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Hand of Fate – Previewed

By Nathaniel Liles

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handoffate1I love tabletop games, so when I first began to fire up Hand of Fate, I was expecting something I’d more or less experienced before. Well, today we get to add that to the long, long list of things I’ve been wrong about. Hand of Fate, even in its current beta form, is one of the freshest and most interesting games I’ve played in months, and I highly recommend you start buckling yourself in and stocking up on non-perishable food items, because the awesomeness that is embodied in Hand of Fate is something akin to a beautiful apocalyptic light that will melt all who do not seek shelter. I mean it, this game is going to be really good when it comes out. What makes it so good? Well, in classic I-want-you-to-keep-reading fashion, I’m not going to tell you until the next paragraph.

Welcome to the next paragraph. Alright, so when I fired up Hand of Fate, I was greeted with two things. The first thing I noticed was that this game already supports the Xbox 360 controller I recently bought, which is just a great way to start the day, and the second thing was a scary, shrouded old man making a deck of mysterious cards dance through the air above a worn wooden table. So I’m starting to put the pieces together in my head, and I’m thinking, “Hey, cool, a card game!” What happened next was almost the exact opposite of that which I expected.

handoffate2I sit down at the table and watch as the old man quickly brings the cards into a neat deck on the table. He moves them aside, he picks them up, and he holds his hand out to the table, and the force that held the cards above the table now carefully sorts them into rows in front of me. After they gather themselves into three distinct stacks, a few move and rest face-down in a row on the table. A golden figurine stands atop the card furthest to the left, and I select the next card. After the figurine moves, I’m told I’ve been ambushed, and then I enter a forest, axe in hand, and slay my foes myself.

Hand of Fate blends collectable card game elements like deck building, chance, and strategy with an extremely fun and deeply satisfying Arkham Asylum-style combat system that challenges you and keeps you on your toes, making crucial decisions in – and out – of battle. Between these diverse fights are events such as ambushes, shops, fallen heroes, and games of chance that allow you to either increase your chances of survival or completely screw yourself. As Hand of Fate progresses and becomes more and more difficult, you must be skilled in battle and wise between battles to survive. The problem is, sometimes the cards simply cannot see you through to a victorious conclusion. To keep the cards from betraying you, you must take advantage of carefully planned deck building and manage your resources to stay alive on your long and dangerous journey.

handoffate3I’m not hamming it up for you, guys. Hand of Fate is absolutely fantastic, beautifully detailed, well thought-out, original, and fun. The game plays really well, and despite a few odd animations here and there, it’s extremely polished and functional, especially for a beta. The deck building systems haven’t really been implemented yet, but the combat and storytelling conventions that this game uses are so well implemented that I never really wanted to mess around with my deck anyway – I wanted to see what was around the next corner.

The game is laid out in a grid of adjacent cards, each triggering an event. Some of the events are text-based, where you simply make a decision or play a game of chance to determine the success of your actions, but most of them pit you against varying amounts of enemies of different factions. Each level is multi-layered, and after progressing through a number of challenges and preparations, you encounter the level’s boss. Each defeated boss gives special abilities – to both you and your adversaries – and adds the boss’s card to your cabinet. Many mysteries lie within the cabinet, and the old man on the other side of the table has extremely vague alignment. Is he friend or foe? What significance do the cards hold? What happens when the cabinet has been filled with the souls of defeated foes? Much is yet to be revealed about Hand of Fate, but one thing is for certain – I’ve never played a game quite like this before, and the genre-bending style of this game has made it rocket right to the top of my must-have list.

handoffate4Hand of Fate was successfully funded late last year, and is currently under development by Defiant Development. It’s also been Greenlit for Steam, and if this game gets the exposure it deserves, expect it to attract quite a bit of attention. The deck building and collectable nature of the game makes it appeal to a completely different audience than the roguelike elements that build upon the game’s stellar dungeon mechanics, and it certainly does both well enough to appeal to both crowds. Games with customization are becoming more and more common, but few games allow you to truly build you gameplay experience like Hand of Fate, and I think it’s very fitting for a game that bares so many parallels to tabletop RPG themes and aesthetic sensibilities.

handoffate5If you enjoy action, this game is for you. With its surprisingly well-executed action sequences, you’ll find yourself helmet-deep in all manner of bad guys before you know it, and being able to customize your experience means things can be as challenging as you like. If you enjoy card games, this game is also very much for you. Sweet-ass deck building mechanics are the entire basis of Hand of Fate, and married to a tabletop aesthetic that immerses you in seconds, you’ll feel right at home defeating enemies by building the world and events to your advantage. If you enjoy roguelikes, guess what. You will definitely enjoy this game. Around every turn, there is a unique and game-changing piece of weaponry or armor, and enemies that can work against your abilities or be crushed by your mad looting skills, and making decisions about what to keep and what to sell should make you feel right at home. Any questions?

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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/nathaniel.jpg” ] Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/.  [/author]

Nathaniel Liles
Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/.
Nathaniel Liles