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Hand of Fate 2 (PlayStation 4) artwork

Hand of Fate 2 (PlayStation 4) review

"You play the hand you're dealt."

2015's Hand of Fate was a breath of fresh air. Part deck building game, part roguelike, and part RPG, the experience it offered was something wholly unique. Hand of Fate 2 builds on the foundation laid by its prequel, and the result is a game that feels familiar, but with more complexity and difficulty.

Like the first game, Hand of Fate 2 is about an unnamed dead Warrior (a new one, this time, whose appearance you can customize) and the otherworldly Dealer. Together, they use a deck of cards to play a game in which they relive moments of the Warrior's life. Each stage plays out like a dungeon made of cards. A set of cards is spread out on the table and the player avatar can move from card to card, triggering events and enemy encounters.

Enemy encounters are what you'd expect. Like its predecessor, Hand of Fate 2 uses the completely overdone Batman: Arkham-style Simon Says combat. You mash the attack button until you're prompted to press another button to defend or dodge. Once you've landed enough hits without taking damage, you can use your equipped weapon's special move. I think it's time for games to move away from this combat system. There are a few new additions to the combat this time around, with the most important being party members. In most levels, you can bring along a single party member to fight at your side. They'll act on their own, and each one has a special ability that can be triggered with a button press, such a shielding spell. Party members even have their own side quest chains.

Non-combat events are more interesting. You're given a bit of context and a decision to make. Will you give gold to a beggar or ignore him? Will you risk your life to save someone from a burning building? These scenarios are well-written and add a unique twist to what would otherwise be a mediocre combat game. The downside is that a lot of the events involve a small game of chance, and the odds are nearly always stacked against you. The most common mini-game, returning from the first Hand of Fate, involves picking the correct card out of four choices. You're shown which cards are marked with success and which with failure before they're shuffled, but they're shuffled in such a way that it's impossible to keep track of which is which. Other mini-games, such as rolling dice and stopping a swinging pendulum, are less common but rely a good bit more on skill. Bad luck can and will ruin some attempts at stages. If you're ambushed and all of your food gets stolen because you don't have x-ray vision, there's not much you can do about it. Like its predecessor, Hand of Fate 2 requires a lot of patience. This is the nature of roguelikes. Sometimes, fate is just against you.

The most important addition to Hand of Fate 2 is the number of new objectives in every level. There's more to playing the game than just surviving to the end. Every level gives you at least one extra thing to think about. One level tasks you with escorting a helpless farmer to the end without letting him die. Another asks you to gather four relics that are stolen at the beginning of the story. Some of these objectives are optional, rewarding you with extra tokens (which unlock new cards) if you complete them. Others are mandatory, and you'll fail the whole mission if you don't meet the objective. This adds complexity, but the requirements can also make the game much more difficult. If you have a character who is constantly taking damage, you'd better have a lot more food than normal in order to keep him alive.

Objectives force you to rethink your deck. Levels will always have certain cards played by the Dealer, but you can add your own cards to the deck before you begin. These include events and gear that can be found as you explore. Deck building was already important in the first game, but it's even more important here. You won't want to rely on the game to automatically build your deck for you this time around.

Hand of Fate 2 does a respectable job of not merely rehashing its predecessor. Fans of the first game who are up for more of a challenge will likely be satisfied with it (unless they're mostly fans of Endless Mode, something that has been listed as “coming soon” on the title screen for three months and is still nowhere in sight). However, if you already found the original game to be too difficult (because it was pretty tough, after all) you might want to skip number 2.

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (February 19, 2018)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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