Hand of Fate is a beguiling mixture of two incredibly unlikely things. It’s one part deck configuring card game and the other is a hack and slash action game simple enough to be enjoyed by anyone. One of the strongest aspects of the game has to be the atmosphere and presentation with special mention to the mysterious dealer for being an awesome character. From the stuffy tomb adorned with oddities, the designs of the cards and presentation of encounters, it’s all quite well done. Overall, the team at Defiant Development have hand crafted a fun game that nearly anyone could sit down and have a blast with.

While it might seem fitting to label Hand of Fate as a collectible card game (and indeed deck customization is a thing here), the comparison isn’t the most apt. Many collectible card games have a competitive slant, players use cards that represent creatures and heroes and stuff, attacking and defending until there’s a winner. With Hand of Fate the cards have two functions and one of them is to convey the landscapes your hero travels through, one card at a time, turn by turn. As the oracular dealer randomly arranges the board out of cards, be it a straight line or a square or some other whacky arrangement you must expend food, one of your three precious resources, with each move. The other two are gold, which can be used to purchase all manner of things from various merchants and health. With each card traversed, a new encounter is unveiled. Will it be a traveling caravan or a bandit ambush, will you run into Mister Lionel or have you found the way to the next leg of the journey and a new configuration of cards?

Big money, big money, no whammy, no whammy!

Big money, big money, no whammy, no whammy!

Some cards you land on will pose situations or questions and require a choice, and they are completely guided by luck. You climb down a leafy cliff face to grab a weapon, your destiny decided by four cards. At least one will represent some level of success, while the others will denote varying magnitudes of fail. Those cards are quickly shuffled then one must be chosen, hopefully drawing success or at worst a modest failure. Occasionally the encounters seem to favour the player; there may be two huge success cards, a success and one failure, but others are absolutely punishing. It would routinely be the case that only one success existed among three failures with nothing I could do but take a chance. The player loadout for combat encounters is also decided by luck, the game bestows equipment from your deck before each battle.

Unleash your inner Batman.

Unleash your inner Batman.

Combat engagements actually draw the player into third person action combat that takes place in real time. Melees take place in different locales, like dilapidated ruins of grand old structures, deep in forests, but they’re always smallish arenas. Conflicts resemble those from Shadow of Mordor or the Batman: Arkham games, with markers that appear over enemies to illicit the proper reaction and deflect projectiles, counter, dodge or bring the pain. Battles early on in the adventure are a breeze, but as you push through the journey each hardship like bandit attacks, magical beasts and starvation make each combat scenario much more dire.

A sizeable chunk of Hand of Fate’s appeal is in how the disparate components coalesce and create some tense situations. Like I mentioned before, running out of food and starving to death is a very real and ever present concern. If there’s a battle on the horizon and you’re suffering health drain from lack of food, the looming threat of death raises the stress level. Charging into the fray with a sliver of hit points, maybe just barely enough to take one or two strikes, each parry and strike had me on the edge of my seat. Brawls aren’t protracted affairs, it’s a constant rotation of table top card game and hackin’ n slashin’. Each card game segments belies opportunities to turn things around and get a leg up on the next fight, but things can also go south real quick. At one point I had so sell my shield to buy food or my days would have been numbered and while I made that decision with a heavy heart, it ended up being the best choice I could make. It’s a strange mixture of concepts but the two halves, however unlikely, play incredibly well in tandem.

It's all about the angles, baby.

It’s all about the angles, baby.

But every so often Hand of Fate takes a detour out of funland into frustration country. Down on the field of battle the fixed camera and compact maps can be sort of constricting. Both were probably conscious design choices to keep things easy for the player, but they often hampered the experience more than anything, especially when knowledge of the brew ha ha was paramount. I would often find myself jammed into a corner or in a place where I was praying to the heart of the cards for a rotatable camera. In the occasional trap filled dungeon the ability to at least shuffle between some cardinal direction camera angles would have been nice, to get some perspective if nothing else. Similarly, the way things are totally left up to the hand of fate to deal good cards and turn things around can be a drag. When almost all of your health is drained away in one way or another before even a single combat encounter is entered, it can be a bit ridiculous. Hand of Fate isn’t like Binding of Isaac or Demon/Dark Souls where success is earned through a mastery of the games mechanics and it’s on you when you lose. Sometimes you just get stood up by lady luck and then it’s over.

Just Another Day in Paradise or Why Not Lost in The Dessert?

Just Another Day in Paradise or Why Not Lost in The Dessert?

Hand of Fate also had a number of technical troubles throughout the game. The frame rate would take a huge dive, becoming a slideshow at times like while the dealer levitated his cards. While that’s not a particularly game breaking thing, it does serve to take away some of the suspension of disbelief. The game would hitch up on loading screens and occasionally it felt like my inputs weren’t being properly registered. Hardly game breaking stuff, but certainly stuff that should be mentioned. I’m not sure if the PC or Xbox One builds run any differently, as I played the PlayStation 4 release.

Players who best all the adversaries unlock Endless Mode. It gives Hand of Fate some lasting replay value if it’s what you’re into. Being challenged to persevere and adventure for as long as you can is a great way to lose a couple hours. The game calls out with the siren song of loot and combat inherent to action RPGs, the added addiction found in collectible card games and bit of roguelike-like to implore players take just one more turn. It’s a unique and potent combination that fans of the respective genres and cautious onlookers alike should investigate.

Hand of Fate Review
  • Brilliant mash up of action RPG and CCG
  • Dealer's VO is fantastic
  • Mechanics work in harmony to instill a feeling of tension.
  • Handful of performance problems
  • At the mercy of fate
7Overall Score
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About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.