In This Game, The Rule is Board, Not Bored …
Okay, so if you own both a PS3 or PS4 and a PS Vita, you’ve found yourself asking this question: “Hmm, if I buy this PSN game now, will I get it free for Vita when it launches on that platform?” It’s a game in and of itself, and you’ve got a 50/50 shot of it working in your favor when it comes to indie games. The big titles, like Dragon’s Crown, aren’t gonna give you that extra platform for free, so you gotta shell out double or live with it on one system or the other. Smaller and indie titles, though, like Helldivers and Hotline Miami 1 and 2, let you play to your pleasure.
I asked myself the “Hmm . . .” question not too long ago about Defiant Development’s semi-rogue like title Hand of Fate. I was moving cross country at the time, and hoping to play the card game/action game hybrid on my plane via the Vita. It seems like the perfect game for the go–it’s stage-based, randomized, and promises simple controls not likely to utilize the complicated back-panel touchpads that caused me so much grief with the Borderlands 2 port (still worth it.)
And then, after it was announced and promised, Defiant CANCELED IT. Cancelled it! I was irritated, so much so, that I almost didn’t bother to play the PS4 version I’d purchased for $10 via Flash Sale. But I did, and oh, what an excellent decision that turned out to be.
Here’s the gameplay: You choose cards to be part of your deck, cards that are events (like battles or tests of memory or luck) or cards that are weapons or equipment, and then the dealer adds his own. The dealer acts as a narrator in this game, and the voice actor that Defiant chose for him is perfectly epic. The writing is good, too, and he gives cryptic snippets that add interesting atmosphere to the game world while never repeating himself too much.
Once you’ve made your deck and the dealer’s cards have been added, a random amount are laid out in a random face-down pattern like a game board. Your character then starts at a predetermined point and must travel one card at a time to reach the way to the next game board, and ultimately the boss card of the round. Each move consumes food, and every card you land on is turned up, putting you through the event of the card. Event cards in your deck have a token on them, and completing the event in a certain way gives you that one-time token, which grants you even more cards to personalize your deck with.
The graphics are good, though the faux wood-etched card art outshines the WoW-esque character models and arenas, which are still good and serve their purpose. The sometimes outlandish look of your character’s equipment actually looks cool in relation to the otherwise high-fantasy models, and I always enjoy decking my guy out with the Geordi Laforge-esque visor and a big ol’ hammer.
The events are either choose-your-own-adventure style with a three-card-Monte system, and/or an arena third-person battle setup with randomized enemies. They all work well, and some games have “Curses” which cause harder three-card-Monte rounds or put on other challenges.
The game has free-play and endless-play modes, but the main game is a campaign of sorts that has the dealer pitching you in rounds ending with a certain boss card, either a Jack, Queen, or King, and after you beat three, you get a bonus artifact that gives you starting boosts (better starting equipment, blessings that give perks, etc.) There’s a DLC pack for PC’s, too, which more cards, but whether that will hit consoles isn’t clear.
While I was and still am disappointed that Hand of Fate won’t hit the PS Vita, a note from Defiant let me know that the animations alone exceeded the Vita’s memory, so it’s no surprise the port didn’t make it. Regardless, I can honestly say that I’ve had a huge amount of fun with this title. It’s more like a board game in style than a typical console game, but it’s so no-fuss to play that anyone is gonna have fun jumping into this game. Wait for a flash sale if you must, but I can’t recommend this title more. Let’s hope for a sequel, and a real physical board game on top of that!
Sound: 5/5 – The Dealer’s narration alone is a win.
Gameplay: 5/5 – The board game setup, three-card-Monte system, and breadth of event cards makes for a fun time. They even made a fixed tracking camera work well enough.
Story: 5/5 – Well-written and just as detailed as you need works to create a mysterious atmosphere.
Worth It: 5/5 – Buy it, play it, and tell your friends.