For me, Hand of Fate Deluxe Edition is unlike any game I’ve played in my personal gaming background. Now I know it blends already existing card-type genres together, and may not be so revolutionary for some players. But in my case, I feel like I stumbled across such a pleasant surprise. It was a cathartic experience to pull up to the card table against the mysterious masked dealer, and let the cards define your adventure through the thrills and perils of the deck.
Hand of Fate lured me in with its enticing tone, and never let go. Developed by Defiant Development, this deck-building action RPG showcases how simplistic concepts can materialize into substantial gameplay when executed correctly. You begin this ominous journey by approaching the card table opposite a strange dealer. He warns you of the triumphs and devastation the deck can bring. But, fearlessly you engage in the temptation. Knowing some sort of back story, or motivation for the unknown protagonist would have been ideal in the game, but it won’t hinder you from the captivation of Hand of Fate.
Following the story there are a series of 12 bosses amongst the cards that you must defeat, and ultimately, the dealer himself. You begin with an elementary deck of cards as you take your first steps in the game. When a card is drawn, it presents a story-driven situation that the player must decide on to continue the quest path. These decisions will shape your story as you move through the deck. The decisions you make are not filler, and will actually affect whether or not you battle, acquire gear, your character relations, and how you advance in the story. Each card trickles out more and more lore, and divulges deeper into this fantasy world. It gave off a very cool Dungeons and Dragons vibe, and I found it entirely compelling.
Where Hand of Fate differs from straight-up card games is that when you are summoned to a battle, you actually battle. There’s no roll of the dice or attack cards to fumble with. You get thrust into a third-person perspective battle environment and defeat your foes through a hack’n’slash gameplay style. You can slash, counter, dodge, and even perform special moves with seamless ease. The character you play will enhance too once you begin to acquire better cards in your deck. You can earn better armor cards, weapon cards, accessories, and even cards that can add blessings, or remove curses set upon you by the dealer.
The third person gameplay isn’t just for battling either. It’s used for situations like traversing through puzzles and obstacles that may be set upon you in your quest. It’s a feature that diversifies the gameplay and really helps prevent a stagnant playthrough. As you move along the roster of bosses the difficulty fluidly increases, challenging you to be more aware in combat, and rely on your instincts. Every time I failed a level, I was intrigued to replay it, and masterfully craft a better deck of cards for myself in hopes of finally reaching the next boss.
Through and through you attain the knowledge of the card game pretty swiftly. The only aspect I thought to be troublesome was with a certain mini-game. There are opportunities in the game to approach an encounter stealthily, or head-on. When choosing the stealth option, the dealer will deal 4 cards. The cards will read either Success, Huge Success, Failure, or Huge Failure. The cards will then flip around. The dealer will then shuffle the cards, and you must attempt to pick the success card, which will determine the outcome of the scenario. In theory this sounds fun, but this is where the one big upset lies for me in Hand of Fate. The shuffle mechanic is way too unbalanced from the player’s perspective, not offering a full view of the 4 cards clearly being shuffled. The far left and far right cards are your best bet to keep an eye on, but unfortunately if it’s the cards in the middle, the chances are not in your favor. As you play the game, this success/failure mini-card game pops up a lot more, and proves to be more frustrating than not.
Even the little aspects of this card game adventure I seemed to love. The audio design in Hand of Fate was something I grew very fond of. The dealer’s taunting and commentary adds an additional layer to the mystical fun. Even the sound effects of the cards themselves being drawn, or tokens being awarded are extremely satisfying in an odd way. The soundtrack behind this adventure isn’t too shabby, nothing eccentric or extremely notable, but a charming compliment to the gameplay.
Defiant Development took a stab at a genre ruled by some juggernaut titles, and branded one of their own with Hand of Fate Deluxe Edition. Personally, this was a game that I stepped out of my comfort-zone to play, and was shocked with how well I gravitated to it. With classic fantasy RPG storytelling, undemanding deck-building mechanics, and a rewarding replayability factor, Hand of Fate rises above the usual cut of the cards.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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