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Cutting The Weak Cards Out Of The Deck

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Craft a deck of weapons, armor, trinkets, and encounters and play through a variety of role-playing experiences served up by a mysterious dealer. Don’t be fooled – Hand of Fate 2 is not a collectible card game, but rather a distinctive take on the core tabletop experience mixed with a smattering of real-time action battles. The conceit of maneuvering around a tabletop dungeon crafted by cards is a strong, unique twist on the classic action/RPG, and this sequel improves upon almost every feature found in the first game. Low-impact additions like rolling dice or spinning wheels to determine the outcome of a story are interesting, but Hand of Fate 2 also makes big changes, like companion characters that join you in battle and offer their skills and expertise off the battlefield.

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Hand of Fate 2 is almost two different games that combine to form a singular experience. In one, you’re traveling around a dungeon made up of cards, which could be traps, treasure, tests of character, caves to explore, and more. The other is combat-centric action sequences, which you stumble upon based on your board-game excursions.

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Combat is the weakest element in Hand of Fate 2. While it doesn’t stray into rote button-mashing madness, elements are flighty and imprecise at times, and the camera often feels like it’s working against you. Weapon selection and timing defensive abilities add some nuance, but battle is often boring or laborious. The enemy variety also gets stale around halfway through, so battles take a backseat to the more fun parts, like cobbling together the perfect deck and discovering ways to handle encounters on the card map.

 

The ever-shifting map of cards steals the show. These travels task you with maneuvering dangerous precipices, participating in a town fair, rescuing (or abandoning!) those in need, discovering hidden treasure, or negotiating a longstanding feud. Myriad scenarios and ways to approach them exist, and tackling the mysteries in different ways gives you incentive to replay areas – or something else to do if you fail a challenge and need to repeat it several times.

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Making your own choices and facing the consequences during these often-dire decisions is enjoyable and you feel like you are plotting your own personal course to victory. Perhaps you missed a die roll in trying to pick a lock or you decided to get a bit too greedy with a suspicious pile of treasure; you can make a different choice, pick a different card, or roll differently your next time through the area, and maybe even score some new options to include in your deck. Hand of Fate 2’s tabletop dungeon crawling is immersive and engaging, and I found myself replaying missions just to check out some of the choices I may have missed. These Dungeons & Dragons-style encounters combined with the baubles, trinkets, and clinking pieces strewn about the card-infused table create a cozy RPG atmosphere that’s difficult to match.

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Companion characters are awesome, even if they don’t fundamentally change the core gameplay. Tap into the barbarian’s strength to crush some foes on the battlefield or manipulate perks to subtly influence your experiences during narrative encounters, such as duplicating cards or throwing an extra die to give you an edge against the odds. With four different companions to travel with that range from brute melee assistants to spell-flinging mages, they add plenty of flavor to combat and crawling. You may even find your story (or theirs) being altered by the choices you make along the way.

 

Hand of Fate was a hidden gem, a Kickstarter surprise that showed us that there was a cool way to mix up an action-RPG with tabletop conventions. The sequel polishes and preens itself into a much more efficient and entertaining entity, and if you can handle some less-than-stellar combat, you find yourself immersed in a spectacular world.

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