It's been a while since I reviewed something. In truth, it's been a while since I sat down with a single player game for more than a few minutes. I picked up a few bits in the Steam Sale though and Hate of Fate was one of them.
Hand of Fate is a roguelike card game with some Batman style beat-em-up combat thrown in for good measure. The game has two modes and, unlike most roguelikes, the story mode has permanent progression and a definitive end (while Endless mode satisfies the typical roguelike itch nicely.) Story mode is broken down into chapters, each represented by a card in a binder. That card, when flipped, shows boss of the chapter and each of those is broken down into several stages.
The genius of Hand of Fate comes from its use of cards as roguelike style events. Where FTL had you moving from point to point in the galaxy, Hand of Fate sees you move a game piece from card to card, turning them over as you go. When a card is flipped there will be an event on it; sometimes good (you might meet a maiden who bestows a choice of health, wealth or food on you) and other times it might be an ambush. There are increasingly exotic cards as you progress as well, and completing certain card's "events" will earn you a token that, when you complete the chapter (or die), unlock more cards for your decks going forward.
I neglected to mention that when you first select your chapter you're invited to build a deck. To do so you select the appropriate number of cards that the game requires from two different selections; equipment and encounters. You can prepare by adding equipment you know will benefit you against certain enemy types, or add events you know are beneficial to your health. The dealer, the mysterious man sat opposite, adds his own cards into each deck as well to keep each chapter fresh.
As the chapter begins and the cards are laid out on the table, you move your game piece to adjacent cards to reveal them. Most of the time this is in a linear fashion but as you progress the layout of the cards does become more complex and require a little more thinking, or guess work, on your part. Each move consumes one food as well, meaning that you can't recklessly move wherever you like with no pressure. Reach 0 and you'll eventually start losing health on each move, putting you at a severe disadvantage in combat or puzzle situations.
The combat isn't fantastic. It's a simple version of the Assassin's Creed or Batman style "wait and counter" combat but it's a nice change of pace from the tense card game that sandwiches it. The weaknesses in the combat only tend to shine through versus larger numbers of enemies; where you're forced to dodge roll constantly and simply wait for counters to whittle down enemy numbers. It's not a major issue, since usually combat situation are against smaller groups. To keep the combat fresh as you unlock more equipment cards you character gets better and you'll start to unlock special abilities; swords that, when activated, cause money to drop on every hit, shields that slow enemies when they attack you or even blessings that cause enemies to freeze mid-action.
One of my biggest issues with roguelikes as a genre, and I know it's counter intuitive given its a staple of it, is the lack of permanent progression and the sheer despair of wasted time when you die. We are busy people and yes, roguelikes are fun and challenging, but many simply don't respect the time of the player. Hate of Fate does. Even when you die you'll still be rewarded for the tokens that you've unlocked to that point so more cards are added to your deck, while each chapter is only, at most, 20 minutes long. By making the roguelike a little more accessible the team at Defiant Development have made a game worthy of taking both your time and money.