Fate is a fickle thing. One minute you're chasing a fairy in an open field, and the next starving villagers are mobbing you for your food.
That's how fast life hits you in Defiant Development's Hand of Fate 2, the follow-up to its highly acclaimed 2015 roguelike, random-adventure RPG. I wasn't familiar with the earlier game, so pretty much all I had to go on for this one was Garrett Fuller's preview article from last April. He covered the basics of gameplay in that piece, so I'll focus instead on my experience and impressions from getting some hands-on time with the game at PAX South.
I shared my demo with another journalist, who took the controls while I occasionally provided input on decisions in the game. The mission we were provided with had us traveling through a countryside ravaged by famine. Our set-up was based around cards, in the categories of equipment, supplies, companions, and encounters. We built our “deck” with extra food because of the famine, as well as other gear that would give us various bonuses, just like an RPG. All of your choices can have various effects, from increasing your combat capabilities to affecting your die rolls.
Our encounter cards, along with those selected by the mysterious Dealer, were mixed into an array that we had to progress through. Each card that we revealed could present us with a choice or other encounter that we had to resolve. Do we give the begging villagers food, depleting your supplies, or just push through them and hope they don't get rowdy? Do we chase that fairy or let her go? (We chased her, and once we caught her, she promised to grant us a wish if we let her go. We did, and the conniving little sprite flitted away, leaving us literally empty-handed.) Many of the encounters combine decision-making with die rolls to add an even greater element of randomness.
If forced into combat, we were placed into a small area with bands of bad guys to trounce. The devs compared the game's combat to Arkham Asylum, with “tells” appearing over your enemies' heads to let you know when you should dodge or defend. Hand of Fate 2 differs from its predecessor in that it gives you a companion character to fight alongside you in combat. Ours was Estrella, an eyepatch-wearing, sword-and-pistol-packing female fighter who was of immense help when we found ourselves overwhelmed with hostiles.
After progressing through the first “board” of cards, we went to a second one where, after a few more encounters, the adventure's boss waited for us. The Necromancer summoned skeletons to fight for her and sometimes put up a shield over herself that required a special maneuver to break. Again, our companion was indispensable here, helping to keep the undead minions at bay while we concentrated our attacks on the primary villain. (And by “we,” I mean my partner, though I offered plenty of moral support.) Once the battle was over, we were sent back to the Dealer to prepare for another adventure.
The continuing adventures...
That's the gist of how a round of Hand of Fate 2 works. Our basic encounter lasted about 15 minutes, though later ones can take up to 30 minutes, and a lot depends on how random elements – and your decisions – play out. Unlike the first game, each “board” contains its own story, as with our Necromancer causing the famine and raising undead, so you'll have a lot of variety as you progress. You'll also gain more cards, which make available more equipment, companions, and other options.
And if your poor decisions lead you to a grisly end? The game is being marketed as a roguelike, after all, but don't fret too much; death will just reset you to the start of the current adventure. You won't lose everything your character's accumulated.
I'll admit that going into my demo, I wasn't all that enthused about the game, but after seeing it in action, it feels more up my alley than I would have imagined. It plays like a cross between a modern video game and an old-school choose-your-path-style adventure book, and I like both of those things. If that sounds good to you too, you might want to check out Hand of Fate 2 for yourself, even if you never played the original.
Hand of Fate 2 will launch for Windows (via Steam), Mac, Linux, and Xbox One in late Q1 2017.