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Hand of Fate Review

Prepare yourself for an engrossing and intense adventure with Hand of Fate! A combat oriented, deck building RPG, Hand of Fate is a unique experience from start to finish. Explore mysterious caves, help starving villagers, and fight living skeletons as you traverse the sometimes helpful, and often dangerous, cards that fate has dealt you.

Hand of Fate Review

Introduction

Hand of Fate is a deck-building, combat oriented RPG published and developed by Defiant Development. After passing numerous trials, the player finds themself being asked by a mysterious, masked individual if they'd like to try their hand at the game of life and death. The cards are dealt and the player is treated to an adventure of epic proportions. Fight the ravenous Kraken, search for hidden treasure, and beware debilitating curses in this incredible journey across lands unknown.

Hand of Fate is available for purchase on Steam for $19.99

Story

After passing 13 trials of unspecified content and duration, the player finds themself seated at a small wooden table in front of The Dealer. The Dealer speaks and informs you that few ever make it to the point where they can partake in the game of life and death. He then invites you to play. There isn't much of a story in Hand of Fate aside from that, other than what the player creates on their own.

Hand of Fate Review. The Dealer prepares to deal your fate.

The cards themselves offer various storylines that can be played over the course of the game. One such storyline might involve selling blessings to a demon, one might involve giving food to a beggar, another might involve hunting a powerful Minotaur. The story depends on what cards you choose to put in the deck, what cards you land on, and whether or not you can successfully complete the challenges on various cards. The overarching goal is to defeat the various minions that The Dealer has pitted against you which take the form of 12 different bosses to be defeated over the course of playing 12 separate levels.

The reward for beating The Dealer's game is unspecified, as is the consequence for losing. The Dealer speaks over the course of the game, dropping cryptic hints and clues as to the true nature of the game and what it means to play.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Hand of Fate is dynamic, unique, and enormously entertaining. The game is fairly basic, and grows more complex over time. There are 12 levels, they all have the same basic rules, but there are unique stipulations in each level. Each level begins in the same way: The Dealer deals the cards, the player receives any bonuses and/or penalties that go along with the given level, and then the game begins. The player is represented by a small figure that jumps from card to card, revealing the various cards along the way.

There are several different types of card that the player might run into. There are shops that can be visited and many different transactions can take place in those shops (buying food and items, selling items, healing, etc.), there are events where challenges can be accepted for rewards (gold, food, items, equipment, blessings, etc.), there are mini storylines that can be completed, and there is (potentially, depending on one's playstyle) a lot of combat.

Before each level begins, the player will be prompted to look through their equipment deck and their encounters deck. There's a limited number of cards that can be chosen (that number will rise the further into the game you get) so one must choose wisely which items and encounters would be better for each level of the game. When more than halfway through the game, it becomes very difficult to pick and choose which cards to play with.

Hand of Fate Review. Choices are hard.
Some encounter cards have the potential to earn you a token if completed. It is almost always worth keeping those in your deck for a variety of reasons. For starters, earning a token is how you get new cards. Tokens will commonly result in gaining both more items and more encounter cards. Tokened cards are often just one in a series of cards with tokens, and following the same line of cards will usually result in a fun story and adventure.

There are many obstacles and difficulties that the player must pass in order to succeed and there are two main actions that one will most commonly have to perform when attempting to leap over those hurdles: picking chance cards and combat. The chance cards are simple; The Dealer presents 4 cards that can have any combination of success, huge success, failure, and huge failure. The player gets a moment to look at the cards before they're turned around, shuffled, and dealt back out still facing away from the player. One must then pick a card. Depending on the specific challenge, the cards may have different combinations of results and different speeds at which they're shuffled. You might be picking between three successes and one failure or three failures and one success. On one memorable occasion I was offered to choose between two failures and two huge failures. Sometimes a token can be earned by simply picking the correct chance card.

Hand of Fate Review. With my luck, I'm definitely going to end up picking the failure.

