The concept behind Hand of fate is a fusion of different game mechanics. And the final result is of greater value than the total sum of its single parts. The game jumps right into the action, with you sitting in front of the Dealer, shuffling a deck of cards.
You don’t really know why but apparently you are here to defeat a roster of the Dealer’s champions that will increase in difficulty and unlock ugrades for you and their minions as well. Every reward you get comes at a price. Whenever you get more powerful items your enemies will become stronger, too.
The deck consists of Encounter cards and Equipment cards. Your goal is to reach the end of your journey and kill a final boss. The cards will be set in front of you to represent different paths.
You move your figurine on each card, revealing each encounter. Almost every single one will resolve in a fight. Now the prospective changes into a third person brawler in the style of the Batman Arkham games.
One button attacks, one button counters and one button stuns. During the adventure you can acquire artifacts or spells that will grant you a specific buff. If you are victorious you will return in front of the Dealer to choose another card and continue your journey.
Some cards will give you the opportunity to unlock even more cards. If you successfully survive the encounter you will gain a token that unlocks a new item or a new encounter that you can add to the deck after finishing a level. After a while you will be able to choose different cards to put in the deck before starting the adventure.
Every step you take will consume food and if you reach zero you will start to lose health until you restore your food supply or die. If you do die, you lose all progress and equipment and the board will reset. It seems like a perma-death system but the equipment will be back in the deck and you will be able to retrieve it on your next attempt. The only things you will acquire even if you die are the tokens unlocked during the game.
Food management is a great issue in the game, you have some gold to buy artifacts and food in the shops but the objects are so expensive that the only thing you will want to buy is some more food, just to be sure it won’t run out in the middle of the adventure.
The entire game is a giant mash-up of different parts from an RPG, a board game, a write-your-own-adventure book and a third person brawler. The art style and the nature of the encounters remind me of the board game Hero Quest (it’s a pretty old board game, with basically the same gameplay and art style).
It all sounds pretty good on paper but there are two big issues with this game. The first issue is balancing. When you unlock new and powerful gear you can put it in the Deck but the only way to acquire it is to turn a card and win that encounter. But the longer you progress the tougher the encounters become, often with a mini-boss and tens of minions.
And there’s no way you can survive with your starting gear and no spells or artifacts. And sometimes, even if somehow you’re surviving these waves of enemies a bug will get in your way and kill you. Because even if they are using the same combat system of the Batman Arkham games it is not so well refined.
For example, you can’t counter multiple enemies and sometimes the dodge move won’t take you out of danger because your roll animation won’t clip through the enemies and you will be stuck on the spot taking hits. And the occasional stuttering and frame rate dropping won’t help, either. And this brings us to the second issue.
Apparently the developers have abandoned this game after its release. There was no Day-One patch and to this day still there isn’t one. Hand of Fate can be a magical blend of different genres, a big throwback to old RPG board games but more often than not it’s held back by its technical issues and greatly unbalanced gameplay mechanics.
What was supposed to be a challenging rogue-like experience turns out to be a journey into the land of frustration; just because the game doesn’t give you the proper tools to play and overcome its challenges. If you want you can pick up this game if the charm and nostalgia will be enough for you to endure a little bit of frustration and you don’t mind getting stuck just before the last boss and restart again and again the last adventure of the game. Because there ‘s no way you can defeat all the mini bosses the game will throw your way before getting to the real one.
Update: As of now (May 1st) the game received its first patch since release (January 28th). As stated in the patch notes, they addressed various bugs, stuttering and balancing issues. You can see the difference from before; the stuttering during loading times is “almost” gone but the balancing issues remain. Little has been done to make the game playable in the last levels. Let’s hope they are already working on the next patch (and that we don’t have to wait as long as the last time for it to be available).