Hand of Fate Review (Xbox One)
Hand of Fate was developed and published on Xbox One by Defiant Development. It will be released on February 17, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided by Defiant Development for review purposes.
Hand of Fate is a unique game containing rogue-like elements in its gameplay and storytelling by way of playing cards. Because some of you are likely wondering, this game is completely unrelated to the 1966 movie Manos: The Hands of Fate. One of the first things that came to mind while playing was that this game is probably the closest thing we’ll get to a Munchkin video game for a long time. To me, this game came out of nowhere and is a fresh breath of air from most of the games that have released recently.
I have to admit, I had to play this game for about a week before I could come to a consensus on my thoughts. On some days, Hand of Fate is amazingly addicting, spawning thoughts like “let me push to defeat one more boss” or “please let me complete more subquests and make progress in unlocking everything.” On other days, this game was a very unpleasant game in which I would curse its existence due to unfair random luck, unfair scenario cards or a random assortment of strange frame rate issues (which luckily have all but disappeared in the last few days). Hand of Fate is a gambler’s paradise.
Here’s what I liked:
The Dealer: “Ah, I’ll buy it at a high price.” Actually, that’s a quote from a completely unrelated game, but the Dealer does remind me of The Merchant from Resident Evil 4. The Dealer will prompt you, he’ll taunt you and he’ll keep the conversation going as you progress through the game. It helps to set the mood of a mysterious dungeon adventure. The Dealer’s comments range from being about your adventure, about the cards you progress to or even just idle chit-chat. It’s actually quite surprising to see how he comments on some of your actions. After a while, it feels like he repeats some of his lines, but it did take some time before that happened. They never do tell us his name though.
The lore: The adventure is told through cards, with each card having its own adventure and story. Most of the stories on these cards are detailed and I was never disappointed in the dialogue of the cards. You’ll end up running into a lot of these cards multiple times, so there is some amount of repeated dialogue. However, as you progress through the story or end up receiving a harder difficulty curve during a dungeon, some cards do change either design or dialogue features. It is a nice touch.
The backgrounds during combat: When I first played the game, I would sometimes end up in a battle where the frame rate would drop to a point where I simply couldn’t move or where moving around got very choppy. Once that cleared up, I had a chance to examine the levels more carefully. The levels you get randomly put into are nicely designed with a variety of locales. Some of the locales include a desert, a jungle, multiple different indoor dungeon-like locations and more. Even now, I keep finding locations I’ve never fought in.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Honorable mention: The combat: I don’t care for it. It’s okay at best and a nuisance or frustrating at worst. The developers have no intentions of taking this out as it would defeat some of the purpose of the game, so this dislike needs to be overlooked. I’m just not a fan of drawn out battles with only one attack button.
The slow-mo effects in combat: Why is this in the game? With no options to turn it off, you begrudgingly have to sit through dramatic attacks which in reality is just a normal attack slowed down for some reason or an actual hindrance as an another enemy is about to attack you. It messes up your timing for dodging or countering and really slows the combat down in this game in a negative fashion.
The game balance: When first sitting down to play the game, progression felt good, and it felt possible to overcome any obstacle. After a while though, it feels like almost everything is out to get you, and there is very little reward to the risk taken in each of your moves. Nothing ever truly feels safe to land on, as it’s mostly minimal punishment or maximum punishment. While you do get beneficial cards at times, it’s merely a small percent of what the negatives will take away from you. Understandably this is a rogue-like type game, so some of this is to be expected. Other times this game will force curses on you that will pretty much guarantee a loss. I’d like to see the difficulty spikes to succeed scenarios toned down. When even the safest cards only have a 25% chance of being safe, it stops being fun quickly. As an added bonus, towards the end of the game, big groups of enemies start appearing that it feels like you do nothing for damage to. In another game feature, the player gets permanent upgrades, but at the same time the enemies get buffed and there is no way to turn off those upgrades. Through end-game quality items, the game becomes overly easy once again, but this does not answer the mid-to-late stretch when the deck is stacked against you (literally). When the fun for this game is the journey and not the result, the journey needs to be readjusted to be more manageable.
Variety of combat: There is a good variety of enemies and a good variety of backgrounds, but I’d like to see more than just a fight to the death over and over. Maze of Traps and its final level version show that other prospects can exist. This game could benefit more from adding more scenarios, like surviving X amount of time against Y enemy group or defeating Z important monster while versus a mob.
As much as I did not like some aspects of the game, the game as a whole is a pleasure to play through. Hand of Fate has the potential to really surprise people with its gameplay. While not perfect in design, it’s still worth playing as a card game/dungeon crawling hybrid. There is a good amount of content to play through with story mode, and an endless mode is available to test your luck and skill when you want something long lasting. A few words of warning though, the card portion can feel kind of slow so if you’re looking for a fast action game, this isn’t it. If the game was patched to be a bit more forgiving, I would be more on board. For what it is, I’ve been hovering between Try It and Buy It, but today I feel that the score is…
Score: Buy It
Achievement notes: This game will have you playing for quite a while, as unlocking all equipment, all encounters and using all dragon equipment at once takes time to unlock. If you play for achievements, you’ll get your money’s worth if you don’t get sick of the game in the meantime. I wouldn’t say the achievements are very fast though, and some are incredibly luck based.