Sit down, make yourself comfortable, or don’t, it matters not to me. You’ve come to hear my thoughts on the Game and I intend to inform you. While I may not be as acquainted as the Dealer himself, I can say that I have spent more than enough time studying the Game to explain the basics and a few of the intricacies that a player such as yourself is sure to encounter. To this end, I ask you to listen and at least attempt to retain a fraction of the information I will be conveying.
First of all, Hand of Fate 2 is only a name for your imminent conference with the Dealer in which you will play the Game. By the time you are in the Dealer’s presence, your memory will have begun deteriorating and your past will become uncertain and confusing. To amend this, you must relive your life through the cards that make up the Game. Even if these cards are beautiful and the experiences they convey are convincing enough with their brilliant antagonist and gorgeous environments, you must remember that your ultimate goal is to defeat every challenge the Dealer sets before you.
This is not a typical card game however, as you will have reason to keep your resources in mind; things such as Gold, Food, and even your Health will play an important role in your attempt to overcome the Dealer’s various challenges. Instead of looking at values, statistics or effects, you will live out the stories and experiences described on each card. There is real consequences to your choices and your resources will determine which choices are made available to you. While Gold is simply used to purchase wares or bribe people, Food can be used to bargain, keep from starving, and even heal your wounds. If I’ve not made it clear, if your Health fully depletes, you will lose the challenge you are in and will have to start over.
Shortly after you arrive, you will be tasked with taking on the challenge known as The Fool. This quick adventure will explain how it is that you came into contact with that blasted bard or magician or whatever his title is that day. While you may not need to worry about your Food or Gold in this introductory challenge, you can still perish, and ultimately fail, if you attempt to slack off during the combat. This may seem a bit extreme, but I would wager any experienced player cherishes the way the Game refuses to hold your hand. Although it is challenging, The Fool is a great stepping stone into the much more difficult challenges that come after it. Before any of that, perhaps you’d like to know how exactly you will be entering combat in a game based around cards.
It’s actually quite simple. During Hand of Fate 2, you have a token, an avatar of your very being that you will move from card to card, uncovering them and their consequences as you go. This may seem bizarre to the uninitiated, but this method of play is very effective and surprisingly good at keeping surprises coming often. One Food is consumed per new card you venture to, which heals five Health. Some of these will simply give you insight on your objective, while others may have a unique questline you can follow, while others still will be self-contained events that you may deal with however you wish. I’ve always found this mechanic of the Game to be interesting; having the player make such planned and precise movements is a juxtaposition to the simple, yet effective combat they will endure. There are also shops and a number of other Encounter cards that have a variety of effects or choices.
Much like the first Hand of Fate, the meeting between the Dealer and the one known as the Usurper, you will play the part of the adventurer on a grand quest. You see, the situation that plays out when you flip a card is not necessarily set in stone. Many Encounter cards will allow you to dictate how you reacted to the scenario you find yourself in. These decisions come in many forms; from simple dialogue opportunities to whether or not you’ll risk your own safety and enter a brawl to help someone else. Whether you’ve encountered a vendor and need to decide if you’ll purchase anything or met a woman in distress and have to determine if helping her is safe, these Encounter cards will keep your journey interesting at the very least. The addition of tokens to some of the cards creates storylines that you can follow up across multiple challenges, creating a sort of permanence not found in Encounters lacking such prizes.
These side quests work like any other card on the board and you will come across many of them. Succeeding in whatever the token-adorned card asks of you will award you the next card in the narrative and possibly other unique rewards such as equipment and resources. While some stories only ask that you say the right things while speaking to involved characters, others may have you try your hand at a plethora of mini-games or even win a scuffle with any number of enemies. Unlike the original Hand of Fate, tokens can also appear on equipment cards, but the most prominently featured are the gold ones on Challenge cards. This system is even better than before and offers more player choice. Since the Dealer’s challenges can often be completed in alternative ways, the gold tokens will only be yours once you’ve overcome a challenge the correct way. Even though acquiring the gold tokens has a certain level of skill required, there is an unsettling amount of chance involved in the Game and its final outcome.
There are a total of four types of Gambits you will find within the Game: Chance, Pendulum, Wheel, and Dice. Of course, each of these have their own rules, working differently from one another while providing similar results. In Chance, you will be given four cards to choose from. After seeing the face of all the cards, they are flipped over and shuffled right in front of you. You then select a card and hope your choice ends up helping you. When trying to negotiate the Pendulum Gambit, you will be tasked with stopping a laser on particular ‘success’ platforms while avoiding the ‘failure’ one. If you miss all the platforms, you will still fail the whole Gambit. The Wheel variant places numerous cards in a big circle and spins them. At this point, you must try to stop the ring on a card that you want. Finally, you may encounter a Dice mini-game in which you will roll three dice in an attempt to get a total higher than a set goal. You will also be given one extra chance to reroll whichever dice you select. The inclusion of these side games allows you as the player to have a little more control and are quite enjoyable to play.
