A deeper look at Hand of Fate

The short version is, Hand of Fate is an exciting blend of Choose Your Own Adventure, Deck Building and RPG. It seems simple at first, but there are plenty of paths to choose, lots of ways to be lead astray, armor and weapons to be discovered as well as lost, and the ever present danger of running out of food. Each game is unique and you can easily devote a few minutes to an adventure and pause when you “exit” the floor, or sit down and run the gauntlet to see if you can make it.

I’ve played a few hours, but my progress has been less than ideal. Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes – I’ve chosen poorly, I’ve run out of food, I’ve drawn the Huge Failure card one too many times and I’ve encountered the final test with woefully low amounts of health and ended up face down in the dirt. However, I keep going back for more. I have to say, I’m greatly entertained by Hand of Fate. Each round is quite different, with varying numbers of opponents, random encounters with both helpful characters, and ill tempered bandits.

As I’ve said, the game board is laid out as a series of cards. You move from card to card to reveal the path. On some cards you are ambushed. On others you can buy weapons, armor and food. On other, you can draw the luck of an encounter which presents choices on how to proceed and then a card you must choose that determines Success or Failure (or Huge Success, Huge Failure) in some cases. From there, you may receive a reward such as a villager revealing most, if not all, of the cards on in your path. This gives you the chance to pick the path of least resistance. Sometimes you may get a powerful piece of armor. In things go poorly, you may have to defend yourself, you may lose gold, you may lose food.

When you start, the weapons are pretty meager, Armor, Sword, Shield. As you progress and earn rewards, these can become much more powerful and may even have extra abilities. For example, while still early, there is a Hammer that can deal an explosive blast in all directions, helm that increases healing abilities, bracers that increase quickness and a shield that increases dodge. These come into play when you engage in the RPG element.

To start, the combat is simple – move in the direction of the enemy and click the mouse to strike. The computer takes care of the rest. However, as you progress and get more abilities, you can then Block incoming attacks and use the special ability of your weapons and armor by using the number keys. Unlike other games, you don’t get to run away from combat to heal or swill down health potions and make another attack. The battle is to the death and you only get one shot at it.

You also have to keep in mind that you will always be outnumbered. Sometimes the battle is 3 to 1, sometimes 6 to1. On a couple occasions it’s been even higher. There is no one waiting in the wings to come in and battle with you, no healer standing off in the corner keeping you alive. You have to face your enemies with whatever weapons and health you have left after your long journey.

You will gain bonus tokens for being victorious, new cards, weapons, armor and encounters. These will be available to add to your deck for the next adventure. Even if you lose, you will still receive the tokens you picked up along the way. Many of the decisions and encounters have a token as a reward. The more tokens you receive, the better off you will be for the next round. That is the plan anyway, as it’s all up to the luck of the draw.

One thing to keep in mind, food is about the most important thing you can have. Each move you make on the board allows you to heal and regain health. If you run out of food, you lose health for every move you make. Again, no health potions, so if you get ambushed with 20 health and the odds are 4 to 1 against, it might spell doom. You will run across caravans that offer food for purchase and you will run into priests, villagers and goblins that have a pretty hefty desire for your food. In order to get a reward you may end up having to share half your supplies. And even if you offer up a small amount because you’re running low, it may not be enough to placate and you may end up having to defend yourself or have it stolen. As the “dungeons” get longer and longer, you will need food to sustain you. While hoarding gold for that uber weapon might work in other games, finding a caravan and buying stacks of food may be a better use of resources.

Overall, Hand of Fate is a lot of fun with interesting story telling, meaningful decisions and interactive choices as well as quick paced combat. While the adventures have similar elements, they don’t play out the same way each time. And with DLC packs easily integrating into the game, I can see this expanding for quite some time.

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