Hand of Fate 2 – Review
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Look, I am not going to lie to you. I am not going to hide it from you. I am not even going to pretend. I am a huge Hand of Fate fan. Anyone that has followed this site for any length of time will know that. I played many, many hours of the original game on both the Xbox and the PC and have been yelling at people for over two years to make sure they get their hands on its unique gameplay. That said the original did have some problems. There was a level of clunkiness in the combat, the graphics occasionally were on the rough side and the story was almost non-existent. Forgivable problems, especially considering it was made by a small Aussie indie dev. But with the sequel my expectations were high. How would Defiant improve upon, what is for me, one of the premier indie titles ever to come from Australia? The answer is in many many ways and boy am I happy about it.
Hand of Fate 2 is set 100 years after the original game. The protagonist from that game has gone on to become some sort of evil dictator, bringing misery and sorrow to the land, and in the process, he killed the mysterious Dealer. But this devilish chap is not so easy to get rid of and has used the past century to will himself back to the land of the living. He is once again running The Game, this time to train a new warrior, one strong enough to take on the new lord of the land he lovingly refers to as “The Usurper.” The story is much more prevalent this time around and it has been written with a deft hand. Every challenge, every level reveals a little more about the world, about the final goal and about the Dealer’s intentions. This is helped by the return of Anthony Skordi, once again giving a malevolent, yet enticing performance as the Dealer. So much of the game rests on his portrayal and it is pitch perfect.
The gameplay has had numerous tweaks to bring more variety and creativity to the fore. I won’t waste time on explaining the basics (check out our coverage of the original if you need a refresher) but I do want to outline the changes and additions. Firstly the layouts of the cards. Defiant Development has gotten really clever with these layouts. Along with the linear progression layouts from the original, there are now open world layouts (one big square of cards that can be explored freely) layouts that are concealed, only revealing themselves as the player activates special cards, and layouts that change and react to what is happening in the level. This variety brings a whole different type of thinking to the game and really forces players to ponder about which cards they are putting in their deck and how they are approaching the layout. Each mission comes with unique objectives as well and it isn’t simply a case of beating a boss. There is a primary and a secondary objective for just about every challenge and completing both is a must if players want to get every card for their deck. These objectives were along the lines of protecting a potato farmer that gets kidnapped every turn, starting a mission with only 15 health and building it up to tackle an ogre or rescuing civilians from a plague-infected town. This variety really helps to take Hand of Fate 2 to another level and adds life to the game by encouraging replays.
Graphically there is a lot to like too. The game has come a long way since the original and while it will never be remembered as the best looking game available, it certainly isn’t ugly. There is a lot more detail in the surroundings, the characters and the cards, all adding up to significantly improved visuals. The game also runs as smooth as silk, with nary a stutter in sight. It keeps a consistent framerate throughout, even when there are hordes of enemies on the screen, which is something the original struggled with at times. There are a few instances of combat animations missing the mark, especially with finishing moves, but really that is a minor niggle and something I am sure will be cleaned up with a patch or two.
Speaking of finishing moves, the combat in HoF2 is also much improved. The same basic concept of an “Arkham-lite” combat system returns but with some welcome tweaks to make the whole thing feel much more complete. There are now three classes of weapons, a light, medium and heavy, all feeling significantly different from each other. There is also the ability to finish stunned enemies with a quick kill and to unleash a special move once a certain combo has been reached. It all flows nicely and the enemies do their darndest to muck up the flow, as they should. There is one problem with the combat however and that is the camera, which frankly can be a bit of a pain. The camera is fixed, with only slight adjustments able to be made so this causes the problem of off-screen enemies getting in cheap hits. I think in general the camera needs to be zoomed out a bit more, especially in the larger areas, to allow for a better view of the battlefield.
In the end, Hand of Fate 2 is everything I wanted from a sequel and more. There is a huge variety of activities, new games of chance, better combat, improved graphics and a story that is not only interesting but wonderfully presented. The Dealer has made my life hell for the entirety of this review and all I can do is thank him. Defiant Development has struck gold here by taking an already cool concept and refining it into something truly special. There is nothing on the market that is like Hand of Fate 2 and you owe it to yourself to check it out. The Dealer wants to play a game and who am I to say no?