Hand of Fate Review

Believe in the heart of the cards... or die!

Posted by smokin cheez   24th February 2015

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Hand of Fate

Xbox One

If I was told that this was a card-based RPG at first, I wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails of it. After getting some playtime though, I soon realized that Hand of Fate is more than it seems. The download-only title contains a simple yet expansive set of cards that assist you in surviving your deadly ordeals against various vicious enemies that you combat.

Hand of Fate begins with you entering a mystic's abode where he warns you of the journey you're about to embark on. Once you begin there's no turning back, and you're thrust into a world where magic is real and you must survive your perilous tale by essentially choosing your path. The player is given a set of cards by the mystic who explains that these decide Encounters you approach, dangers you face, equipment you can stumble on, and who you may encounter.

In a Dungeon & Dragons-like fashion, you are thrown into situations where you can approach an Encounter and decide whether you want to take it on or turn back the way you came. Be warned, however, as each move uses up your provisions and without that, you won't survive long. When you choose to face a challenge head-on, you are given the chance to pick a card that either allows you to succeed or fail, and there are extreme cases of both, as well. The entire game is entirely based on your luck and your skill at hack 'n' slash.

The mystic is an eerie but likable character, providing you with feedback and assistance in the journey but you can never tell whether he's truly on your side or against you. It leaves you wondering whether he's helping you to achieve a higher purpose in life or to simply make you one of his many victims he's claimed to have taken before. He gives you little tidbits of backstory and explanation into a lot of the cards as you progress. The voice actor portraying the ancient dealer's character does a fantastic job, as well.

As the game is heavily inspired by tarot cards, you face four suits of cards which represent the varieties of enemies: Dust (Bandits), Skulls (Undead), Plague (Ratmen), and Scales (Lizards). You come across them in unique ways such as encountering them in a gorge where they had just attempted to squish you with some boulders, and you clamber up afterwards to slay them or continue on. These four types aren't the only enemies you will encounter, however, as there are also Goblins, Lava Golems, Liches, Mages, and even Minotaurs. The variety throughout the game is enormous and I love how you develop a sense of how to combat each of these creatures and their sub-types.

There are two decks provided to the player after the initial tutorial, one for equipment, weapons, and abilities while the other is for what encounters you will face along the way. Certain cards are locked in and can't be removed while customizing your deck, this is done as to prevent an easy path being chosen and allowing "the dealer" to throw in some curve-balls. You are able to unlock more cards on your journey through tokens you earn after beating bosses or certain cards you may happen upon and conquer. With such a wide variety of cards to unlock and unfold the backstory for, the game makes completionists and fantasy-lovers foaming at the mouth.

As the game involves action role-playing scenarios, you will utilize the cards that you draw within battling sequences and to build stats. The room grows dark and you are thrust into battle against whatever danger the cards have dished out. Your warrior is simple, and looks almost barbaric if not for the armour that can be preset later in the game. You are thrust against a multitude of different enemies and each contains their own way of fighting. The gameplay is very similar to Shadow of Mordor during combat: X for attack, Y to counter/deflect, B to stun, and A to dodge roll which make it feel very Arkham-like. The L and R Bumpers are used for activating abilities including equipment- and artifact-based, respectively. You can easily become overwhelmed whilst playing and it can become frustrating, but quick-thinking, and hopefully good equipment you've picked up, will help you clear the arena.

Unfortunately, Hand of Fate is lacking in the customization factor as the game doesn't provide you with choice of gender, facial features, or body build. Many players may wish to have characters in their own image or even a wacky and silly style, going along their adventure and gaining stats and imagining they are trapped within the card game's fantastical world. Hopefully down the road an add-on or sequel will allow for this, but right now Fate only has the equipment to cover your hero with.

Other than the points involving combat, the story-telling portion is quite enjoyable. It does seem as though the mystic himself is reading you the story while you choose the paths you undertake. When you come across the Stairs card to leave toward the next pattern of cards, do you take them or turn back in order to visit a shop and resupply? This layer of complexity is what drives you to keep playing and challenging the odds throughout Fate as a meticulous person who's very careful could easily lose all their provisions, or an aggressive player who plows through the path could be luckily rewarded. The game is rich with reward and makes you feel fulfilled when you consistently beat the chances.

If that wasn't enough, there are other factors that weigh-in to your gameplay. These include Blessings and Curses, one involves assisting your character in any way possible while the other makes your path even deadlier. Certain Blessings can assist on your journey or while in combat, giving the hero a boost against certain enemies. Curses can bring down stats or enhance bad luck that comes your way, making you lose double the gold you normally would have lost. Curses are normally lain with whomever the boss of that level would be, or you can even accumulate them based on cards you encounter such as a priest or the devil. This, tackled in with everything else, is what makes the game unnerving. While you may have the grasp of the game and feel like you're relatively safe, something bad can happen and gets enhanced by your curse, amplifying it and bringing you down to fear. Therefore, you're desperately scrounging to find a shop or fight some bandits to rob them of their food. It's a fantastic feature that makes the complex system even more intricate.

Endless Mode
Feeling lucky, punk? In this mode you will continuously tread a path with no end in sight, consistently fighting with only one customized deck and no stopping. This is an interesting mode for the hardcore gamers out there as this will prove your skills at planning ahead and for the unexpected. Enter a gauntlet of never ending card patterns, encounters, and boss battles leading all the way to the final boss without stopping. This mode is unforgiving and you will have to begin from start if you lose.

The achievements for Fate are quite doable yet there are a few that are really grindey and difficult. While the majority are unlocked by completing the game, it can be assured that lots of replay will be conducted in order to complete this wide range of difficult achievements. There are many cards you need for certain achievements such as equipping all Skeleton King items, which you will need to unlock and then draw within a level at once.

Hand of Fate really is refreshing and, weirdly, makes me want to play the classic D&D. It gives you the option to choose your own quest, how you want to do it, whether you want to take that chance, and then actually fight it out when you come face-to-face with some action. The system for encounters, equipment, and stats in the cards is well done and expansive, the combat is familiar to Arkham-players, and the story you create for yourself can be so interested you'll want to play again to see what other plot twists you can reveal.

RATING: 4.5 / 5 Stars
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