Defiant Development’s Hand of Fate is truly unlike any game I have ever played. The ambitious title pairs together an interesting deck building card game with an action game. While one of the two facets of gameplay is more polished than the other, they do manage to complement each other.
The game’s story mode is broken up into twelve different chapters with each one offering up a more complex challenge than the last. The player’s goal is to navigate the Dealer’s cards and to eventually defeat the boss at the end of the chapter. Cards can range from moral dilemmas (do you steal a wounded hero’s powerful equipment?) to intense battles.
Players will have plenty of choices to make as they have to balance food, gold and health while going through cards. Each turn costs the player a piece of food (which in turn heals the player slightly) or they will lose health from starvation. Food, weapons and armor can all be found in the game’s many shops that you’ll find. Different shops specialize in different aspects of the game so players will be wise to heal at the correct store if they wish to be cost-effective.
While most of the game is spent looking at cards, all of the combat is done in a real-time 3D action game. The combat will feel familiar to those that have played any of Rocksteady’s Batman titles as it is all about countering attacks and managing groups of enemies at once. It isn’t as polished as a standalone action game but its initial clunkiness is quickly forgotten as players grow accustom to how the game handles. All of the hero’s equipment and stats carry over to the action game so a skilled player can overcome any unlucky cards they may have received while playing.
There are several different types of enemies to battle in Hand of Fate but most are standard fantasy villains. Large lava golems, skeletons, lizards and Ratmen are all present and each offer up a uniquely different challenge. The variety is nice and the game really shines in its boss battles which take more strategy than a standard battle. This is not a game you can button mash through.
Both portions of the game feel very important and they surprisingly meld together quite well. For example, it is fun seeing how new equipment affects the player in combat. There are plenty of different strategies to employ as sometimes it is best to avoid jumping into every available battle. Hand of Fate has a ton of replayability and adding onto that is the game’s Endless Mode which unlocks a few hours into the game.
Defiant Development has nailed player progression as Hand of Fate is constantly throwing new challenges at the player. After every major boss battle, enemies will gain new abilities to make them more of a challenge. For example: the skeletons that were once easy to take down now resurrect after a brief period of time. This forces the player to always be on their toes. New cards are also being unlocked after every chapter which provides for a fresh experience throughout.
Hand of Fate is a good-looking game but it’s aesthetically pleasing visuals come at a cost. The game often experiences slowdown and choppiness at the beginning of battles and the frame-rate is rough in some spots (particularly when the Dealer shuffles his cards). It isn’t a dealbreaker as the game runs smooth after the initial hiccup but it is nonetheless a noticeable flaw that rears its head too often not to point out.
Hand of Fate is an innovative title that should hopefully find an audience. It is an easy recommendation for those that enjoy mixing strategy with action or just want to experience something unique. Just be prepared to battle a lot of Ratmen if you do pick it up.
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