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Have You Played... Hand of Fate?

Dealer’s choice

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.

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