Monday, July 16

Review: Hand of Fate 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As a huge fan of roguelikes and games that simply play differently than anything else on the market I really appreciated the mix of deck building and action offered by the original Hand of Fate. While you could have some bad runs of luck the fact that you had the power to define your deck in a way that played to your strengths to help maximize your chances provided some balance and fun. I’m thrilled that, much like any great sequel, the return of the enigmatic Dealer has brought those some great mechanics and thrown in a ton of new features and variety to boot.

For those unfamiliar with the original the core conceit in Hand of Fate is that you’ll have a dungeon of sorts generated for you with a combination of cards you choose and ones tied to each encounter you work through. Each card corresponds to a specific event, location, or set of foes you’ll face and typically some sort of gamble tends to be involved in a way that can either help or harm your chances. While the original was mostly limited to a card-shuffling sort of 3-card Monty the sequel adds rolls of the dice, a wheel of cards, and even a tricky pendulum to keep you off balance and never really let you get comfortable. The theme of gambling extends far past these events though as everything you do is a sort of calculated risk. This is because simply completing each scenario isn’t everything, specific cards carry special bonus tokens that you can earn by completing them in a specific way. Your incentive to do so is pretty strong since completing them will earn you new cards for your deck, whether providing a new event or new equipment you’ll be able to use in your campaign.

Walking away from the deck-building side the other main attraction is the combat, which this time is generally more varied but can still fall into patterns. Thankfully the addition of Companions and a far wider variety of enemies generally keeps things fresh, and overall the combat has remained challenging. Once you get accustomed to the patterns of your enemies and get into a rhythm there’s something very satisfying about dismantling a large group of foes one by one. Combat has a very visceral and brutal feel, and you’ll need to earn your hits through carefully isolating singular foes so you can hack away at them while minimizing the chances of being attacked from the side. Whether you choose to parry and counter or hit and dodge the choice of 2-handed weapons, sword and shield, or dual-wielding each has its own style and everyone should be able to find a style that suits them. The addition of artifacts that you can use for a variety of effects from damage to even setting your enemies against each other is also a great touch and further diversifies your strategic choices for combat as you get further into the campaign.

The final piece of the puzzle that sets the sequel apart is the impressive diversity in your challenges and objectives in each individual campaign. Early on you’ll have to continue to change up your strategy, deck, and tactics as you get a taste of multiple mission styles, some focused on combat, and others that will require you to maximize your resources like food or gold. In general this doesn’t allow you to get too comfortable and will continue to test you pretty deep into the game. While some luck and consistency in combat help greatly the deck you choose, especially once you’ve accumulated a great number of cards, plays an enormous role in either your success or failure. While you can let the game choose your deck for you, and that can be a good idea for building a base, it always seemed to be a good idea to review and refine to make sure it better suits your tastes on top of being aligned with the requirements of the campaign itself.

In pretty well every way Hand of Fate 2 has run with everything that made the original work and has made it better. The scenarios all test you in unique ways, the number of unique event cards has greatly expanded which allows for far more versatility as the game progresses, and the trials in both combat and gambling have diversified greatly. The result is a very challenging and thus satisfying package that blends a degree of chance, skill in building and effectively using your deck, and becoming proficient in the game’s combat. It’s a combination that is really without an equal on the console and is highly recommended if you’re looking for a sustained challenge on the Switch.

Score: 8.5

  • A unique mix of deck building, combat, and chance
  • Each encounter has its own objectives, requiring that you constantly shift your strategies for success
  • Both the combat and gambling elements of the original have been refined and diversified from the original

  • The degree of challenge may be too aggravating for some gamers and there’s no ability to adjust it up or down
  • There will absolutely be runs where you’ll feel like the game has it out for you in terms of luck, or lack thereof
  • Combat can start to feel repetitive, though the various companion and gear choices as well as more diverse enemies help keep that to a minimum