Last time I played Hand of Fate, I awarded it an impressive 4.5 stars out of 5. Why so high? Because even though the graphics and combat weren't as solid as they could have been, its design was thoroughly interesting—even among other indie titles—as an intricate blend between DM-driven tabletops, choose your own adventures, and card-based games. And from the looks of it, after experiencing the pre-alpha preview build at PAX West and several times over in the comforts of my home, Hand of Fate 2 will vigorously continue to expand the original concept.
For those who don't know about the game, Hand of Fate challenges you to complete a series of encounters, with each of them arranged as cards on the table like a dungeon. Moving from one card to the next like tiles on a floor, your character will flip over each card encounter and typically choose from various dialogue options, weighing the risk and reward. Sometimes finishing encounters is as easy as hopefully selecting the "success" card from a set of four cards, but most of the time your character will be forced into a third-person battle against enemies (which is what makes this a video game, really).
As you progress through each encounter, as generally narrated by the hooded Dealer across the table, you'll gather gold to be spent at vendors, food so that you won't starve from space to space, and different weapons and armor that you can swap out. By the end of the level, you'll hopefully have the right pieces of equipment to face off against the boss and its minions. Luckily, one of the main conceits of the series is the ability to control most of the encounter and equipment cards you bring into each quest, with both decks growing steadily as you complete each encounter.
Hand of Fate 2 ups the ante by adding a few new features that balance out the gameplay and by extending the story. The main character from the first game has become corrupt after having defeated the Dealer, who has now clawed his way back from the Seven Hells (his words) to help the new female protagonist defeat the prior hero.
This time around, you can bring along a companion like the mage Malaclypse or the tough viking-like Colbjorn who will help stave off the enemies with you in combat, particularly against the new Northerners enemy type who wield thick swords and throw bolases that irritatingly bind you if you can't dodge away in time. How these companions join you will be explained through story-based missions, which are spread throughout the newly designed hub board that presents the campaign in pieces represented by the major arcana sign of the traditional tarot (The Magician, The Empress, etc.). Moreover, each quest will begin with a new introductory set of dialogue options to give you more context and information about the mission before starting.
Within each quest, you'll earn a new currency called fame from completed encounters, which you'll need as a prerequisite to wield the more powerful weapons in the game. Sometimes you'll need to reach a certain level of fame before you can reach the final boss, so it will behoove you to explore each level thoroughly. On that note, you can no longer jump around completed cards to regain health by eating food one space at a time, but you won't need to consume food to backtrack anymore. That's a relief.
Hand of Fate 2 seems to be right on track to be just as inventive as its predecessor. I did experience significant slowdown during combat using the Xbox One controller due to a driver issue, but a wired Xbox 360 controller did the trick. Deviant Development are still working out the kinks and will likely pursue an closed beta option instead of Steam Early Access as they did with the first title. But either way, they hope to release the game for Early 2017 on PC, Xbox One, Mac, and Linux.