Have You Played… Hand of Fate?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I love games that try to bring the notion of character into the act of play. Mass Effect 2, Crusader Kings II, Shadow of Mordor, all these are games which view characters not merely as agents to propel the story forward, but as fundamental to the mechanical success of the games in question. Hand of Fate [official site] is another example of this, and what’s particularly interesting about it is it all focuses on just one character.

Hand of Fate is a mostly decent blend of CRPG, RPG and Arkham Asylum style combat, in which you play as an adventurer whose story is told through the playing of a tarot-like card-game. But where Hand of Fate goes beyond other CRPGs is that your opponent is a physical presence in the game world, and a remarkable presence at that.

The Dealer orchestrates the game that you play, layout out the cards with arcane flicks of his wrist, offering you choices of which cards you want to pull from the deck, and commenting upon the game as it progresses. I want to call him a villain, but part of the joy of Hand of Fate is the inscrutable nature of your opponent. What’s his stake in the game? Is he actively trying to help or hinder you? Or is he simply an indifferent observer, laying out the cards as destiny decrees?

Either way, his Jeremy-Irons like voice and imperious, condescending tone certainly make him seem like an antagonist, and the way he reacts in remarkable detail to each move of the game imbues him with an uncanny sense of life. This more than makes up for some of the weaker elements of Hand of Fate, particularly the Arkham-lite combat. A sequel is in the works that promises an even more detailed dealer, and more expansive, tactical combat.

12 Comments

  1. Stargazer86 says:

    I actually disliked the Arkham-style combat most in this game. It just feels like a rather bland addition that I kind of wanted to avoid most of the time. The rest of it I had plenty of fun with but I never really finished it or collected all the cards.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Ditto. I enjoyed the game right up until I encountered the combat which I immediately disliked. Was a shame as the game had seemed like it had so much promise up until then.

  2. Ghostwise says:

    It’s not super-well explained (particularly when it comes to deck-building), but it’s a fine game. The combat was odd at first, but it worked much better for me with a controller.

  3. fuggles says:

    No, but every time I see the name I think of the legend of kyrandia and then feel disappointed.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I think about the infamously bad movie Manos: The Hands of Fate everytime I hear about this game. Should probably check out both.

      • Darloth says:

        Did you know there’s a video game tie in for that?

        It’s awful, of course (but in kindof a fun way) :)

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Me too.

  4. Fade2Gray says:

    I really liked most of what this game had going for it. The presentation is nice. The card game mechanics are fun (though they probably could have been a little deeper and better explained). The dealer/narrator was fantastic! But, the combat never clicked with me and ended up dragging the rest of the game down with it. I’ve never managed to complete a full play-through before loosing interest and moving on to other things.

  5. Durgendorf says:

    One other high point for me was the character design. I loved little touches like the turtle shell shield for the lizard men and the collars that hold a spell book for the battle mages.

  6. ansionnach says:

    Kyrandia 2: The Hand of Fate was pretty good. Other than the tower of Hanoi puzzle and a few red herrings here and there.

  7. LessThanNothing says:

    I quit towards the end of the game because of the difficulty – conceptually it was great

  8. Yserbius says:

    This is one of those games I keep going back to. My favorite gameplay aspect is that for a permadeath game there is a lot of possibility for progression even when you die. It’s not like other roguelites where you have to defeat seven enemies in the Parlor with only your toothpick or whatever, every screen contains numerous encounters that give you the possibility of acquiring new cards if they are passed in the correct manner. There are entire subplots woven into the game that you can only pass via multiple playthroughs, unlocking a new level (and new rewards) in the plot each time.

    Final boss is a little ridiculously OP though. Especially with the randomness of your inventory by the time you reach it.

    As for whether The Dealer is a villain or something else, that’s slowly revealed throughout the game in little hints that he gives. My theory is that the Dealer is a title, passed on to whomever defeats him. It comes with near-immortality and various magical powers. This Dealer has been at it for a very long time. He gains no pleasure for simply destroying everyone who comes to him because he desires a challenge. To whit, he doesn’t want to be defeated but he insists on playing fair so that he will always have what to lose.