in contrast to the overall field - bright, vibrant, yet at the same time still giving off a dark vibe. Animations are beautiful and fluid - even on a Mac that tends to overheat when playing games. The battleground will be based on the scenario presented in the cards, and would involve the killing of one or more enemies - whoever put the twelve insects card scenario needs to be fired. Some of these battles are easy to get through, and others are incredibly grueling fights in which you need to make sure that you have your keystrokes down pat. You can dodge, block, and attack randomly in the beginning levels, but as the story progresses the skill level goes up considerably.

Even though Lady Luck might not be on your side, there are ways to turn the battle in your favor. Before each stage opens up you are given the chance to create a deck of better equipment to tailor to your needs. This equipment is used in the action sequences in the instances where you draw the short straw. It's a really fascinating thing to watch as your equipment goes to your fighter and you utilize this in battle, which plays out a bit like Simon says - certain prompts will mean that you need to execute certain actions. At the same time you need to pay attention to your health and your hunger - bringing the dungeon crawler element into it - because if you're too hungry your battle performance will be affected. When looked at in general though, the combat in this game is extremely easy and feels a bit dull after a while because it's really just a timing game.

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All in all, Hand of Fate is a $24.99 game that felt a bit too ambitious in trying to set too many goals for itself. It's a classic example of a game that tried to be everything but was average in every category, instead of excelling at one or two places. Don't get me wrong, Hand has a good story telling element, but the somewhat average battle sequences left a lot to be desired. The title is also incredibly short at about seven hours of gameplay. It's not bad but for a price of $25 I'd expect a bit more. The addition of dungeon crawling elements in hunger and survival tactics left more to be desired. At the end of the day, Defiant's main goal was to try something new here, and they brought something new to the table. The game should be a pleasing sight for those who want to get into action games or start out on card games, but it's no Hearthstone and it's sadly not at the caliber of a real action game quite yet, but for an independently developed game it's a big stepping stone though to take into consideration.

Verdict
Pros
+ Awesome thematic storytelling that sets a really good atmosphere early on
+ Interesting card and battle system
+ Music increases the mood setting
Cons
- Tries to hard to be everything at once, excels in few areas
- Pricey
- Short
- Action is actually a simple game of mastering timings
- Sometimes a bit too luck oriented
7 Presentation
That dark atmosphere in the beginning was a very strong hook and was one of the reasons why I wanted to keep playing. The battles were very well done (albeit a bit repetitive after a while), and the small twists and turns with card scenarios added for a more interesting experience. Very easy to navigate through.
7 Gameplay
Combat is very simple, a bit too much so if I may. Game has many different elements as a rogue like dungeon crawler, an action RPG, a card game, a visual novel, a survival game, and a rhythm game.
5 Lasting Appeal
Was too short for the cost, unfortunately. With endless mode being a bit of redemption, once the main story is finished, I didn't feel too obligated to want to continue.
7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
It's not a bad game, but it's not the greatest either. It needed to really sit down and choose an identity and then excel in those areas. It was just average in all categories it tried reaching out to. Features solid gameplay and a very thematic story experience, but pales in comparison to other games of its type and playset.
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