dkirschner's Hand of Fate 2 (PC)
| [December 6, 2022 09:58:15 AM]
| This is a sequel that obliterates the previous game. There is no reason to play Hand of Fate! This improves upon it in every way. Highly, highly recommended if you like tabletop games, card games, dungeon crawlers, RPGs. Iíve still never played anything quite like it.
The narrative is more cohesive this time: the Dealer slowly leaks clues to who you are, who he is, why youíre with him, and how youíre going to help him wreak righteous vengeance upon his enemy. This is accomplished through the campaign map, as you move from scenario to scenario, eventually assassinating the Emperor and escaping the pursuing imperial forces, before the final reveal, confrontation, and conclusion.
There are countless other stories woven throughout, which really bring a sense of place to the game. I felt like I was in a real fantasy world. You visit cities, mountains, forests, and fields, all represented on the map, as the Dealer moves your game piece here and there. Persistent characters (including your four companions) appear multiple times, like the High Priestess in the north, whom you first encounter in a scenario where you have to acquire blessings to enter her Ritual House at the summit of a mountain to gain favor with the Northerners. Acquiring 6 or more blessings gets you the gold token for the scenario (successfully completing all objectives), and acquiring less than that, and still beating the boss on top, gets you the silver token (completing the main objectives).
Each of your companions also has a story to discover, which all cleverly culminate in the conclusion, and each can live or die. Companion stories are told through card quests, which is how so many other fun stories are told in the game. Some cards have tokens on them. When you land on the card in a scenario map, you have a chance to satisfy its requirements and obtain the token, which moves the quest along, and youíll get the next card in the quest. For example, Malaclypse, a mage and your first companion, as well as the only companion whose quest I completed, first asks you to travel with him to meet a friend of his from whom he needs a favor. If you flip the card in a scenario, you meet the friend, who asks for 10 gold as payment to consider the favor. If you have 10 gold, you can try the event; if not, try again later. So, pay up, and the friend requires a test of skill from you. In this case, the event is a dice gambit for each of three dialogue options you choose. I tried this event a few times; I think one of the options is the ďcorrect one,Ē so first you have to choose the right one, then pass the dice gambit, before winning the cardís token and getting the next part of the story. There are probably a couple dozen quests like this, along with about 200 other Encounter cards.
Dice gambits mean throwing dice to hit a target number. Other gambits are chance card gambits (basically playing cups, same as the first Hand of Fate, and my least favorite), wheel gambits (spin a wheel of cards and try to stop on the one you want [if itís going slowly enough for you to even see what the cards are!]), and precision gambits (my favorite, where you stop a pendulum at precise points). These can all be modified by companions (each companion gives you an edge in one type of gambit in exchange for being unavailable for the next three combats) and items. There was a handy ring, for example, that adds 2 to all dice rolls, and a helmet that lets you see the cards in the wheel gambit and duplicate one before spinning. These items, and the companion abilities, are extremely useful, because these gambits are not easy. Youíll lose a lot, which on the one hand is frustrating, but on the other heightens the tension so, so much. This is a game about games of chance (ďgames within games within games,Ē as the Dealer likes to say), so itís purposeful, you can get better at three of the gambits (dice rolls are still just dice rolls, purely luck), and you can choose cards and use companions to maximize your chances of winning, and consequently minimize your chances of failure, which can result in some brutal outcomes if youíre really unlucky.
