‘Hand of Fate’ is a weird, awesome mix

A deck building dungeon-crawling rogue-like with “Arkham Asylum” style combat and visual novel elements, with a narrator reading everything you do — that is the simplest way I can explain “Hand of Fate.” It sounds like an incomprehensible mish-mash of different ideas. But all of the elements actually mix and blend together quite nicely to create one of the most intriguing experiences of recent memory.

The player arrives at this dealer’s room at the end of the world. The dealer asks to play a game of life and death. The player then builds a deck out of two kinds of cards: encounters and equipment. The dealer then adds a few cards of his own and deals the encounters out in a “Dungeons and Dragons” kind of dungeon layout, and after that, the game begins.

Most encounters are resolved with old-school text adventure kind of design, similar to games like “Wasteland 2.” However, when violence is required, the equipment cards that the player has collected are then put to use in a combat system similar to “Batman: Arkham Asylum” or “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.”

It seems complex when someone tries to explain it with words, but play it, and you’ll instantly get the idea. It’s a deceptively easy game to learn, but as you continue, games add more and more depth.

This complexity extends beyond the game play and into the story, as well. You don’t learn any explicit details, but the ways the dealer and the player character react to the scenarios and results of the game tell a lot about their characters — their struggles and their pasts. The dealer in particular expresses a lot of character while still keeping his own past a mystery.

There’s so many cool things going on in “Hand of Fate,” but what ultimately wraps it all together is the presentation. Even with the simplicity of the Unity engine at work, the game looks amazing in motion, with cards constantly flying around and beautiful, medieval woodcut artwork for each of the cards. The game’s style is perfect for the game play and stories it’s trying to convey, being slightly cartoonish while still maintaining an air of mystique.

On a whole, “Hand of Fate” seems hard to explain, but every element is mixed masterfully, and tied together with a really, really cool presentation. It’s an easy game to learn, but a deliciously hard one to master. And on top of all that, it has a story that’s explored really uniquely. If any one of those points appeals to you, “Hand of Fate” is definitely worth a look.