Combat is a whole other beast. This is where the game resembles more of a fighting game than a simple deck-building game. The player is taken into the card and must actually fight opponents. There are four main suits of card in Hand of Fate that serve as a replacement to the usual spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Instead, one is presented with dust, skulls, plague, and scales. Dust refers to bandits, skulls refer to living skeletons, plague refers to sickly rat-men, and scales refer to lizard people. There are other combat scenarios involving other creatures, but they're much less common than these four. It's the royalty (jack, queen, king) of each of these suits that make up the 12 game bosses.

In combat, don't expect the fight to be fair or easy; you will almost always be outnumbered. On top of that, the areas where combat usually occurs are often riddled with traps that can cause the player serious damage. If clever enough, one might find a way to use these traps against their assailants. For the first 5 or 6 levels, the combat scales fairly well with the development of the player's skill and the battles may not be easy, but they're beatable. In the latter half of the game, the scaling becomes skewed. The game in its entirety gets much too difficult far too quickly, the result being that the last 3 levels are damn near impossible on normal difficulty, and still incredibly and frustratingly challenging on easy difficulty. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I was forced to lower the difficulty to easy for the last two levels and even then I had serious trouble.

Over the course of each round, the player will be obtaining various items, blessings, and equipment that will be exceptionally helpful, both in and out of combat. However, one must make sure not to become overconfident, even with many powerful artifacts. The game is still extraordinarily difficult.

Hand of Fate Review. The player brings the pain against a couple members of the suit of dust.

Assuming one doesn't die in combat, health can be restored simply by moving on to the next card. Every card hop expends one food and nets the player a small amount of health. However, it's necessary to keep an eye on the amount of food in stock. When the player runs out, card hops begin to remove health rather than restore, with the eventual result of the player dying from starvation. 

Blessings and curses are aspects of the game that any player will soon find themselves intimately familiar. Aside from those that can be gained and lost over the course of a level, specific blessings and curses are often parts of a given level's stipulation and are automatically awarded at the beginning of a round. They work pretty much exactly as one might intuitively assume; with blessings providing advantageous boosts and curses causing a range of debilitating conditions.

Aside from just being able to change the difficulty, there are challenges one can apply to the game to make it more imposing or interesting. This is especially useful if one is afraid they might get bored. Different modes allow for more variety. There's also the option of playing on endless mode instead of story mode. In the endless scenario, the level lasts until you die and the goal is to stay alive for as long as possible. Playing the story on normal difficulty offers at least 15-20 hours of playtime. Switching up the mode of play or purchasing the available DLC should double, or even triple, that amount. Overall, Hand of Fate offers an addicting, interactive experience with immense replay value.

Graphics and Audio

I would say the graphics are above average, especially given the indie nature of the game and the fact that, being primarily based on deck-building, there wasn't any need to even attempt to have particularly outstanding graphics. Everything is clear, focused, and well colored (although it can come across as a bit gloomy sometimes). The best way to describe it is crisp. The movement can look a little clunky, especially in combat, but the actual control is very smooth and handles well. As a whole the graphics are very aesthetically pleasing and every aspect of the visuals manages to convey the perfect atmosphere for the game.

Hand of Fate Review. The Maze of Traps has many different layouts. High risk/low reward is a common scenario.

The soundtrack consists mostly of repetitive background music that changes only slightly depending on a given scenario. Fortunately, and surprisingly, it never gets annoying and even adds a lot to the overall ambiance present throughout the game. It fits the mood perfectly and goes well with the graphics.

Conclusion

Hand of Fate is an excellent game that will no doubt stand the test of time. Likewise, I have no doubt that it will be remembered as a classic. Every aspect of the game works in concert to create something that can be enjoyed by any gamer, regardless of what genres they normally play. The only complaint I have is in regards to the difficulty level. At a certain point, it quickly crosses the line from frustrating to infuriating. It's a good game if you're looking for a challenge, but it would be a better game if that challenging aspect scaled well. It's only due to the difficulty that the score is not higher. 

Hand of Fate appeals to pretty much every demographic. There's no reason why this game couldn't or wouldn't be enjoyed by people of any age. If you're interested in a fun and rewarding experience, then this game is for you.

Hand of Fate is one of the better games that I've played and I highly recommend it to everyone.

PROSCONS
+ Unique, engrossing, and addictive gameplay– Difficulty scales poorly
+ Fun and intuitive combat system 
+ Clear and colorful graphics

9
Amazing

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