Hand of Fate Early Access impressions

Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate, a game by Defiant Development, combines multiple genres into a blend of familiar gameplay elements that meld the best aspects of these other genres. Currently, the game is in early access and shows lots of promise with its unique game mechanics that are at times innovative and clever, but at other times, a bit frustrating. But as the rough edges get polished, this game definitely has the potential to reach new players unfamiliar with the genre.

The game (which launched with a successful Kickstarter in 2013) combines the random dungeon encounters of roguelike games with an interesting deckbuilding mechanic and a 3rd person battle system. Players build a deck of cards that consist of “Encounters” and “Equipment”. The encounters are shuffled in with additional random encounter cards and are then dealt out by a mysterious dealer. The player then goes through the randomly dealt out “dungeon” of cards, exploring various encounters to fight monsters, discover treasures, and attempt to defeat the boss at the end of each dungeon.

Encounters vary from Choose Your Own Adventure Type decisions (Help the wounded soldier or continue on your way), traps that require you to draw from one of 4 random cards to see if you evade the trap, and monster encounters that put you into a 3rd person battle where you control your hero as you fight various baddies. The combat system could use some polish as it suffers from some problematic camera angle issues at times. In particular, anytime you are fighting in front of a high wall, the field of combat can be obscured, causing you to blindly mash buttons in hopes you are hitting your opponents, or running to the other side of the room across a potential wall of traps.

The randomization of the dungeons makes for some strong replayability at the start. And it was always a delight to see what each new encounter card would bring the first time you flip it over. But ultimately, as you fight and die numerous times, you start to get a sense of what is the “right” combination of cards you need to win, and you literally can “stack” the deck in your favor. And the joy of finding that epic piece of loot is tempered somewhat by the fact that you put it in your deck at the start of the game. Although the randomness is meant to create a sense of endless variety (and technically, there are literally billions of possible dungeon combinations), the actual encounters themselves start to feel a bit repetitive after you’ve seen it for the umpteenth time.

For innovation of ideas alone, Hand of Fate is definitely shaping up to be well worth a look for fans of any of the genres represented, or just for those who want to try something wholly unique. The roguelike card elements are well implemented, and the battles are tough enough that none of them feel like gimmes. I always entered each monster encounter completely focused; lest I lose so much health that I couldn’t possibly beat the boss I had to defeat deeper in the dungeon. And the tension that built with each flip of the card was palpable. When my health was low, would I turn over a shop where I could heal? Or would I turn over a trap that would almost certainly spell my demise? It was in these moments of tension that the game really excelled. And it’s a testament to the game that even though I generally knew what  encounters I’d be seeing in any given dungeon, I couldn’t help but play it through again and again.

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Brian Chu
Brian Chu 221 posts

Brian Chu is a Staff Writer for Nerd Reactor and aspiring Jeopardy contestant. He thinks Picard is the best captain, Cumberbatch is the best Holmes, Bale is the best Batman, and Tennant is the best Doctor. Follow him @chumeister

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