Until recently, as in the last 6-8 months, the idea of Card Collecting Games (CCG) or Deck Building Games hasn’t really appealed to me. The main reason is that they just appeared to be impenetrable to the casual fan, something you needed to be proper into, a complete hardcore. But all that changed after finally being taught how to actually play them.
I won’t bore you with a timeline, but needless to say, I am a huge fan now. This brings me onto the game I am reviewing now…Hand of Fate.
What you essentially have here is a Deck Building Game, mashed up with a roguelike experience and some real time fighting included for good effect. The first thing that stands out, is that it works really bloody well. It’s not just competent, it is utterly fantastic.
Starting with the main element of the game, the cards. Because this is a deck-building game, the cards have to play a major role. So at the very beginning you start off with quite a basic deck, with standard weapon cards, simple armour, shields, etc and even easier enemies. As you progress, you can earn cards that are permanently added to your overall deck, which you can take into later levels.
However, aside from your overall deck, you also get your hand and opening layouts for each level and this is where the roguelike element comes into it. You could finish one level with +50 max health, 125 Gold and 29 Food (which is vital), but when you beat the boss at the end, you will start the next time back to the defaults.
It works really well and stops you literally brute-forcing your way through the game but the rewards are plentiful at the same time. After each level, you are rewarded with tokens and can use the cards earned here to build your next deck for the next level. Help is also at hand should you struggle to build your own, thanks to the auto-build option. If you want to see this work better, check out the video below from our playthrough.
What really makes this standout though is the inclusion of real time battles. Now whilst this isn’t exactly authentic or new, the way is has been implemented needs lots of positive noise made. The best way to describe this, is as a scaled down Batman Arkham Asylum fighting system.
Yes, that is right, it lifts the fighting mechanics right out of Batman, but instead of feeling like a tacked on ‘unique selling point’ it actually works. The drawn cards will determine the enemies on screen and the cards you have will decide your weapons, shields, etc. It is then you vs the enemies in real time battles and they play out wonderfully well.
For the first time, this feels like an excellent mix of real life table top gaming mixed with solid video game mechanics. It would have been easier to take one of a number of different options, or taken many shortcuts, but that isn’t how developers Defiant Development have done it. Every element of the game feels like it belongs.
That comes right down to your host. Because not content with taking the best of Deckbuilding Games, the best bits from Batman and mashing them up, they have also added wonderful presentation, with a ‘dungeon master’ of sorts guiding you through and telling a story as you go. How the cards fall and how you react will then itself determine the outcome. It is very much taking the basics from Dungeons & Dragons and using it to wrap around their own title.
Sure there is lots of borrowing of elements here, but it works so well. So much so you never really want to turn the game off. For the first time, this appears to be a game based on the general TTG system, that can only work digitally, where a physical version would be lacking. Whereas it is often the other way round.
I went into Hand of Fate expecting very little, expecting a fun but flawed game. What I found though was something else, something I want to play again and again. I sit here writing this review hoping that Defiant Development are already working on expansions. Whether you are a CCG veteran or not, you need to play this game…right now!