Hand of Fate review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Defiant Development
Developer: Defiant Development
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Leaderboards

I’m generally not too big on card-based games. I don’t usually have the patience to learn individual card values, or to memorize which cards beat which other cards, or any of the other stuff that goes along with all that. Plus there’s the whole “luck of the draw” aspect that just doesn’t appeal to me.

You know what does appeal to me, though? Action. Lots and lots of action, preferably set up in a way that doesn’t require too much strategizing. Basically, if I can just go in swinging, that’s right up my alley.

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Which goes a long way towards explaining why I’m such a huge fan of Hand of Fate. See, on the one hand, it’s undeniably a card game. You spend the vast majority of the game simply drawing cards and building decks, all as part of a plot involving a mysterious stranger in a cabin and the end of the world. Moreover, nearly every aspect of the game is ruled by luck of the draw, from what weapons you get to whether you’re able to run away from bandits to whether you’re able to dodge a rockslide.

However, while all that may represent a good 80-90% of the the game, there’s a still a decent chunk left — and it’s that chunk that makes me love Hand of Fate. It’s the fact that your encounters with bandits and monsters aren’t determined by a roll of the dice, but rather by how well you fare in hack & slash combat against those enemies. It’s the fact that when you discover a secret treasure vault, your success in reaching the treasure is based on…well, whether you can actually reach the treasure. You jump and dive and dodge your way past all kinds of hazards, with no hint of random chance about it.

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It’s not great combat, of course. You may have a sword/axe/whatever, you may be facing down all kinds of robbers and skeletons and demons, and you may be crawling your way through dank dungeons the whole time, but no one is ever going to mistake Hand of Fate for something like God of War or Diablo in that respect. But it’s certainly good enough — good enough to engage someone like me, and good enough to be considered a point in the game’s favour. On top of that, it’s all very smoothly implemented. There’s a real sense of weight behind your thrusts and strikes, while the counter system is perfect — very obviously borrowed from the Arkham series, of course, but perfect nonetheless.

I don’t want to give the impression Hand of Fate is flawless, of course. The treasure dungeons all start feeling the same after awhile, as do the random battles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re not fun, but I don’t want to give the impression that the world beyond the frame story’s cabin is a vast or varied one. On top of that, I suspect that people who do like their card games to be, you know, card-based might not be too happy with the way the game lessens the role chance plays — though that’s nothing more than idle speculation, since that’s not an issue I have with the game.

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In fact, I don’t think I really have any other issues with the game. Hand of Fate is a great example of how seemingly hidebound genres can be shaken up and made to appeal to people who might not otherwise give them a second look. I can’t say that I’m going to run out and buy a starter D&D pack or anything, but I’ve at least been brough to a point where that doesn’t seem like the most insane thing ever.

Grade: B+