Sitting in front of an unknown person who seems obsessed with a game of his own creation, I obtain a new card. A building in flames, a rather suspicious woman in distress on the side of the road, a market run by goblins or a clue towards my final goal. On this particular campaign, at least. Cards flew by every few minutes, and some of my biggest decisions are made with the roll of a couple dices and other mini games. I’m always in total control, despite the uncertainty of every move, and that makes for one of the finest experiences I’ve played in the recent years.
Hand of Fate 2 is introduced almost like a Dungeons & Dragons session hosted by the Dealer, a mysterious character that was also the emblem of the first game (although it’s not mandatory to go through it to play the sequel). Each story begins by selecting a campaign, at first between only a handful and quickly unlocking a much larger selection as you progress further on, all named after each tarot arcana.
Cars are both a currency and imaginative doors to everything that happens in each campaign. They all carry a story, a location or an object, often with a narrated description by the Dealer that goes along each one of them. All these “sessions” have a main story arc to fulfill, with additional side objectives that can grant a gold or silver medal depending on your interest in completing them. You move throughout the cards by placing a small figurine of yourself onto them (after creating your character, too) which are placed as routes in a table, triggering random events when the cards are faced up.
It seems only like just a fancy introduction to a regular RPG, but there’s more than that. The narrations are excellent to get you into each story, just as D&D, but then it’s up to you how you want to handle each situation. There are a number of decisions that can vary depending on your equipment and status: a health meter, how much food you’re carrying (you’ll automatically consume food when you walk on a new card) and gold, which can be used to purchase objects or pay your way out of different situations.
If situations go south, or you end up in a card where only combat will complete it, you’ll end up in the other half of Hand of Fate 2: from a tabletop experience to a third person combat sequences a la Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series. In here, cards take a different meaning: you’re always carrying cards for equipment (armor, weapons and accessories), and there will always be a predefined number and type of enemies (vikings, people caught up with a plague, goblins and other fantasy shenanigans). Once the character sets foot in the small battlefield, they can perform different attacks, block, dodge and use special abilities after defeating a certain number of enemies, which vary depending on the weapon they are wielding.
The combat itself is probably the most bland aspect of the game. It’s not bad in any extent, and although we have seen its kind replicated in a number of other titles, the prior and following moments make it interesting. It can get pretty rough from time to time, too, especially when you are unaware of the enemy’s movements (basically, how many hits you have to block before an opening).
Cards add variation in different ways, but the most interesting addition from the previous game are the companions, who grant a special buff or ability that recharges within a few seconds. Their AI isn’t anywhere close to being stellar, but they can turn the tides of battle if you know how to use them properly. Aside from combat, companions have a specific storyline to follow through a unique card showcasing their background.
As for the mini games, they go from stopping a card roulette in movement to select the correct one to actually moving a set of dices and throwing them on the table. In fact, some companions can even lend us a hand during these moments by throwing an extra dice, for example.
It doesn’t take long for the game to caught you in its atmosphere and gameplay loop, always unlocking new cards to use in other campaigns and seeing the “evolution” of concurring cards from special events or companions’ stories. Aside from the main story, these can also be used in both Challenge and Endless modes, which change the core game dramatically and offer a higher replayability value.
As for the Switch version, the game runs at steady 30 FPS with some minor occasional framedrops, but all in all, it looks great on both handheld and docked modes. Also, this edition includes all previously released DLCs, which makes for a really neat package.
Hand of Fate 2 is a really unique experience that could fit in a new genre entirely, and while it’s already impressive as it is, I wonder what the developers may be able to do with this idea in the future. Whether it’s about adding new content or mechanics, the core game feels truly unique, and I can’t wait to come back to it and experience a new story.
A copy of Hand of Fate 2 for Switch was provided by Stride PR on behalf of the studio, Defiant Development. Make sure to visit the official site for more information.