Hand of Fate – Steam Review
Been awhile peeps, our daughter was just born not so long ago, but I’m back, I’m here, and ready to delve into another random game review. Did you think there was a system to what I did? You thought wrong. I simply review what I find is to my fancy, and today we have Hand of Fate. Now, being quite familiar with card games (though I was never much of a player, preferring old tabletop gaming) I was interested to try out Hand of Fate to see what it had to offer. Mixing action and turn-based RPG elements with card games like Hearthstone? Hmm, go on, do go on… So, as you can assume, it has something to do with cards, but it does it in a unique way, so let’s see if that unique approach ends up in its favor.
Hand of Fate was brought to us by Defiant Development, and as per the game’s site, it was conceived as “deckbuilding come to life.” The game is introduced to you by a mysterious card dealer who probably chews on psychotropics like a proper hashashin, informing you that the game is played in a most unusual way. Now, this isn’t the first card game video game ever conceived, that’s been done plenty of times before, but Hand of Fate works by introducing real-time, player-controlled action into the mix instead of merely showing you animations as you deal out cards. Interestingly, as you play further you collect more cards, and then use these to build a deck in each level, which ends with a different boss who grows more powerful as you advance. The cards you select for your deck form a sort of labyrinth; the dealer lays out the cards for each section of it, and then you move a little piece along the cards, sometimes in one of several possible directions, the card is flipped, and then you’re greeted with some sort of challenge.
The challenges can range from enemies combat to text-adventure-style traps and puzzles, as well as merchants and special events where you get bonuses and additional items or skills. As you advance you collect more cards, and if you’re smart you can put together a deck that’s more in your favor; if you’re in for a challenge you can mix it up as you see fit. It’s all random since the dealer is the one who takes your deck, adds some cards of his own, and then puts them in an arbitrary order. Completing each level leads to unlocking more cards, so there’s a ton to discover in Hand of Fate.
In terms of presentation, Hand of Fate is largely successful. The animations are fluid and engaging, with great atmosphere that’s further developed through incidental sound effects and music. This is easily the game’s strongest suit. The music creates a wonderful sense of the exotic, and the graphics should be on par with what most RPG and action-RPG fans associate with fantasy games. I noticed an occasional glitch or two, never consistent, sometimes dealing with the angling of the player’s point-of-view, sometimes the lighting. It was a rare occurrence, but nonetheless present. Still, Hand of Fate should be visually and musically appealing to most gamers.
Aside from the presentation the play, however, is what demands the most criticism. Hand of Fate is certainly an interesting take on the card game video game genre, giving the player more control over the game itself in certain regards while retaining the randomness of card dealing one would find playing an actual card game. Once you get into the game, you have the option of creating your own deck (recommended), or allowing Hand of Fate to create a deck for you after you’ve selected the next boss.
Once this is done, the dealer speaks to you as he deals, occasionally giving tips on gameplay, at others taunting you, laying out the cards into different configurations. As you move your playing piece over them, each card is revealed and you have to go through whatever you find. It could be combat, a special event, a merchant, there are a number of variations. It’s quite simple to play, the player using the mouse and keyboard in largely traditional fashion as you’d find with many RPGs and MMOs. There should be no problem there.
So, at least at first, Hand of Fate presents well. However, after a few levels of play its main faults are visible. We’ll ignore the graphical glitches, as they were slight and too uncommon to be concerned with, the real issue is the play. Hand of Fate, being that it’s a card game in essence, has a certain amount of randomness to it, which is expected. However, this randomness is also translated into certain segments of gameplay. For example, the player will often come to a card that’s an event. Perhaps a vine going down into a cliff with a treasure, perhaps a rock slide, perhaps a turbulent river, and then you have to make a choice about what to do. Going back is typically pointless because you’re going to have to play the card anyway. But where it gets really irritating is the selection of your choice (go through the river, climb the vine, etc.) leads to a series of four cards with random determination for whether or not you complete the task. The dealer shuffles the cards, but in such a way that you have no chance of seeing where the ideal cards are going, so it’s completely up to chance whether or not these particular events are completed without losing anything.
In addition, whether building your deck or allowing the computer to do it, in later levels there’s nothing more annoying than coming across a card you conquered ages ago that’s pointless to your progression, offers no new items that really benefit play, or worse, which causes you to falter. Building your own deck will largely avoid this problem, but the player can also pad their own deck with more beneficial cards, making play a little too easy.
The action sequences are where we see further fault. Hand of Fate, for boss battles as well as random encounters, switches to a classic MMO or RPG first-person attack mode where the player entirely controls the action. No need to explain the controls, they’re what you’d expect with some minor variation. However, much to my disappointment, aside from this interesting approach, it unfortunately doesn’t play out as well as one would expect. The action sequences of Hand of Fate, other than some interesting runs through trap dungeons, are largely an exercise in button-mashing, and the enemy movements are not detailed enough to really provide true challenge. Most of the time you can easily move to the side, attack, and essentially kite your way to victory, even against bosses. They have a rigid, almost artificial movement to them that seems lacking in comparison to AI you find in more popular titles from larger companies. I was really hoping these segments would be interesting, but after a few levels they were actually boring and the bosses were only unique for their new look, not for their challenge.
To conclude, Hand of Fate is an interesting RPG/card game, but really lacks the extra polish it needed to excel. A unique idea in certain respects, though with the skills I learned in deck-building early on (especially how to avoid as many random elements as possible) it eventually became too easy and the action sequences were too simple. More hardcore gamers will probably be turned off by it after a few plays, but Hand of Fate may keep the attention of casual gamers or fans of the genre for at least a little while.
+ Interesting take on video game card games.
+ Deck-building easy to learn.
+ Easy for any gamer to play.
– Too many random elements outside of gamer control.
– Occasional graphical glitches.
– Tiresome, rudimentary battling after a few levels.