This is one of those ominous blind buys I do on impulse once in a while. I bought Hand of Fate
because it looked weird enough, especially since I'm not a fan of fantasy games. I liked the idea of a random card-based dungeon and I'm a fan of old adventure books. So, HoF landed in my checkout cart for 18 EUR (20% off at the time) and I started playing while I had some vacation.
The Good Stuff
Although the graphics aren't next gen or even really good it uses colors that look great (not that horrible pastel stuff a lot of games use at the moment) and especially the dealer animations were really fun to watch. He rolls his eyes at you if you take too much time, he tucks on his wristbands once in a while and his dealing animation is still so cool to watch even after so many rounds. Also, his voice acting is just amazing. It fits perfectly, the lines are nicely written and you always feel this play between the arrogance of the dealer and his goodwill. Even without a real background story and any personal events he feels like a real character, a really cool feat to accomplish if you ask me.
The drawings on the card decks are also really fun. They look great, have just the right amount of detail and always give you hints of what to come without revealing too much about what they do. Some are like tarot decks (with conceptual or more abstract themes -- your event card deck that creates the dungeon), some just show you different equipment/resources, and some are based on French decks: boss enemies are jacks, queens, and kings; the numbers from two to six depict a minion spawn of two to six enemies, the suit determines the different types of enemies.
The gameplay is also pretty cool. People call it roguelike and trading card game based but I didn't get the feeling of any of that. Of course you have randomly generated dungeons. Of course you have some elements of TGC's in there (like receiving new cards for your deck if you win a round, creating your own decks, and managing resources) but the game reminded me a lot more of those adventure books I read as a child... ("If you want to go down to the basement turn to page 278, if you just turn around and run away turn to page 141.") The basic idea is that you move your figure from card to card to reveal new and unknown challenges. They may be good ("You find a Maiden that grants you a wish") or they might be horrible ("Someone ambushes you!"), but pretty much every single card is unique and many offer various interesting different events, depending on your choices.
The 'Meh' Stuff
The game can be very unforgiving. As someone who has played Dark Souls I'm probably not allowed to say that but the later levels can go twenty minutes and your hero will be in amazingly good shape but then everything will fall apart within one move you make. This bummed me out more than once but never enough to not
restart the game.
The sound overall is not really good, especially in fighting sequences, and the music isn't entirely special (although it never really bothered me, which is a good thing, I guess). The fighting mechanics are very much like those from the newer Batman games but they feel a lot heavier and simplified. They still managed to add a lot of diversity by all the interesting equipment in the game. Basically every single item above starting gear level has unique abilities that force you to adjust tactics (especially later in the game). Still, there are less than a handful of basic enemy types and the bosses aren't all that different except from one special ability, more hit points and more devastating attacks. In the end you beat them all up by mashing 'X.'
Another thing is: There is not a lot of end game to enjoy. After finally finishing the last story mode chapter (about five hours into the game) the only thing left is endless mode which doesn't even have a save-game option in case you're into one good run. So there's no way to drop into the game for a few minutes and play a round. The good news is that the developers are working on DLCs, but I couldn't find good info wether it will be more story mode missions with progress items or just new cards.
Finally I want to mention the price. The game is nicely produced and definitely is fun to play but with a pricetag of 23 EUR I feel those five hours could've been easily ten hours
of fun with some more levels like aces for each suit (or what about the full jack to king sets of lava golems and mages?). There wouldn't have been a need to draw and story-board twice as many cards, I just want to do a bit more before the game will go stale.
The Final Stuff
Drawn in by nothing more but 'uh, thos cards look cool,' and the fact that I liked the idea of adventure books since I've been a child I think the game turned out great. I felt very nostalgic, even though I had my XBox controller in hand instead of a book. The ambience and voice acting is amazing while the fighting would've been more interesting for me would it have been old-school with dice throwing. Still, while the story mode lasts and while you still feel new stuff coming, you will be entertained, even if you're not a fantasy fan. I think my 18 EUR found a good place to be, if you get it for 50% you already have a great
deal. I wouldn't buy it for the full price since the content is not as extensive as it could or should be. Finally, you might be disappointed by the looks of the character who is not costumizable and ugly and male.