Announced to be making its way to the Nintendo Switch only a week before release, Hand of Fate 2 is a hybrid title. Set in a dark fantasy world filled with an array of mythical creatures. Goblins, Elves, Ogres, skeletons and perhaps the foulest creature of all…northerners. It combines action and role-playing. I have never played something like Dungeon & Dragons, but I get the impression that likening it to that kind of game would be accurate for a laymen. However, when it comes to the time to fight, you don’t roll dice, but take control and must ward off the attackers in a real time battle.
As you begin the game you’ll find yourself in the company of a strange hooded man, who wants you to play the ‘game’. He serves as your guide through the world or a kind of dungeon master, I suppose. His overall purpose for you seems a bit unclear, I believe he is mad at a usurper and wants you to assist him. Supposedly playing this game will…somehow. The details I’m not too clear on, but what I do understand is that the game is fun.
As mentioned it is a hybrid title, mixing role-playing and action. You start off as a piece on a table. Face down cards are all around you and you can navigate one space adjacent to your position. Once you pick a spot a number of scenarios may unfurl, but if it is a combat encounter, the game shifts to you taking direct control. It sounds simple and for the most part it is delightfully so. Hand of Fate 2 introduces new mechanics at a good pace which never lets you feel over or underwhelmed.
The game has two different modes, campaign and endless. Largely similar, but also some key differences between them. Campaign features 22 unique scenarios and from my experience they all varied quite a lot. Whether it is gaining information to catch an assassin, warn villagers on approaching invaders, recovering relics for the Empire or climbing a mountain to reach a Priestess the rules of each scenario make it feel fresh and also offers unique cards for that scenario. Beating a scenario will net you some new cards to play with and meeting specific requirements will get you even more cards.
So whilst each scenario does have its own exclusive cards, the game will also see you finding new cards that are used for every scenario. They are essentially side quests and will lead to better equipment, powers ups for your companion or other buffs. Each card can vary greatly. You may have to pickpocket someone, make a decision to save a lost boy or hand him in, fight ogres or take their side and play some games. It’s this system that makes each game feel fresh as there is a multitude of cards to unlock and you get to choose which cards enter the deck before you play a scenario. So those who are knowledgable can compile a deck that either helps them or add a handicap to make a scenario even harder.
Another aspect of the board game side is how certain outcomes play out. Scoring higher than a certain number in a dice roll, stopping a spinning wheel, picking the right card out of a card shuffle and stopping a pendulum in the right place. Half being based on skill and the other half being based on luck. This system really does a good job of keeping you on your toes and not just reading through text. In general the board game side is great it offers a massive variety of scenarios that will keep you entertained for a long time and really makes you feel like you are taking part in a fantasy board game.
Then the other side of the coin is the combat. If you step on a certain card it can trigger an encounter and most scenarios end with a boss fight. Once these are triggered you will then be thrust into combat against multiple foes. You don’t always fight alone though, you can choose a companion to join you and sometimes you’ll pick up more allies as well.
The controls are simple; attack, block, bash, dodge, special attack, companion attack, artefact and a finishing attack. It is easy to pick up, but also the games weakest chain. There just isn’t too much variety in what you can do and you will find yourself slashing away at your foe and just keeping an eye on whether or not you need to block their strike or dodge it. However whilst your options are limited and bit underwhelming, the variety in enemies, equipment, ,scenario and pacing of fights make them appealing.
What weapon and armour your take into a fight is important as each foe has their own strength and weaknesses. The enemies themselves also have different attack patterns which you will need to keep an eye on and whilst many fights are simply a case of killing everyone around. There are some that require you to win in a certain amount of time or stop pesky goblins from escaping with the gold.
Then there is also endless mode. Here you aim too get the highest score you possibly can. Focusing on a risk reward type of system, you will choose a main quest and then side quests to compelte during it. If you complete the main quest and side quests you will then move on to the next one and amass more points, but if you fail to beat the side quests you pick there will be a penalty. It is a really good mode that adds even more replay value to the game.
Being available on other systems I thought I would focus some of my playtime in handheld mode. For the majority of my time undocked or docked Hand of Fate 2 ran exceptionally well. There was one fight with a Necromancer that the framerate was clearly dipping a bit, but it seemed isolated to that encounter. I have sadly had the game freeze on me a couple of times. It isn’t too much of an issue as the game does auto save after each card, but there is a small possibility of frustration as it might freeze in the middle a difficult card. Either way whist there are some issues, they are certainly nothing to worry about.
One aspect I really liked about Hand of Fate 2 is the world they’ve built. The world building is excellent. One can argue that it is generic, but the combination of writing, aesthetic design and music all mix to form a dreary land that just seems quite unpleasant. Sickness is in the land and the Empire is an oppressive figure in the world. Whilst the overarching story isn’t anything captivating, the individual encounters are genuinely interesting and funny. Particularly one scenario about a man who really loves potatoes.
The difficulty level for the most part works well. There were some odd spikes, but you always have a selection of scenarios to play so can always go back to a tricky one. Also the RNG for the most part never does feel unforgiving, but at times it will get a bit frustrating, but it’s almost impossible to avoid as when chance is involved it is inevitable.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Hand of Fate 2 was provided by Stride PR.