Hand of Fate 2 is the follow-up sequel to the highly acclaimed Hand of Fate, which blends together a combination of genres and elements into one exciting, complex experience. With elements of Action in the form of combat sequences, Card Game dynamics, and even lots of dice rolling opportunities, Hand of Fate 2 proves that Multi-Genre titles can be a winning formula, even if it does so rather shy of perfection.
The overall mood in Hand of Fate 2 is that of a High Fantasy adventure. Players take on the role of either a male or female explorer who is compelled by his or her past to avenge their father and seek his heirloom artifact. An amulet, to be precise – a trinket, a medallion, whose crest is determined after the preliminary tutorial, and there are four “faces” to choose from when you determine the design of said necklace. The character customization is fairly minimal, but any addition of it at all gets bonus points in my book. There are a few appearances to choose from, color options, even an origin of birth. It lends some really nice depth to what could have been rudimentary character choices.
There are Occult themes throughout the game, and progression through the areas is tied to traditional Tarot cards. The Fool is, fittingly, the first level; from there, the path branches out to new options, each with new cards to discover, buffs, challenges, and characters. The RPG elements blend well with the traditional Card Game features, and I enjoyed the carry-over mechanic of deciding which “collected” cards from previous levels I wanted to shuffle into the new spread. Hand of Fate 2 builds upon what its predecessor started, and a lot of the new features are a step above and beyond what the original title offered.
Where the game suffered for me was in combat. It’s not optional – eventually, and sooner rather than later, players are forced into mini-game style sequences that require the player to engage in Action-based combat. The trouble is that the moves are sluggish and unresponsive, and the combat styles are flawed. This is less pronounced with a controller, apparently, but as a keyboard/mouse player, I struggled considerably in the beginning. Enough that I almost ragequit the game, to be honest – it took me four tries to defeat the final combat sequence of the first level because I had no way of healing after previous combat sections and/or poor dice rolls. If a game is going to implement parry/block/dodge mechanics then those need to be responsive and smooth; otherwise, it detracts from the value of the experience, and diminishes the fun of being able to customize your equipment and choose your style.
Still, the storyline is rich and engaging, and the branching paths, multiple-choice dialog options, and the luck of dice rolls makes Hand of Fate 2 a varied, exciting experience. This title can be absolutely brutal at times, and give no quarter – or, you can succeed at subsequent challenges, and find yourself doing exceedingly well that level. Some of that good fortune carries-over to the next world, but it’s difficult to ever get permanently “ahead” in Hand of Fate 2. There’s always the chance of a risky dialog choice, a poor toss of the tie or too many bad cards turned up in a row.
The art style is sophisticated and worthy of any modern RPG, especially a Fantasy title, and the design of the cards is exceptional. They’re detailed and attractive, with a lot of variety, and some really good eye for detail. The music is also extremely strong; I found the soundtrack, sound effects, and menu music to all is a perfect accompaniment for the Hand of Fate 2 world.
Hand of Fate 2 builds upon what was successful in the first title to make an even more gripping, rich experience. The storytelling is top-notch, the art style is stunning, and the variety of the experience lends exceptional replay value compared to other RPG and Fantasy titles. The elements of chance and luck are abundant here, and no play-through is ever exactly the same. The only true issue I had was the combat, which is extremely disappointing and unresponsive. However, after the fourth level/spread I started to get the hang of it and just stopped blocking or “defending” and focused on dodging via the evade maneuver. Gaining new weapons and armor helped, and quickly the weak combat sequences weren’t enough to keep me from enjoying the overall package of Tarot-themed goodness available here.
Fans of the first Hand of Fate might want to seriously consider adding this title to their library, but even newcomers to the series – or the Card Game genre altogether – might very well find key elements here to their liking. Hand of Fate 2 has a lot to offer, and I for one can’t wait to get back into the game and see what happens next.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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