It feels very full-circle-y to be seeing Hand of Fate 2 at PAX East this year. We previewed the first Hand of Fate at PAX East 2014, and absolutely loved it, even if it had some design flaws. Defiant Development are back with a sequel, having taken all the criticism and suggestions they received from the first game and made the experience, based on our time with the demo, even better than before.
The Dealer has clawed his way back beyond the thirteen gates to seek his revenge! The table has changed, yet the stakes remain the same: life or death!
As in the original Hand of Fate, adventurers explore a dark fantasy world built from collectible cards distributed by a magical dealer in a meta boardgame. Each overturned card reveals a new trial: third-person combat, high-risk high-reward minigames or Tabletop RPG-style decision making.
First and foremost, Hand of Fate 2 has character creation, a feature that has zero effect on the game itself, but one that I absolutely applaud, as it connects you to the game world and your character, investing you in the story.
Story is also something that Defiant Development have double down on. The first Hand of Fate felt relatively self contained; a game of cards on the edge of oblivion played out for the entertainment of The Dealer. There were always hints of a larger world and lore, but they never felt substantial, more a fantasy window dressing for the game’s (superb) mechanics of randomly generated play.
Hand of Fate 2 has instead firmly set the game in a world with people, politics and plots, drawing you in to the history and background of different tribe and territories. It’s a decision I love, because while there is very clearly now a world you exist in, you still feel a step removed, piecing the story together from flavor text and allusions. The inclusion of a wider, more refined world for the game to take place in makes Hand of Fate feel much richer, and the battlefields feel less like self contained arenas and more like small sections of a larger world.
Combat remains just as polished and engaging as the first game, with all sorts of new options available to you. First and foremost, while you can still use a sword and shield in Hand of Fate 2, you’re not confined to it like you were in Hand of Fate. Now, you’re able to wield two-handed weapons, or dual wield, which adds some fantastic variety to the available play styles. You’ll also be joined by companions now, such as a trickster mage named who will support you in larger fights with some magic missiles. Companions also have special abilities that will assist you during the exploration phase pre-battle.
Speaking of the pre-battle phase of Hand of Fate 2, like just about everything else in the game, what worked has been doubled down on, while a few new interesting additions have been added. The core mechanics of Hand of Fate‘s over-world game board are preserved, utilizing deck building to construct a series of challenges, events and fights all in pursuit of one over-arching quest. However, one of the original game’s weakest mechanics has been vastly improved upon. In the original game, certain challeneges were decided by a simple card-themed shell game, where your only options were success and failure. Now, these events are settled by a turning-wheel minigame with vastly more possible outcomes. It feels a lot less black & white, and I like that.
All in all, Hand of Fate 2 feels like a refinement of an already superb concept. Hand of Fate was fantastic, but Hand of Fate 2 feels like it will be better than ever, with more customization, more variety and more choices to make in your game against The Dealer.
Hand of Fate 2 is expected to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows and Mac in Quarter 1 of 2017.
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it.