It is customary for a games journalist to compare the game they are previewing to other, more well-known titles in order to help the reader easily deduce whether or not it is something they might be interested in. But when I say that Hand of Fate is an honest-to-goodness amalgamation of Dungeons & Dragons and the Batman: Arkham series, well, that doesn’t help you out at all, does it?
Upon first hearing of Hand of Fate and seeing a smattering of screenshots, I was under the impression that it was just another collectible card game (CCG) and was immediately concerned that I would be forced to play a game that would serve only to push me back into the beckoning arms of Hearthstone, from which I have only just escaped addiction. But Hand of Fate is a completely different beast, and though it features cards and deck-building, it plays out more like a tabletop game, with D&D being its most obvious influence.
You start the game with a basic, underwhelming weapon, no armor, full health and a handful of food. You sit opposite the withering, mystical dealer, who draws out a selection of cards that you gradually traverse across, moving across one at a time. You can take different routes across the cards, unveiling enemies, traps, accomplices and merchants along the way. As you progress across the cards you will simultaneously lose food, and once all of your food is depleted your health will begin to plummet. Gold can be used to stock up on your food supply and also replenish your health, and you will also obtain a selection of item cards after defeating a wave of enemies.
This is where the comparisons with the Batman: Arkham series come in. Hand of Fate’s combat is essentially a watered-down version of the template that the Arkham series made into an industry standard, with your player-character hopping from enemy to enemy in order to deal out punishment. There are counter moves which require a little more precision than those featured in Arkham due to you being required to use your shield to deflect attacks/projectiles and you’re even treated to slow-motion close-ups of the last fallen enemy (minus the Arkham series’ awkward ragdoll physics).
It’s all good fun, though it can become frustrating when you find yourself up against stronger enemies without the necessary equipment to defend yourself efficiently. I often found myself pitted against enemies who practically required me to be able to counter them in order for me to defeat them without being left to continue my adventure with a smidgen of health, but without my shield I was left practically defenseless. It also doesn’t help that many of the arenas are fitted with various environmental traps which serve to annoyingly reduce the flow of the combat segments, with me often jumping towards an enemy only to trigger some spikes hidden beneath a pile of leaves on the floor, reducing my health and leaving me vulnerable to further punishment.
Despite this, I found that Hand of Fate remained consistently exciting and this was largely due to its D&D influences. Progressing across the randomized cards will lead to you unveiling a number of different encounters/scenarios, both good and bad, with the majority of them reliant upon chance. The majority of encounters will see you given four cards, ranging from ‘Hugely Successful’ to ‘Huge Failure," which will then be shuffled. You’re then asked to draw a card and the result of this determines how many enemies you face, how much health you lose, and whether you’re awarded equipment or gold.
You are also sometimes given a choice regarding whether or not you want to take the risk of picking a card. For instance, you’ll often find yourself moving over a card that informs you that your character has stumbled upon someone being hassled by a group of enemies, and you then choose whether or not you wish to help out. If you do, then drawing the ‘Hugely Successful’ card will lead to you only facing a couple of enemies and walking away with a slew of rewards using a minimal amount of effort. However, drawing a ‘Failure’ card will lead to more enemies, lessening chances of defeating them with enough health to continue your journey. It’s this risk vs. reward mechanic that ensures Hand of Fate remains fresh through its playtime and your enjoyment of it will hinge upon whether you enjoy these tabletop-esque games of chance.
I had a good time with the Early Access version of Hand of Fate, though there was one glaring omission which developer Defiant has stated won’t be in the final build of the game, but may be included at a later date—multiplayer. Co-op multiplayer would perfectly suit Hand of Fate’s gameplay, what with its tabletop influences, so it’s somewhat surprising that it won’t make it into the finished game. I get that Defiant’s small development team means there are limits to what they can achieve with the resources they’ve been afforded, though this seems like a game that is purpose-built for co-op and I hope that it performs well enough that they can afford to add this mode in at a later date.
Hand of Fate is a polished Early Access title and provides some fun and addictive action. There’s a lot to like here, and its unique blend of disparate ideas come together to form an accomplished action-adventure, RPG hybrid that is definitely worth your time.
You can play this game now by purchasing an Early Access version on Steam. Hand of Fate's pre-launch build will cost you $24.99.