Hand of Fate 2 is a game that has much of what any kind of gamer loves. Great writing, theorycrafting and third-person combat covers a lot of bases and targets many different playstyles.
It also consists of very small scenarios which make the game both great for the time-poor and deceptively moreish.
Movement through the world involves turning over cards, each of which has a tale, and perhaps a challenge attached. You might be asked to make a choice, or you might just be asked to fight.
If you’re the type to opt for violence, you’ll have ample opportunity to tweak your deck of cards before encounters. That’s where the theorycrafting comes in — your cards decide what you can bring into battle.
As a sequel, Hand of Fate 2 is expanding on the previous game with 22 different challenges, all different spins on the gameplay mechanics.
They all encourage you to build your deck in a different way, to counter what the game throws at you. On the show floor at the recent PAX Aus, there was a confrontation with an ogre who had attacked your caravan before you had a chance to respond. Players needed to emphasise healing and defence in their deckbuilding if they wanted to beat the ogre at the end.
The Writer’s Room Approach
In a recent blog post, studio founder and gamerunner Morgan Jaffit had mentioned something about a “writer’s room approach to game design,” so I took the opportunity to ask him what that meant.
“What we try and do is give all of the design team visibility and influence into the design process, and responsibility for the pieces they build.” he said. “So we have lengthy design meetings where people come through and talk about the big picture.
“People will come and pitch challenges like they might pitch an episode. Then we’ll take that and kind of workshop it as a room. We’ll all play it, give feedback, do a 2nd pass iteration. It’s worked really well.”
So it’s kind of like how you’d imagine a room of comedy writers pitching jokes, or even journalists pitching stories. Ideas go through a washing machine of changes (hopefully improvements) along with many other pitches. In the end, one person is responsible for making sure that scenario has a consistent arc.
“And it also helps it feel like a coherent game,” adds Jaffit. “Not like four different people have worked on different parts of the game for that section.”
Hand of Fate 2 is very much a wordy game, or as Jaffit describes it, a “reader’s game.” So perhaps that’s why this approach works so well. One could port the system to another studio, but perhaps it would work less in a game based on one or two styles of interaction.
In my small play session, I found the story snippets engrossing. They’re sometimes just slivers of a tale, even just a paragraph or two. But it actually takes an enormous amount of writing skill to hook a player in the first few lines.
It’s something The Witcher 3 did extremely well, tempting players as they rode between mission points with tangential intrigues. And due to the nature of Hand of Fate 2, this is something the writer’s room needs to do again, and again, and again. On average, the player might be presented with a new story every few minutes.
Jaffit believes the bite-sized nature of each story is can be a strength:
“There’s so much opportunity with our storytelling. We don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building the environments for every story beat. We can tell stories in story, we can do action in action. It lets us do some wild stuff.”
Hand of Fate 2 comes out November 7th on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.