I transport down onto a ship’s deck with thrashing waves and scantily clad bandits. One moment ago I was working my way across a table with downturned cards, an ominous game master watching me as I turn each card with baited breath; an event hidden behind each one. This is the tantalising sporadic nature of Hand of Fate; a smooth amalgamation of hack-and-slash and deck-building card game.

The game transitions beautifully from building a deck of fate defining cards, to transporting you down to a third person view hack and slash with hordes of enemies to defeat. It truly is one of the best and most impressive crossovers I’ve played and it really keeps the game feeling fresh. As well as this, there are small mini-levels such as goblin dungeons to keep you busy. It’s a smorgasbord of card-slapping goodness.

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I began the game with very little clue of what was happening but a real sense of excitement nonetheless. The tutorial is still in development, so for the meantime you’re pretty much left to figure gameplay out on your own. Thankfully after the first round most things are obvious and it really doesn’t take long to get into the swing of things. Although with most things still very much in production, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding just about everything, including who you are, who the wizard guy in front of you is, and why you’re both playing an incredibly deadly game of cards.

Ignoring all the gaps though, your aim is to traverse through each level, turning over a card to reveal an event you must undertake. Events can be good, or bad (usually bad) and get increasingly tricky as you move on through the game. To put the cherry on the cake there’s also bosses at the end of each round, 12 in total to defeat and win the game. These bosses start tricky and become incredibly tenacious, incredibly quickly.

These fight scenes take you from a floating player to a third-person view of your as-of-yet unnamed warrior. The graphics here are impressive and quite surprising for what started out as a card-game. The combat visuals are detailed for an early build and movement is relatively smooth between blows. The weapons and armour you equip during board-play are expertly crafted and digitalised into the full 3D effect in your players hand. A neat little touch that put a smile on my face.

To help you gear yourself up before each boss, Defiant Dev had the genius stroke of allowing you to collect and build your own deck of cards. Cards can be collected through completing events during the course of play. This allows you to stack the deck in your favour, as much as possible anyway, and gives enticing replayability. Something I was grateful for as I fought to keep my enthusiasm after countless deaths at the hand of the Queen of Sand, an early level boss.

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There exist two decks of which you have some control over; events and items. Event cards are the cards that line the path of your journey and end with the levels boss, items are your rewards for succeeding at events. You can pick and choose the cards you want in each of your decks out of the collection you have at the time. Of course it would be too tempting to set yourself an easy ride, so the AI adds some very unhelpful cards at the beginning of each round.

Crummy weapons, unlucky events and masses of enemies are all just a small part of the offerings dealt out by the unnamed game master. It brings change and challenge to a game that could otherwise become stale with predictable card play.

To add to the awesomeness of Hand of Fate, the professional voice acting of the game master is deep and menacing; fitting perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. It’s bolstered by the slow heavy music in the background – sped up and livened when it’s time to battle. Although incomplete, these are great aspects of the game that build an engrossing world of warlock mayhem. Without the lead voice actor the game would lose quite a bit of its stature; it would probably end up like having your Nan play the dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons.

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This initial beta build is impressive and very playable. It has its bugs and glitches, as any early build, but more importantly it has a presence that demands to be played. It’s evident that Defiant Dev wanted to release Hand of Fate with substance over style, even releasing with controller support before completing an intro or any kind of real storyline. These things are great to have but on this occasion, they made the right choice in prioritising what to do first.

If Defiant Dev can carry on in the same way, Hand of Fate is sure to fast become a must-play game, if not for its impressive graphics, then for its unique and innovative meld of game genres.