There are effects that can alter these Gambits and there are some Encounters that will require you to successfully overcome a plethora of these in a row to proceed. I do not intend to falsely inform you, so I will mention that these mini-games only make up a fraction of what you have to look forward to once you’ve met with the Dealer. In fact, one of the most important things you will need to be ready for has to be the combat. Anytime your avatar initiates a fight, is ambushed, or a brawl is triggered in any other way, you will be taken directly into the fray. These moments of strife break up all the storytelling that is the focus of the rest of the gameplay. You will fight for your life and even the lives of others in some situations.
Luckily, you will not need to be versed in deep and complicated combat maneuvers; defeating the many types of adversaries you will meet in your game will be as simple as defending, evading, attacking, and bashing. These are all easy enough to understand and can carry you far within the Game, but taking advantage of ripostes, artefacts, companion abilities, weapon abilities, and finishers will make a huge difference in your speed and effectiveness in combat. Altogether, there are really only eight commands to keep in mind and most of them have telltale signs for when you should use them. I’ve always found entering battle in the Game to be approachable, engaging, and, above all else, satisfying. With each new foe having their own weaknesses and attack patterns, I often found myself on the defensive, attempting to learn and adapt.
Enemy variety can even cause you to change your gear in order to capitalize on a weakness. Some may be susceptible to the slow, deliberate swings of a warhammer while others may need the riposte of a one-handed sword to go down faster. Luckily, you will find a large number of Equipment cards during your time in the Game. Although you cannot take all of it from challenge to challenge, you can make it a point to shuffle your favorite pieces into the deck as a possible future reward. In fact, you will choose not only your potential Equipment, but also the Encounters you will find, your Companion that will accompany you, and a Resource that you will start with. Whichever Companion card you take will decide who will speak in your dialogues, fight by your side, which special ability they provide, and which companion quest line will be available. These quests can help you acquire some powerful cards to help you on your way and will tell you more about the person you are adventuring with.
Besides all the other types of cards, there is a subset known as Platinum and Brimstone cards. These are often more powerful, require more to wield or interact with, and are even limited in some of the challenges. One of the most likely Platinum cards you will come into contact with is a warhammer that requires a hefty amount of Fame to wield. Fame tracks how well you are known throughout a challenge and is acquired from many Encounter cards and even a Blessing or two. If you do not know, Blessings are effects that can add any number changes to things such as Resource gain, combat abilities, or even help in Gambits. Although you are almost as likely to end up with a Curse, the polar opposite of a Blessing. There is simply no easy way to take on the Game and it will not hold your hand at any moment.
This fact will be most clear to you when you fail a challenge because you brought inappropriate Encounters or when you perish to one of the champion enemies. There are several adversaries that act as ‘bosses’ to the rabble you will wade through in a challenge. Do not expect to have an easy time with any of these. They play dirty and do everything they can to see you fail. When you do ultimately confront a challenge that is simply too difficult to overcome, you can always relax in your camp. Although, there is not much respite to find here and you will leave as swiftly as you enter in order to take on a new challenge. That’s not to say there are not benefits to be found in the camp. The ability to change your avatar to fit your whims is a nice touch and during challenges, you will find that you can heal, shop, and speak to your companion about your current objective.
And with that, I’ve told you all that I know of the Game. Beyond all there is to look at and fight through, the melodies that accompany your time will keep you company and become a sort of solace that nothing else can provide. Even if it has overgone some changes over the years, I have very little I dislike about the Game. It is fair, yet challenging. Beautiful, yet deadly. Simple, yet deep. There is much to admire and I only hope that a portion of my knowledge has seeped into your mind. You have a great undertaking ahead of you, but, for some reason, I have faith that you will overcome more than I had initially expected. That is… Assuming you take up the challenge the Dealer has laid before you.
Hand of Fate 2 (Reviewed on Xbox One X)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
What are you waiting for? Go forth and take on the Dealer’s challenge! Yes, you will need to manage your Resources, choose your Equipment carefully, plan for Encounters, and fight your way through many foes, but proving yourself is more than enough of a reward, is it not? The Game is waiting, take your seat and experience it for yourself.