Anyway, Iíve skirted around a clear explanation of how the game works. Before each scenario, you choose cards from your deck. Each scenario awards specific cards upon completion, so your deck starts small and grows. There are companion cards (usually you can bring one companion along), encounter cards, equipment cards, and supplies. Encounter cards are those that determine the events that take place in the scenario as you traverse the map and attempt to meet the scenarioís objectives. Encounter cards can result in combat, gold rewards, food rewards, equipment gain, blessings, curses, loss of max HP, all manner of things both good and bad, and often require you to choose dialogue options and attempt gambits that influence the outcome. These are the cards you strategically choose in order to get the stuff (gold, food, equipment) you need to survive the scenario. Equipment cards (weapons, helmets, rings, etc.) determine what equipment will be available to you in the scenario when you can get equipment from encounter cards. Choose equipment that is best for fighting the enemies you may encounter, or that provides useful bonuses (e.g., if you know there are a lot of dice gambits in the scenario, and lots of combat against thieves, then choose equipment and encounters that will help, like that ring I mentioned, and light weapons, which are best against thieves; if you know that the scenario map is huge, then youíre going to need a lot of food, so choose equipment that generates food, and encounters that offer food as reward). Supplies cards are the cards you begin the scenario with. You start only with some shitty options of rusty weapons, but eventually, you can start with better weapons and armor, some useful rings, extra food or gold, and even a bonus to your max HP. Again, depending on what you know is coming in the scenario, you can choose wisely.
Hand of Fate 2 has a wonderful set of filters to choose cards (donít remember if the first game did this), which make it easy to find those that are the best for a scenario requiring high max HP or curse resistance or combats against Northerners or whatever. Each scenario tells you three pieces of information (e.g., Do not expect to be welcomed by Northerners while treading on their lands; Gain blessings to increase your chance of success; etc.), so you generally know what you need to prepare for. Of course, the game constantly throws curveballs at you, so you should always be prepared for anything. When your cards are ready, you begin the scenario.
Your character is represented by a game piece on the scenario map on the table. The map is literally made of cards (encounter cards you chose and other scenario-specific cards). You move one space at a time, flipping over the cards you land on and doing whatever the event/encounter happens to be. You progress through the scenario like this; typically, each scenario has a few levels, so youíll reach some specific card (e.g., catacomb stairs, a river crossing, a combat encounter) and be whisked to another map of cards (e.g., the next level of the catacombs, the other side of the river, etc.), until you get to the end of the scenario.
And thatís it! The only other thing to mention is sort of like the white elephant in the Hand of Fate room: the combat. The combat sucked in the first game. Itís much better in the sequel, but is still not great. Now, you have companions who join you in combat (and you can trigger their special abilities), you have more special abilities through the use of artifacts, the controls are smoother, enemies can no longer hit you while you are in mid-attack animation, the equipment and enemy variety change things up a bit more, but itís still pretty basic hack-n-slash. You can dodge roll your way to victory when in a hairy situation, letting your companion do most of the work. You can sit back and wait for attacks to counter. Enemies can be quite aggressive though, especially some of the thieves and boss types, and combats frequently have three (and later, more) types of enemies at once. You can be on the map with 15 or 20 other units, which is a lot to keep track of. You do have to learn to parry/counter and dodge, or else you will die. I died in combat a handful of times; itís not always easy, and can also be frustrating, in part because you have to be quick with your button presses. I also ended a handful of combats with dangerously low HP, like one-more-hit-and-I-lose low, including the final boss, which took me maybe 5 tries. Gambits and combat both had me out of my seat yelling from time to timeÖI did have a combat bug for the entire game. One enemy type, the Corrupted (think zombies), was completely broken. The basic Corrupted enemies, upon combat start, walked to the edge of the map and skirted its circumference. This happened every time. They rarely attacked. They just, like the brainless zombies they are, looked like they were trying to leave the combat arena. Needless to say, I knew every combat and scenario featuring Corrupted was going to be pretty easy. I looked this up afterward, and itís a known bug, but somehow has never been patched. I guess itís cool if 15% of the enemies in the entire game donít work right?
And thatís really it! Tempted to buy DLC and play a few more scenarios with new companions, as well as complete card quests, get gold tokens on every scenario (which requires completing every companion quest for the final scenario!), pursue unlocks and achievements, and so on, but of course, the backlog calls, and honestly, given how chance-based this game is, I can see it taking foreverrrrr to achievement hunt.
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dkirschner's Hand of Fate 2 (PC)
Current Status: Finished playing
GameLog started on: Thursday 10 November, 2022
GameLog closed on: Monday 28 November, 2022
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