With a flourish of his hands, a few fanciful words, and a flip of a card, my fate was decided by the cloaked man: I just starved to death in a burning city besieged by an undead plague.
Not exactly the most glorious of deaths.
With my character’s demise, the cloaked man offered me some patronizing advice, I easily envisioned his smirk beneath his cowl, and levitated all of the game pieces back to their proper places like he was some sort of creepy Mary Poppins.
Hand of Fate 2 is a game within a game within a game. Players take on the role of a traveler in a caravan wagon with the cloaked man. To pass the time he offers to let you play his card game. So you create a character for the card game and start his first scenario. The cloaked man’s game has a few rules to learn, but they’re nothing complex or abstruse. For the sake of time, I’m going to refrain from explaining the rules in much depth, however it’s important to understand that Hand of Fate 2 is not like a traditional card game video game. When it’s time for combat, the cards don’t just smack into one another as the game calculates the damage done; when it’s time for combat, you fight.
Let’s go back a few moments before my aforementioned demise. Across the gameboard were cards arranged in rows and columns. Each card represented a city block that I was traveling through, looking for survivors to save. Every turn cost me some of my food resource, and once I ran out of food, I would take damage with every turn. I ran out of food a few turns ago, so my health level was less-than-ideal at this point. I click on an uncovered card, signaling my character to move there for my next turn. The cloaked man flips the card and it’s an alley full of infected monstrosities.
The cloaked man mutters something hardly encouraging as the game warps me into a combat scenario.
Reality refocuses and I’m now in control of the actual character I’m playing the card game as. All of the weapons/equipment/companion cards that I held in my hand are now a tangible reality. The monsters do not hesitate and they lurch forward to try and consume my companion and myself.
Using the WASD keys to move, and the mouse to attack/defend, I do a decent job of fending off the monsters’ attacks. As I take a few hits from the monsters, I regret not playing my reinforcements card before this battle scenario, as it would have spawned some city soldiers alongside my companion and I; not the best reinforcements, but it would have taken some of the pressure off of my companion and I.
Eventually, the monsters are slain and I am teleported out of the combat scenario and back to sitting in front of the cloaked man. Unfortunately, the few scrapes I sustained during combat were enough to put me below the threshold needed to survive my next turn. The moment I click to move to the next card, my health evaporates completely and I die. Whirling away all of the cards and game pieces, the cloaked man resets our card game and allows me to choose another scenario or to attempt that same one again.
Hand of Fate 2 is a tough game, but the combat is fluid and fun, reminiscent of early Assassin’s Creed games (I only played the first two), where icons indicate which enemy is about to attack, allowing you time to dodge out of the way or block/counter the attack. Enemy types are varied, so it’s not just hacking-and-slashing through hordes of monsters. Dodging, parrying, riposting, and chaining attacks are crucial for survival, and each action is easy to conduct and visually fluid to observe. Combat in Hand of Fate 2 is great.
The combat is complimented by the game’s easy-to-learn systems, and the ever-intriguing presence of the narrator/game master. I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying Hand of Fate 2. I usually have little patience for learning a new card game, but the treat of actually getting to partake in the combat was enough to usher me through learning the basics, and then after that I was hooked.
RECOMMENDED: Hand of Fate 2 is great in every way. I’ve had no problem learning the game’s systems, the narrator is a great character to get to know, and the scenarios present enough of a challenge without being unfair or overly difficult.
Hand of Fate 2 was reviewed with a retail copy provided by the developer.