By Robert Yocum
While I was thinking of the next game to talk about in this series, I remember a part of a clip shown at 2016 E3 show. This clip was in a ‘coming soon’ montage shown for the Xbox conference, and indicated that Hand of Fate was getting a sequel. Since this game was another free game in the ‘Games with Gold’ series, and the game itself was pretty good, I thought it would be fun to talk about.
Hand of Fate uses the Unity engine and is developed and published by Defiant Development studios. The quality of this game is surprisingly good considering the only other games to their credit are: Heroes Call, Rocket Bunnies, and Ski Safari all of which are mobile device games. The game play in Hand of Fate is best described as an amalgamation game. It’s a mix of card based storytelling, rogue like path finding, 3rd person Batman Arkham series combat, and item collecting RPG elements. If that sounds confusing, it is. It takes a while to get a feel for the game. Once you do, the game flows surprising well for such a Frankenstein’s monster of game play elements.
The game starts with you entering a ‘cabin at the end of the woods’ and you sit down with the ‘dealer’ who is the main story teller. The Dealer is voice acted brilliantly by Anthony Skordi, who video game players would recognize as the character Maru-Yatum from Dungeon Siege 3 or Leviathan in the Leviathan DLC in Mass Effect 3. Each round the dealer shuffles into the deck encounter, item, and treasure cards. You then follow the path looking for either the exit to the next level or the boss you have to fight at the end of the level. There are 12 levels to beat and then you have to defeat the dealer himself. Each turn you move to a new card that has been dealt out. If the card is new then you experience the encounter. If it’s not, then the move is just a move. During the encounter you can either try to resolve a situation, enter combat, or some other type of event. Sometimes the event requires you to play a game of 4-card Monte where you are shown 4 cards with the result of either being: Huge Failure, Failure, Success, or Huge Success. After you are shown the cards they are then shuffled and you pick and find out the results. If you enter combat then you switch to a 3rd person view where the monsters and your equipment are loaded and then you have to fight till either you or your enemies are defeated.
Combat is my least favorite part of the game, which is a shame since you wind up doing so much of it. The input has a great deal of lag to it. Not in the Batman Arkham series where it’s meant to be a free flowing stylized display of Batman’s flawless skill. It’s more like the old school MMORPG’s where there was system lag on your modem. Enemies that are attacking you have giant flashing warning lights and the system is very forgiving on when you should have pushed the block/evade button and when you actually did. Despite that, however, it is still very easy to die in the combat aspect of the game. You can walk over traps which are easy enough to miss; some enemies have an area of effect poison that is released after you defeat them which are next to impossible to see. Then there are the larger enemies
that have unblock able attacks, which are equally as fun. The biggest failure in the combat is that you never deviate from the concept of “Sword and Board”. Granted the melee weapon is not always a sword, but you always have a 1 handed weapon of some type, and you always have a shield, and while there are occasionally magic attacks you can unleash and item effects you can trigger, the combat quickly boils down to block/dodge/strike/dodge out.
Once you get past all of that, the game itself is an enjoyable experience. The storytelling is fun, the card encounters can get slightly repetitive towards the end but not so much that you feel like you are using the same card over and over. The monster variety is good enough that they don’t feel like the game is just using the same assets over and over again with replacement skins. It’s not a bad game and I look forward to the sequel, which as of the writing of this article is slated for 2017.