When you think of a video game, what comes to mind? Is it an open world with an immersive environment, or maybe a linear story that involves a lot of combat-rich gameplay? Whatever it is that you think of, rest assured that Hand of Fate II will give you something different than what you expect. Hand of Fate II opens with you getting into a carriage with a mage-like figure, whose scarred face only heightens the sense of mystery around him. He tells you of this ‘game’, one that will help you regain your forgotten memories, all as a deck of cards begin to float and flutter around him.
You start off with a few tutorial levels that let you get your bearings and set up a backstory for your character. (If you have played the first Hand of Fate don’t worry, as there are elements in this tutorial that are new to the series.) You’re then shown a large map, littered with markings that signify the many destinations that you have traveled to in the past. Your objective is to make your way through the whole map, fighting the mage’s enemies. Consider this as training for a much larger battle that lurks in the shadows of the map. As you progress you find new areas and the challenges with it. All of these challenges vary in difficulty, in differing ways. One challenge can be more on the side of resource management as you travel with limited supplies to a certain destination, whereas others can be hordes of monsters that you fight one after another, and even escort missions where your companion can get kidnapped and take to a random place on the map. I have not (yet) run into a challenge that was a copy of a previous one.
When you play HoFII you have to build a deck of cards that you think will best suit your needs for the challenges ahead. You need to choose encounters like fights and trade posts, companions, equipment, and even supplies that you can take along with you on your journey. There will never be a perfect combination of cards for any given event. You have to make the best of what you get and see if you can survive throughout the game with the cards you were given. At first, you start with a pre-built deck so you can get used to the gameplay and strategies you’ll use throughout the game. It is only later that you get to build what you think to be the dream deck. When preparing a deck, you never know what exactly is ahead so you have to be sure to make the deck mostly balanced, but you can add your own twist to it by prioritizing certain types of cards. Some cards need certain circumstances to be activated, so be sure to know what you have in your deck so you can prepare accordingly.
HOFII is mostly a ‘Dungeons and Dragons’-like game. The mage acts as the dungeon master, and you are a pawn that moves around on the board in front of him. The board consists of placed encounter cards that are laid out according to the scenario. You can move to cards that are in front, behind, or side to side. Each time you step on an uncovered card, it flips over and you have to play out the scenario given on the card. These can range from ambushes and fights, to good fortune, dice rolls, a wheel of fortune-esque game, and even a pendulum. As you play you slowly learn more about your past because you are reliving it, but you also learn more about the mage whilst he talks about certain things. You learn more about his personality, but there’s always a feeling that he’s holding back some potentially-crucial information about your forgotten past.
The major change from the original game is that reaching the last card does not assure victory. You need to complete certain objectives before completing that stage, or even to enter the final boss fight. This is a major change that makes the gameplay different from the first game, necessitating a more in-depth exploration of the playfield.
When you are ready for your journey the mage adds a certain number of encounter, equipment, and supply cards of his own for the cards to fit the story at the time. He then lays them all out onto the 1st stage. As you go along facing whatever the cards have to offer, you lose food at each new card, all the while gaining health if you have lost any in exchange. Food is a very important factor in this game and needs to be managed well. If you start to starve you lose 10 health per encounter and can die quite quickly.
Some of the encounters that you run into are fights. These fights are things you must actually partake in. No, there is no turn-based Hearthstone-esque combat that you have to slave through. You actually get to take control of your character and fight the battles in real-time. Fighting is where the equipment cards come into play. HOFII introduces two-handed weapons and dual-wieldable weapons, alongside the returning single-handed weapons from the original game. Each enemy has its own weakness, allowing the player to have an advantage in fights that you could not have previously. With these different weapon types comes the option to change weapons before a fight, in order to match what you have against an opponent. This is a very useful feature that can make combat easier, especially when you have to deal with low health situations. When fighting. the enemies can have varied attacks ranging from light, heavy, and some have ranged attacks depending on the situation.
A new thing that has been added are the Companions. Companions allow for certain perks in both combat and board mode. You find companions on quests and get to choose who you start each mission with, but be careful who you choose for they can prove to be more of a hindrance at times. The companions all come with their own special encounters that you can complete, earning you specific rewards. These side-characters are an interesting addition that can give you an edge in either game of chance on the board or in combat situations.
Unlike the original HOF, this time around there is more of a branching type of level selection. After you beat the 1st level you can then choose out of the ones that become available. After you complete a certain amount of those, more levels open up that you can do in any order. This map feature allows you to skip certain levels that your character or deck don’t mesh well with, but also allows you to be a ‘completionist’ and take them all on. The experience of this game is all in how you play it; there are a lot of options that can be opened up because of certain playstyles, meaning you choose what happens.
People who know me understand that I am really picky about sound design. Due to a musical background, I tend to notice things others do not when playing video games. Sound lag, choppy sound cues, repetitive tracks, and even glitches; HOFII has polished off all of its effects quite nicely. I will say I think the mage talks A LOT which can interrupt your reading of the cards. This I am sure is for plot development, but it really distracts you from learning about your quest when he is talking over the mission briefing.
The soundtrack is okay. It gets a bit repetitive when you play for extended periods of time. The same “reaction” noise will play whenever events trigger, or you find an item. The songs are meant to repeat the longer you stay on the one task, but I never noticed much change in the tracks that would play. This game’s main focus was definitely not sound design which is not bad, however there are things that they could have improved in this area by adding a bit more variety to the soundtrack and the reaction noises.
The graphics are almost a copy of the original HOF which is fine because it’s a sequel. There are updates to magical effects, new animations, and smaller details were ironed out from the last, leaving this game as a tasteful 2nd game in the HOF series. There are some things like swords phasing through people’s sides when being stabbed, but nothing too bad that bothered me to the point of trashing it. The style exudes a feeling of comfort, one that kept me interested even when looking at the board for long periods of time.
There is one thing I would like to chime in on. I think the devs have something against hair on the side of your character’s head. All the hairstyles have a shaved head on the sides and a long bit on the top. I would have liked to see more variety in this. As a person with a non-side shaved head, I would like to be represented in this game.
Would I play again?
Yes! This game has different ways to play and each has its own rewards and penalties that I would really like to see. From choosing what style you play and what companions you can use for certain situations, this game is fun to play and gives you a good variety of things to choose from which keeps you going for round 2.
All in all, this is a great game. This has a wonderful storyline that encourages you to keep going even when you’re dead tired, keeping you from really ever wanting to put it down. All of the different factors play well with one another. The chance games, dice rolls, combat trials, and even pendulum skill games; all of these play into the main scheme of things and allow you to win either by chance, or by your skill in combat. The music keeps the game from having dead silence but could definitely use a more revamped track for maximum gameplay experience. The visuals are perfect for a game that jumps in between combat and strategic card game allowing you to keep it board game-esque and yet stay immersed in what you are doing. With all the new additions I think this is a great sequel to a great game allowing new people and already experienced players to have a wonderful time with the game. I definitely would recommend Hands of Fate II.
A wonderful story line making you want to keep going even when your dead tired. All the different factors play well with one another. The chance games, dice rolls, combat trials, and even a pendulum skill games. All of these play into the main scheme of things and allow you to win either by chance, or skill in combat. The music is fine keeping the game from having dead silence but nothing too terribly fancy. The visuals are perfect for a game like this allowing you to keep it board game esc and yet stay immersed in what you are doing. With all the new additions I think this is a great sequel to a great game allowing new people and already experienced players to have a wonderful time with the game. I definitely would recommend.