Hand of Fate Review
I just can't help but sigh at Hand of Fate. Of all the indies coming out this year, it was one I especially looked forward to, a beautiful blending of the freedom of Dungeons & Dragons' variability, topped with real time combat built in the style of Batman: Arkham Asylum. I guess it was too good to be true though, as Hand of Fate only suceeds at one half of its objective.
In Hand of Fate, you are a nameless traveller, dueling wits with a magic card dealer. Really, there's not all that much story. Tthere is a somewhat more structured story mod, but it's not the main focus of the game. Endless Mode is the real meat, and is a scoreboard focused rogue-like. Paths branch across cards, and you choose your (excuse the pun) fate.
You see, Hand of Fate does choice really well. Do you help the priest and give him some food, potentially gaining a New Game + blessing at the expense of needing to buy more or starve to death? Do you take on a quest, and do you enact it nobly or cruely? Even just deciding between walking left and right can be a major factor, and the game does a fantastic alternate take on dice rolls when it comes to random chance. I wish regular D&D played like this.
Unfortunately, once you get past this aspect, you meet the game's weakest element; its combat. Up until now, I've seen several attempts to tweak or reuse the combat system from Arkham Asylum. Never before have I seen such a soulless, lackluster implementation of it. This is some of the worst combat design and aesthetics I've seen in a while.
Hits have no umph, the combat has almost no flow, the combat UI is unnecessarily cluttered by unclear symbols that are not near intuitive enough to clearly convey all that they are saying. Even on a pure aesthetic basis, from graphical glitches to generic designs, the brawling sections are truly awful. The sound design and music are equally underwhelming.
Beyond that, there isn't much to say about Hand of Fate. It's a rogue-like, so there's not much else to it. You die repeatedly, making slow overall progress. Your loot and certain stats carry over, but those same stats can be undone if you aren't careful. You also earn tokens from the dealer, and earning them gets you rewards.There is no real end, only a question of how long you can stand the tedious combat to enjoy the branching world choices.
If you're lucky, you can go several turns without hitting a single combat scenario, but then you end up facing a terrible boss fight or a mob of enemies with ludicrously large health bars. It's truly a pity such a good idea is hindered by something so simple.
If you can look past it, the Hand of Fate can be fun, but there are just better options in the rogue-like genre and for this style of combat. If it weren't for the style of decision making through the cards, there wouldn't be a reason to play the game at all. If you're intrigued by that aspect (and I can't blame you for it), then wait for the game to be on sale. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Hand of Fate is available on Steam for $24.99. Steam supports Windows, Mac, and Linux versions.
(Disclaimer: This review was written based on impressions of a PC review copy sent to me by the game's developer. GameSkinny and its writers generate genuine, unbiased, and honest reviews regardless of how the review unit or product was acquired.)