Broadly speaking, people who play a lot of indie games tend to fall into two camps (though they do frequently overlap): those looking for quirky, innovative new gems, and those who really love the superimposition of modern mechanics onto games that look like they were made in 1997 (and if you’re a retro gaming fan, remember you can always play the real thing by checking out the rare and vintage games at gamesniped.com).
The original Hand of Fate game, made by Australian developers Defiant, was definitely a game for the former type of indie game fan. The innovative combination of a deck building RPG with bouts of frenetic hack-and-slash combat created a new experience that was unlike any other game, while also being at the same time like several good games mashed together in a way that seemed like it wouldn’t work, but actually did.
Hand of Fate secured a solid fanbase and the recently released follow-up was hugely anticipated. It has received a generally warm reception, but if you are thinking of buying it after playing the first game, what can you expect to see by way of changes and improvements?
The format is essentially the same as the original, and happily, the dealer still has the same fantastic voice actor as in the first game, mocking you as you play. However, this time there are 22 challenges, a whole lot more encounters, weapons and unlockables, and some new things have been introduced.
Now, you have companions who offer certain perks both in the card fame section and in combat. These are unlocked as you play through the challenges. There are also new precision minigames to expand on the old ‘success or failure’ card shuffle game, including a pendulum game and a Yahtzee style dice game.
Each of the 22 challenges has its own specific objectives and gimmicks to make you strategize and play in different ways, rather than an increasingly more difficult progression to harder and harder boss fights, like in the first game.
The game tells you before selecting a challenge (which are unlocked three at a time after completing the first one), what sort of things to expect in terms of which resources you’ll need most (for instance whether food will be scarce, whether you’ll need to rack up the new fame stat, whether this is a quest where a lot of gold would be useful), which enemy types are most common, and what the objective is, so you can plan your deck for the challenge around this.
Combat looks the same, though all the enemies are new, it has a slightly more complex feel. It may seem harder at first, but once you get used to it, it is far richer than the button-mashing fighting in the original.
All in all, fans of Hand of Fate won’t be disappointed, and those new to the franchise – aside from missing out on a few references to the first game – should be able to jump straight into the second volume with no real problems.