Developer Defiant Development’s Hand of Fate 2 is an intriguing collaboration of a tabletop card game and third-person action title. It meshes the two genres together in order to create one of the more interesting Dungeons & Dragons experiences I’ve ever seen. Hand of Fate 2 did come out last fall on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, but now you can play it on the Nintendo Switch and this is the definitive way to experience it.
Hand of Fate 2’s story is unique with instead of having one large campaign to get through, it actually has 22 different campaigns in the form of challenges. Each of these campaigns are generated through the use of random cards that dictate the events of how your story will unfold. They’re all set in this dark fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons, but while most of the campaigns aren’t that fascinating from a narrative standpoint, they successfully act as backdrops for the challenges that await you through the gameplay. Even though the writing is subpar, the experiences were fun to go through overall. They were basically bite-sized D&D adventures, only you would play by yourself and it worked surprisingly well.
The gameplay is built around a mixture of different game genres, but Hand of Fate 2 is mostly a card deck builder for better or worse. It’s main mode is the campaign and it’s broken down into 22 challenges with each acting as it’s own campaign. These campaigns are led by a mysterious figure known as The Dealer who builds up the adventure on a tabletop as he twists, spins, and shuffles the cards to his heart’s content. Before entering a campaign, you’ll be asked to choose the deck you’s like to use. As you play out these challenges you’ll gain new cards that can then be used in your deck for future gameplay sessions.
These cards are split into three categories: companions, encounters and equipment. Companion cards are your fellow teammates and are mainly used to help in combat. They are usually very reliable and valuable resources as either combat or support specialists. Encounter cards create new situations while plaything through Hand of Fate 2, including running into a lost friendly ogre, or being chased off a bridge by a horde of enemies. Lastly, there are equipment cards, like weapons and shields, that can give you an effective boost in battles. Equipment cards are most responsible for changing up each of the campaign’s from their core story.
Campaigns are represented by a tarot card with a goal that changes with every campaign. It can be anything from saving some villagers, to guarding a helpless man across a dangerous pathway. These stories don’t change too much for the most part with how the narrative is presented. While one story may be set on having to save someone, what happens with each story depends entirely on the cards you pull and how well you utilize them. This all relies on chance and while it may feel fresh at first, repetition will settle in as you land on the same encounter cards multiple times.
When you’re actually playing in a campaign, your goal is to survive all the enemies and obstacles presented to you, while achieving that mission’s objective. When it’s done well, the combat situations are lengthy and give you many opportunities to dodge incoming attacks, gather resources like gold and food, and try to survive. Unfortunately, it can feel unfair if you start off with a solid deck of cards to begin with and still manage to lose a challenge solely based on bad luck with dice rolls or drawing cards.
Furthermore, it can be somewhat discouraging to continuously replay these situations because you start all the way at the beginning of a challenge once you die. If you’re an hour into a challenge at that time, mostly you will be irritated and disappointed to see all the pogress gone and have to play through it again. A lot of the success rates in these campaigns can often land on a simple dice roll or problematic deck handed to you.
Combat centers around usually having your character attack, block, and dodge in correlation to the movement of an enemy. The combat system is not very deep, but it does feel polished and fun to experience. These combat arenas are also where your companions appear to help with their own unique abilities. Once you’re done with the campaign, there is an Endless mode that is just as it sounds as you keep going on until you die. It’s a great mode to jump into once you’ve beaten all the challenges, mainly due to being able to carry over any cards you acquired from the campaign.
Visually, Hands of Fate 2 is nice to look at with great use of colors and fluidity to appear like more than just another indie title. The art aesthetic for the most part is atmospheric, and while it definitely wasn’t the best character models I’ve ever seen, the environments were captivating and done well. Some of the battle sequences looked rough with stiff animations at times and were not as polished as the tabletop scenes. The sound design was of your typical fantasy music with plenty of acoustics and drums beating during combat sections. It wasn’t memorable, but did not detract from the experience.
Overall, Hand of Fate 2 is an entertaining and amusing take on tabletop card gaming and third-person action combat. The presentation isn’t anything outstanding, but still looks great on the Switch. My main complaint is how some of your playthroughs can seem unfair and rely too much on chance, with your punishment being to play through the whole campaign again from the beginning. Fortunately, when the odds are in your favor, the gameplay and premise can give you hours of quality entertainment. If you’re in to Dungeons & Dragons, tabletop gaming, or just a unique action title, Hand of Fate 2 is definitely worth checking out.