Review: Hand of Fate 2 (PS4)

Review: Hand of Fate 2 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Hand of Fate 2
Format: PSN (4.61 GB)
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Defiant Development
Developer: Defiant Development
Original MSRP: $29.99 (US), £19.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Hand of Fate 2 is a game that draws from a bunch of different genres. It’s a roguelike deck building game with board game and rpg elements. The whole thing is narrated by the Dealer who guides you through the experience.

The overworld is a map where you select a mission. However, during that mission the map is made up of the event cards from the deck that was created. Instead of character upgrades like most roguelikes, completing missions and events will unlock new cards for your deck. Sometimes all you need is a new sword to get through a difficult mission.

Some missions can only be completed one way while others have a silver and gold coin. Players who still beat the mission, but may not have met all the criteria, will only get the silver coin. As an example, players can still kill a boss without gaining enough Fame to equip a special hammer.

It can be frustrating to miss out on a gold coin and the cards it unlocks, but at least you still completed the mission and can move on if you want to. For completionists, this gives them a reason to go back and replay some missions.

Event cards range from combat to merchants and choices between different blessings from a goddess or choosing between rescuing a kid or treasure. Because all the cards are face down on the board, there is a constant risk-reward struggle with each mission. There’s an urge to find and complete events that will unlock more cards, but at what cost?

More than once, an event card cost me over half my health, making it almost impossible to complete the mission or meaning I died and failed. When low on health and food, do you try and mainline it to the end or risk more encounters with enemies to explore the map in hopes of finding someone to trade with?

There are a few big additions that stand out in Hand of Fate 2 The first is the new companion cards. Not only do the companions fight alongside you in combat, the player can activate their special ability as well. Each companion also has their own unique ability to help during the mini games. Finally, each companion has their own side quests and specific event cards that only happen if the player brought that companion along on the challenge.

A couple new minigames have been added to magnify the board game feeling. There’s a card game where all the cards spin in a circle and the player must stop the wheel on the right card. Each time a card is removed the chances of a negative card increase.

There’s also a dice game where the total of your rolls have to be equal to or greater than a set number. Finally there is a swinging pendulum minigame. The minigames are not huge game changers, but they help mix things up. Besides, what board game is complete without dice?

The other big addition is the variety in the missions that the game calls challenges. The original game had the same goal for each challenge – find your way to the end of the level and kill the boss. While there’s still a fair amount of that in the sequel, players who want the gold coin will need to obtain enough blessings or gain a certain amount of fame to equip a special weapon and then kill the boss.

Other challenges include saving enough survivors or rescuing soldiers while even others can require speed or finding someone within so many turns. To keep things interesting, many challenges add additional constraints.

If the player isn’t paying attention, food and health management can easily become a big issue. However, on some challenges, you start off severely injured or with little food. With the threat of running out of food, which is consumed every turn, or health being constantly low, each move must carefully be considered.

Generally I’m not a fan of deck building games, but the developers have made it manageable. The deck is broken up into categories such as events, weapons, equipment, and companion, each with its own limit on the number of cards. The game can create a deck for the player but warns that later on that may not be enough.

It does a great job with the mission details, giving the player a good idea of what to expect. I let the game create a deck for me and then tinkered with each category, especially the starting equipment. I would change out weapons based on expected enemy type and personal preference.

When health or speed was a consideration, I would play it safe and take out the event cards that could bring big rewards but also carried big risks. After a couple times, this really became quite easy for me.

Like many other games, Hand of Fate 2 has copied the combat from the recent Batman action games. There’s the standard normal and heavy attack and a symbol over the head of an enemy telling you they’re about to attack. Button mashing will work early in the game, but later on, with the variety in enemies and their attacks having more precise timing, defending and dodging is required.

Combat was the weakest part of the original game and, while improved, it’s still the weakest part of the sequel. To be fair, most other parts of the game have vastly improved. The combat is just too sluggish and not polished enough.

Personally, when I see an enemy is about to attack, my first instinct is to attack them first, not defend. Sometimes this worked and other times an enemy would shake off a heavy attack like it was nothing and hit me.

Multiple times I was hit by one enemy when locked into a kill animation on another enemy. When low on health late in a challenge, a few hits are the difference between victory and defeat. It’s hard to know the rules of the game when things are not consistent.

Now for a few quick gripes. I love games with narrators but I wish the Dealer had more lines. There were too many comments about me not making a decision fast enough.

After coming across a merchant, I had to check out their weapons and shields and then go back to my inventory to see if what I currently had was better. There’s just no reason for there not to be an easier way to compare inventory.

Unlocking new cards is the key to progressing through the challenges. While it’s pretty obvious how to earn the coin from some events, many are not clear. When I finally earned the coin from the Cartographer, I had no idea what I did. I swear I had done the same thing five different times. One line of text would have allowed me to focus more on the challenge instead of hitting a wall over and over again with the same event.

In the new dice minigame, the player knows what total they need to roll and can decline if they don’t feel like taking the risk. During one challenge, I had the chance to give some soldiers a pep talk.

What I did not know when I made that choice was that only one of the four cards would allow me to succeed. Even worse, two of the three failure cards were huge failures. I would have skipped the chance for a speech had I known what the odds would have been. It makes no sense that I know this for the dice game but not for the four card shuffle.

Visuals:
The graphics could be better. It doesn’t take long for the combat areas to get repetitive. The framerate also chugs at times when there are too many enemies on the field. Framerate dips from too many characters on screen is nothing new and fairly common, however, it caused me to die on a difficult challenge when I was only a few cards away from the final encounter. It’s not as easy to ignore now.

Audio:
There are numerous epic battle songs to get the blood pumping. The different background songs help create the atmosphere. The real standout is some of the transition music. When it’s late in a challenge, your health is low, and tensions are high, each move carries a lot of weight. It’s the sound of safety from coming across a friend or the treacherous sounds of an ambush being sprung that will amplify your feelings.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Hand of Fate 2 is a few tweaks short of amazing. Combat is inconsistent and it has framerate issues. It’s frustrating not knowing the odds for the four card draw minigame while knowing them for the dice game. There’s also no reason not to be able to compare items against what is currently equipped. Still, this is a unique and interesting combination of genres and the best single player Dungeons & Dragons experience I have ever had.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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