By: Jeff Cater
Hand of Fate is a very unique blend of a tabletop card game, tarot reading and action. Assuming the role of an unfortunate unnamed hero, you sit across from the dealer who is in a constant state of telling past tales of players of his game. Will you beat the ever present enemy of chance or will you fall victim to the cards? Defiant Development begins the shuffle for you…
While navigating the game table you may use the left stick or directional pad to highlight which card to move to, and the X button will select it. During combat, movement is still governed by the left stick and attacks are performed with Square. Countering an enemy attack is a timed affair with Triangle, and Circle will allow the user to perform a shield bash. You may also dodge about the arena with the X button, which is absolutely vital to adding longevity to your current game.
The only real problem stemming from the controls is the fact that sometimes, albeit very rarely, your attacks and dodging can feel a bit unresponsive. The special moves assigned to your shoulder buttons are also pretty difficult to time because you’re generally locked in place while using them.
Most of your time with Hand of Fate is spent at the dealer’s table, which is gently lit by a single candle (and also some ambient light around the general area). The table looks aged and very befitting of the dealer who is shrouded by a long cloak. The various cards all have wonderful art as well: none of them look out of place in their “set.”
Several of the cards you encounter will inevitably be equipment and weapon cards that have unique representations on the battlefield, so after you’ve amassed a large collection of cards you will be treated to seeing tons of unique pieces of gear during combat phases.
The sets of animation given to your character and enemies are effective, but they’re a touch limited and sometimes feel clunky enough to prevent a roll from happening when it’s needed or completely missing a counterattack prompt. The frame rate is also imperfect, but at least it never dropped to a terrible, game-breaking low; only a noticeable one generally in the heat of combat.
The soundtrack fits the mysterious theme of the game extremely well, ramping up and subsiding at all the appropriate times. The card dealer also has a seemingly endless pool of dialogue to draw from and will constantly chat you up during your time at his table. He often tells tales of adventurers’ failures, and he taunts you encouragingly to coax you further into the game.
Hand of Fate is a rogue-like action game that takes place entirely in a gypsy-esque room, and though your adventure will take you many places, you never truly leave. After building a deck of currently unlocked Equipment and Encounter cards, you are given the choice to tackle the Campaign or do your best at the Endless mode.
The campaign lets the player work their way through rows of cards representing powerful bosses, one shuffle at a time. Endless is actually full of “ends” because it tends to get difficult pretty quickly.
The dealer will begin to lay overturned cards upon the table for you to move your game piece to. Say that the card you land on flips to reveal “The Maiden.” It gives a short description of an Elvish princess who wishes to help you on your journey, giving you a choice of gold, food, or health bonuses. If you are lucky, that is.
Sometimes a card will flip to reveal a combat scenario, and enemies fittingly come in varieties such as The Six of Dust (six lesser human enemies) to The Four of Scales (four lizardmen with shields and swords). These cards can and will be seen together in various states, along with others, always producing a unique and fresh battle for you to partake in.
Through all of this you must also keep a close eye on your food supply, which replenishes your health every time you move your game piece until you run out, in which case starvation will start to set in and you will gradually lose health. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but it only serves to add more challenge to the game.
Hand of Fate certainly has a few issues, but thankfully they never make the game a burden to play. If you’ve had an itch for something completely unique or are fond of tabletop escapades, Hand of Fate is certainly worth checking out. Defiant Development only has a few things to tighten up for the sequel (hint hint).