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    dkirschner's Hand of Fate (PC)

    [July 9, 2018 11:37:23 AM]
    I was sold on the idea of Hand of Fate before playing it, and I tried it at a friend's house sometime last year, bought it, and just got around to playing it the last couple weeks. It's a mixture of deck building, dungeon crawling, and action RPG. You are "the player" sitting across a card table from "the dealer." There's no exposition. You're dropped into this mysterious situation. The dealer is an enigmatic figure, and I want to know more about him. Throughout the game, there is little in the way of story regarding who he is, who you are, and why you are there. The dealer tells you that you're playing "the game" that he's created, many have played before you, the dealer always wins, and all the players have died. And he alludes to the fact that somehow Iím regaining my memories through the cards, which leads me to believe I was some adventurer or another who maybe just stepped through the wrong portal and found myself here.

    The dealer explains the game to you over the first level, but youíre figuring a lot out yourself (e.g., that some cards get locked to you until you fulfill their conditions, that the icon on the bottom of the card is a token that grants rewards for fulfilling conditions, that you can equip as many rings as you want, etc.). Very intuitive way to present rules and information. So *basically* how the game works is as follows:

    - Deck building is fantastic and never gets old. You have two pools of cards, equipment and encounter cards. Equipment is your various types of weapons, armor, rings, and artifacts (trinkets that have some special use like making you temporarily invisible, giving you a fire aura, reflecting ranged attacks, etc.). Encounter cards are little scenarios that determine much of what happens to you in each level. For example, The Maiden can give you food, increase your max health, and bless you. Ambush gets you a combat encounter with an equipment draw card as reward. Dark Carnival has you choosing a series of chance cards as your character explores a weird carnival. There's usually some element of risk/reward with the encounter cards. The Altar, for example, gives you a 50/50 chance to be blessed or cursed. All these give the feel of a tabletop game with the dealer as DM. Anyway, you choose a prescribed number of equipment and encounter cards to fill your deck, and then you enter the level.

    - Dungeon crawling is exciting. Levels are made up of a series of encounter card arrangements that your player, as a tabletop game piece, moves across. Find the exit, go to the next area, explore the area, find the stairs, and repeat until you find the level's boss in the final area. Each card you land on flips over and you resolve the encounter. There is *tons* of chance here, though you have some control over what encounters you will...encounter...based on what you chose to include in the deck. When you have to choose chance cards, you can have either a Huge Success, Success, Failure, or Huge Failure, which will change the outcome of the scenario. However, as I learned when reading an FAQ one night, the chance cards are not completely random! You're shown the cards, and then they are shuffled. But there is order to it. If you watch closely, you can follow individual cards as they shuffle. Itís not too hard when there is like one or two slow shuffles, but itís pretty impossible when the shuffle speeds up and especially when there are three or four shuffles. But it makes your odds of the easy shuffle encounters almost 100%, which means guaranteed equipment or blessings or whatever. Prior to this, I'd just been picking the left-hand card every time because I thought it was random. But now, if I choose the wrong card, it feels like my fault!

    Each level also puts different default curses on the player, and the dealer shuffles different negative cards into the decks, and this can make things really tricky! One level that stood out cursed me with "Whenever you acquire a curse, lose 10 max HP." You begin with 100HP, so 10 is a lot. I had runs where I was cursed down to 40 max HP because he also shuffled encounter cards in that would put a random curse on you. Another level curses you such that when you counter-attack, you consume a food (every space you move consumes a food, and if you run out of food, your health begins to drain, so you *really* need to manage your food) AND every character takes additional 50% damage. The next-to-last level, the dealer shuffled a bunch of Rusty Axes (the worst weapon) in my equipment pile, so it was difficult to acquire a good weapon. These starting curses and insidious dealer cards can really change what equipment or encounters you put in your decks. For example, to combat the "lose 10 max HP per curse" curse, I only included one helmet in my deck, the one that reveals the exit from each area when you enter an area, and then included every encounter card that had a chance to give me a helmet. Once practically guaranteed to get that helmet, I could make a beeline for the exit in every area, thus not veering off in unnecessary directions landing on more curse cards, and allowing me to attempt the boss with sufficient HP. The one that consumed a piece of food every time I counter-attacked and made everyone take 50% more damage meant that I couldnít counter and I couldnít get hit much. I wound up removing most of the combat encounter cards from my deck and luckily discovered a couple rings that let me heal in combat (one saved me on the boss).

    - Action RPG combat leaves something to be desired. It hearkens back to simpler days of button mashing hack-n-slash games. A little slow response to buttons (e.g., slightly sluggish movement, you can get caught in combo or finisher animations, etc.), but there is a rhythm to it in the attacking and counter-attacking. It's almost got an Arkham/Shadow of Mordor feel. If this was polished, the game would be significantly more fun. As it is, the combat becomes nearly as frustrating as the randomness. Blessings and equipment can change the feel of combat, but it's generally basic and easy to get overwhelmed (e.g., 6 lava golems, multiple bosses at once). Some encounters just kill me (Lich, &#*!@ Kraken), and randomness plays in both to (sometimes) what monsters you will fight and what equipment, blessings, curses, and health buffs, you will have accumulated up to that point. For example, I almost rage quit after I unlocked the Kraken encounter, which becomes a locked card in your encounters pile (i.e., it cannot be removed until you defeat it). I kept landing on the Kraken, at least 6 games in a row. You can't flee from the Kraken, so you have to fight it, and the fight involves actually fighting the last regular boss, the King of Scales, whom I hadn't even encountered at that point outside the Kraken battle, WHILE trying to kill the Kraken. It was brutal.

    This turned really detailed, huh. One of my favorite things about Hand of Fate is that you can play the game with different goals (e.g., progressing through quest lines; trying to kill a particular boss or complete a particular task; or going for the level progression). There is also an endless mode, and DLC that adds different modifications to your character (think classes). I wonder how differently Hand of Fate 2 changes up the formula. I mostly want to see improved combat. Super interesting game though, highly recommend checking it out.
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    Status

    dkirschner's Hand of Fate (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 27 June, 2018

    GameLog closed on: Monday 9 July, 2018

    Opinion
    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    So frikin cool. Merging card game and action RPG. Wonderful atmosphere from eerie Dealer ---------- Loved it. But combat and randomness become tiresome.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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