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Hand of Fate 2 (PS4) Review

December 19, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Hands of Fate 2
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Hand of Fate 2 (PS4) Review  

Hand of Fate 2 is a bit of an odd game for me. While it does everything a sequel generally should, improves the gameplay, has more options, new enemies and allies, and so on, I oddly didn’t have as much fun playing it. Part of that is on the technical side, but part of it also is that the novel nature of the first game had worn off and they have some new things that can really annoy players, or at least me.

Hand of Fate 2 is a hybrid game, part board game and part rogue-like/dungeon crawler. At the start of the game you create your character, a nice switch from the first, and you are introduced slowly to the mechanics of the game.

The board game aspect of Hand of Fate 2 is still its strongest element, only it’s a bit changed in this game. In the first game, you basically just went through levels, almost sequentially, having to unlock harder levels, as you progress.

In this game, you do the same thing, to an extent, but it’s a more open system. There are about 20 levels, which correspond to various tarot card names. Instead of the same general formula of the first game, each level has its own unique hook. One might involve you needing to get a set number of blessings before hitting the final area, or another might involve you having to defend a farmer all through the level. Some of these levels have a main goal, but also a bonus goal, which if you complete it, unlocks additional cards for you to use in future levels.

When you start a level, you are tasked with building a deck of cards to walk through. The dealer will build the primary level (deck) with his cards, but you are tasked with selecting a follower (if you want), starting equipment, equipment that will show up in a level, and finally encounters (both good and bad) that you will deal with. A lot of the time, encounters will be beneficial to you, such as stores you can buy equipment from, or to earn more gold. Some of the negative encounters can be useful as well though, since they may come with a token to unlock new cards, if you manage to complete them.

The game progresses in either a linear or open-ended fashion, depending on the card layout. You move your character one space, as long as there are other cards to go to. Landing on a card activates it, which begins an encounter. Encounters are the quests of the game.

Encounters typically breakdown into a few general types: fighting, text adventure, chance game or other. Here’s an idea of each:

Fighting: this is self-explanatory, you and your companion (if you use one) will have to fight against various enemy units or monsters.

Text adventure: these encounters usually lead into chance games, but they involve you having to make choices, or pick a side.

Chance game: these encounters, which usually come from text adventure encounters, are basically four (or five) card Monte, rolling dice to get a certain number, stopping a beam of light on a good area as it swings on a pendulum, and finally a wheel of fortune where you want to stop on a good outcome. By far, the four card Monte is the game you’ll see the most, having to find a “success” (or huge success) card, amid shuffling failure (or huge failure) cards.

Lastly there are the “other” encounters. These typically breakdown into good encounters, where you might buy equipment or food, restore your health, get a blessing (beneficial spell), or earn gold. These also can lead into chance encounters, but there is less of a penalty If you lose.

Rewards from encounters range from the above-listed, equipment, money, food, upgraded health, and so on, but some encounters (usually text adventure ones) drop bronze tokens if you complete them well. Once you fully complete a level, the token will unlock which gives you more cards (encounters or equipment) to play with when you play a new level.

Also, some encounters are more like side-stories and will be linked. One of the earliest ones is with your companion The Bard. He has a multi-encounter side quest, where it will take 3 or 4 sequential successful encounters to fully unlock his story. Once unlocked, he gets a new title and an upgraded skill.

The board game part of the game, eventually culminates into a battle against a boss enemy. These aren’t too challenging, but can be annoying depending on the restrictions that the level places on you. One stage, where you are cursed with low health and can’t heal by food, is a particular annoyance.

The key to actually winning the board game part, is to manage your resources correctly. Each step on a new card costs one food. Eating will restore a bit of your health, but if you don’t have food, you will eventually starve, which starts to drain your life. You can buy more food at your camp, or get more from various “good” encounters, but you can also lose some through bad encounters. Managing your food resource is the biggest thing to worry about in the board game.

Fighting in the game is a lot like the first game. You have a basic attack, a “bash” attack (to whittle down armor), a roll, a button to use your companion ability, a button to do executions, and a button to do your weapon ability. Weapon skills are only usable once you have a hit combo going, but if you get hit, it resets back to zero. Finally, you can do a Batman-style counter when enemies attack. There will be a green arrow/outline when the counter window is active, and a red one, when they are doing an attack that can’t be countered.

The fighting feels somewhat better than the first game, but it’s by no means “great”. It just feels slightly swimmy in spots, like you are fighting in molasses in spots. If there are multiple enemies attacking you, the game has a real problem with letting you counter in quick succession.

On the surface there is little to differentiate Hand of Fate 1 and 2, but the devil is in the details. You have a selectable companion now, which is incredibly useful both on the board game and in battle. There is the “camp” option, where you can rest on a card, after you’re done with it, to buy some extra food and equipment, if you have access to it. Levels are designed much better than in the first game, with actual objectives for you to complete as you go through them. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it does make Hand of Fate 2 a richer experience.

There is a “but” here, however. The technical aspect of the game is kind of gnarly, particularly on PS4. The board game aspect is relatively OK, but the fighting is where it can slow down, particularly if there are more than 4 characters on screen. The most noticeable thing is the transitions between the board game and fighting engine. The game does this very cool tunnel effect where the cards are sliding down this tube. It sounds neat, and looks neat, until you see it chugging like crazy.

The final score: review Good
The 411
It has a few small problems, here and there, but Hand of Fate 2 is a better version of the first game, and is just a better experience. Combat is a tad better, the board game aspect has more choices and the two sides still mesh together in interesting ways. There are some technical issues, which are annoying, but it's still an interesting game to play.

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Hands of Fate 2, Marc Morrison