Although it may appear like a collectible card game, Hand of Fate 2 has more in common with a tabletop role-player game. The game world map is presented across 22 different challenges or levels, each with their own set of objectives. Using the original game as a base, Defiant Development has refined or revamped just about every aspect and game mechanic, resulting in a much more rounded and enjoyable experience, and this is coming from someone that enjoyed his time with the first game. While the endless mode is still marked as a soon to be released feature, you can easily replay any of the game’s challenges.
Unlike the original, players are given the opportunity to customize their own avatar, although the options are somewhat limiting. The first challenge in the game takes you through your character’s background, letting you learn the basic mechanics, and determine your character’s origin, family crest, gender, hairstyle, and outfit color scheme. The choices are mainly superficial, but does help provide a more profound role-playing experience, especially with the game borrowing many concepts from the tabletop genre.
In order to start one of the game’s challenges (or levels), you must fill out a deck with a set amount of encounter, equipment and companion cards. There is an option to autofill your deck with recommendations if you don’t want to decide manually. As you play through the game, you’ll earn additional cards. The use of new/different cards keeps challenges feeling fresh if you choose to replay them. The encounter cards build the tabletop dungeon/map, with diverse paths and hidden secrets waiting for you to discover. Hand of Fate 2’s unique spin on the role-playing genre combines robust storytelling with strategic design.
At the onset of each turn, you’ll move your character one space along the dungeon at the cost of a single piece of food. This simple mechanic, really not seemingly an issue with the first couple challenges, can become the difference between life and death. Even if you backtrack to an already revealed card, it still costs you a single serving of precious sustenance. Although you may lose food, you’ll regenerate a small portion of your health, so if you have ample food, you may want to keep moving if you find yourself with low health. Optional tokens are earned for completing specific encounters, so even if you fail to defeat the boss of a level, you’ll come away with new cards for your next run.
The inclusion of a companion is a neat addition to Hand of Fate 2, aiding you in combat by attacking foes and providing a unique triggered ability. For example, The Trickster can shoot magical energy at a safe range during minimal damage, but can also place a magic shield in front of you with the power to reflect any single attack.
Combat follows a similar approach from the first game, utilizing precise button presses instead of relying on button mashing. The mechanics are ultimately forgiven for missing attacks, only resetting the combo counter when you are struck. Encounters are faster and deadlier than I remember, decreasing the amount of time you have to counter incoming attacks. Foes feel more challenging, boasting the importance of evading attacks that can’t be countered as well as an area of effect attacks, such as bombs or enemies that breath fire. Each attack type can be highlighted using colors and symbols, all of which can be customized, which is perfect for those that struggle with color perception problems.
The camera is still a nuisance during engagements, and enemy variety is somewhat limiting once you reach the halfway point in the game. Depending on the challenge, you may be able to persuade friendly soldiers to join you, adding additional characters to fights, and helping to keep larger groups of enemies from swarming all over you at the same time. The different options available for Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro let you lock the game at 30 frames per second, or unlock it for a fluttering fps that doesn’t quite reach 60. The game supports a native 4K resolution on the Xbox One X, but must upscale on a PlayStation 4 Pro from 1620p.
When you aren’t forced into combat, you are challenging the dealer once again in a variety of different games of chance. Hand of Fate 2 features some new ones, such as tossing dice to beat a set score or spinning a wheel. Of course, you’ll be picking a card to determine how successful you were, or how much of an utter failure you are most of the times, but I found the additional options mostly refreshing. Speaking of picking a card, this is something that was very easy to “cheat” in the first game, as you could watch the cards being shuffled and 99% of the time pick the best one for any situation. I tried doing this in Hand of Fate 2 and ended up failing most of the time. You could also decline to arm wrestle a halfling during a festival or walk past a damsel in distress, but without taking risks, you aren’t going to make it far in the game. Succeed, and you’ll earn new cards, better equipment, gold, food, and even regain some health.
Outside of frequent vsync issues, I’ve encountered a nasty bug that reared its ugly head multiple times. If I paused the game at the very start of a fight, there was a chance that I’ll be prevented from clicking any of the available options on the pause menu. Thankfully, Hand of Fate 2 autosaves during challenges, and you are only forced to replay from the last completed section of the dungeon. The downside, you have to quit the game entirely to your platform’s OS menu.
Hand of Fate 2 is truly a unique take on the role-playing genre, with randomly designed dungeons based on the cards within your deck. Whether you are testing your luck, disarming traps, earning gold, or fighting against the undead, each challenge feels uniquely designed. The dealer still knows how to get under your skin with jeers and taunts, but the cards are the most prominent highlight of the game. The inclusions of companions add an additional layer to combat, even if they don’t rewrite the game mechanics. In fact, you may experience a different narrative based on which companion you bring along with you.Note: Hand of Fate 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.