hand of fate 2

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Hal Tar­rare

Pub­lisheR De­fi­ant De­vel­op­ment / De­vel­oper De­fi­ant De­vel­op­ment / For­mat Xbox One / re­lease date Novem­ber 2017

I’ve found my­self vaguely dread­ing the no­tion of some­one ask­ing me what game I’ve got on the go at the mo­ment. “Play­ing any­thing good?” Here’s where I’d smile, be­cause I’m play­ing some­thing very good. “Yes, ac­tu­ally, Hand Of Fate 2!” About here is where I’d be­gin to re­alise the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of what I’ve said, and my smile would drop. “Oh yeah, what d’you do in that, then?” It’s at this point that I’d to­tally lose con­fi­dence, be­cause De­fi­ant De­vel­op­ment’s sec­ond crack at this se­ries is among the most baf­flingly con­vo­luted gam­ing in­ven­tions of re­cent years. Ex­plain­ing it is a night­mare.

I mean on the most ba­sic level, you could call it a deck-build­ing game. Af­ter all, it’s played across a ta­ble with an AI char­ac­ter who deals you cards, re­wards you with more cards, and asks you to play again with bet­ter com­bi­na­tions of cards. But then again, those cards ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent a dun­geon-crawl­ing RPG – some rep­re­sent lo­ca­tions and en­coun­ters, oth­ers weapons, or en­emy types, or com­pan­ion char­ac­ters. But, when you think about it, isn’t this a text ad­ven­ture at heart? Af­ter all, ac­tu­ally play­ing that RPG is a mat­ter of read­ing minia­turised sto­ries of fan­tasy ad­ven­ture – fight­ing gob­lins, loot­ing trea­sure, tak­ing down evil em­pires – with twists and turns based on your re­sponses to those sit­u­a­tions.

But reach­ing those card-con­tained sto­ries scat­tered on the table­top? Well that most of­ten comes down to sur­vival game re­source man­age­ment. Have you got enough food to make it to the next town? Do you risk spend­ing your scarce coin on a shiny new weapon when your HP’s so low? But wait, your HP’s only that low be­cause this is also an Arkham- like brawler, oc­ca­sion­ally trans­form­ing you, your items, and your en­e­mies into mus­cly lit­tle 3D mod­els, and ask­ing you to smash out com­bos and coun­ters to get through it all. And when you’ve died or fin­ished a cam­paign? Well then it takes on the form of a rogue­like, of­fer­ing you new ways to play, or spe­cial ob­jec­tives, even as you fun­da­men­tally do the same things again. I’m ex­hausted just think­ing about how De­fi­ant pitched this thing in the first place.

Prac­ti­cal magic

The mad ge­nius at work here is that, no mat­ter how hard it is to ex­plain, Hand Of Fate 2 is some­how never con­fus­ing to play. Af­ter a short tu­to­rial cam­paign, you’re im­me­di­ately thrown into the giddy labyrinth of the game proper, and you’ll have a han­dle on it im­me­di­ately. It’s a knotty lit­tle thing, per­form­ing the time travel trick of truly ex­cel­lent de­sign by some­how mak­ing a bite­size struc­ture into an un­be­liev­able timesink. It looks beau­ti­ful, too. It’s very easy to imag­ine an­other stu­dio adopt­ing a much more min­i­mal aes­thetic and achiev­ing sim­i­lar re­sults, but Hand Of Fate 2 is fre­quently gor­geous. The table­top it­self is ap­peal­ingly tac­tile, from the wood-cut map you choose cam­paigns from, to the chunky golden minia­ture that rep­re­sents your char­ac­ter. Its bat­tle­grounds are pleas­ingly var­ied, and of­ten lit like fan­tasy novel cov­ers. Best of all, there’s a real child­like magic to see­ing a sim­ple card you’ve picked up sud­denly trans­formed into 3D items.

The maxim that ‘less is more’ sim­ply doesn’t ap­ply to Hand Of Fate 2. It’s a generic gumbo, ideas tossed into the pot from any num­ber of dis­parate sources, each one mak­ing the rest more ex­cel­lent as a re­sult. There is sim­ply noth­ing else like it. You should play Hand Of Fate 2, too. Maybe just avoid any con­ver­sa­tions about it.

“No mat­ter how hard the game is to ex­plain, Hand Of Fate 2 is some­how never con­fus­ing to play”

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