Welcome back, everyone. Today we’re covering Hand of Fate, by Defiant Development. Hand of Fate left Early Access just this February, something that caught my attention. Will I be able to hold up HoF as a shining example of the EA system working as intended?
The story is mostly unexplained. You have passed the 13 gates and are now sitting in front of an enigmatic individual who is offering to play a game with you. Even your opponent, the Dealer, remarks on how you are oddly silent when he inquires as to why you are there. We just don’t have much to go on beyond “This game is important.” All of the spoken dialogue is the Dealer commenting on encounters and enemies you are facing.
Hand of Fate is built around cards. Equipment cards, encounter cards, enemy cards, you get the idea. There are 2 decks that you the player have control of: Equipment, and Encounters. You choose your decks, choose your boss, and an adventure is crafted from your selections. If you don’t have much faith in your deck-building skills, you can always choose the “Recommended” load-out.
Each boss gets its own dungeon, the possible equipment and encounters thereof are selected from the decks you make, with the Dealer throwing in a few cards to keep things interesting. From there, you get a pattern of cards on the table, representing an area for your character to move through, each card representing a different encounter. There really isn’t much room to maneuver in the first couple stages, so you’ll be dealing with mostly linear paths until you get a feel for the game. The enemies are also represented by card suits: Dust for Bandits, Skulls for Skeletons, Plague for Ratmen, and Scales for Lizards.
Encounters require moving your character and possibly fighting within a small arena, or choosing one of four cards to determine the outcome. The combat is very Batman/Assassin’s Creed-esque, with directional melees and counters and other such trappings. That said, it’s still a fun and functional system, especially when you’re taking on hordes of enemies. It is expanded on by a large list of equip-able items that do anything from decide your damage per hit to having special abilities that can be triggered. Also, there’s a food system, with your supply ticking down for every space you visit, discouraging backtracking and other exploration. That said, for every space you have enough food to move through, you recover some health.
Eventually, you’ll reach the end of a dungeon and fight a boss. The bosses themselves are pretty formulaic, at least at first: Beat up their flunkies, alternate between slashing and dodge-rolling away. Defeating one of these bosses means 2 things: new stuff for you to use and new challenges for you to face. As the Dealer remarks, “Balance must be maintained.”
Beating certain bosses also mean that you and your enemies get upgraded, allowing players to be more effective if they can handle the new challenges. Also, you can meet earlier bosses in later dungeons as normal enemies. Imagine my surprise at finding the Jack of Plague one dungeon after I defeated him.
I’m struggling to describe the graphics, the best I’ve managed is “We may not have a million dollar budget, but we’re not going to half-ass this.” It reminds me of Borderlands, if Borderlands was set in a medieval fantasy land. There’s the occasional graphics bug, such as the Dealer’s face-cloth clipping through his face on the intro sequence, but otherwise the game looks well polished. The sounds of cards being drawn and flipped is oddly satisfying, especially when you’re choosing the outcome of an encounter.
Overall, I recommend this game. It’s a refreshing new take on the roguelike genre, and I very much enjoyed it. Hand of Fate is available for $25 on Steam