GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.
Every step of your journey is determined by the flip of a card in Hand of Fate, a sweet blend of card game and action role-playing game that deals out nerdy pleasures aplenty to match its unpredictable punishment. Not knowing whether your next move will reveal an ambush of skeleton warriors or a secret dungeon filled with loot to aid you in your journey is all part of the fun. Deck building, risk-vs.-reward strategizing, and twitch reflexes collide in this engrossing fantasy game of chance. Hand of Fate is deeply rooted at the intersection of tabletop gaming tradition and Diablo-esque click-brawler action, giving it serious potential to blossom into a major genre itch-scratcher with a little more time under the knife.
Tabletop RPGs--card-based or otherwise--often come with a dizzying set of rules that take time and patience to wrap your brain around. In its current tutorial-less state, Hand of Fate throws you right into the meat of the gameplay without any real guidance, but like any good fantasy card game, its rule system packs necessary depth without being so complex that you can't get a feel for it after a few rounds. Right now, learning as you go poses only a minor speed bump that fades into familiarity once you have a couple of matches behind you.
You're seated in a dimly lit room across from a mysterious cloaked opponent--who's one part card dealer, one part dungeon master--and each randomly generated adventure you dive into unfolds on the tabletop space between you. Matches begin with the dealer placing cards facedown in different dungeon-like configurations. Every turn you move a small figurine one space across the layouts, stopping to turn over each card you land on and deal with whatever surprise encounters await.
Your overarching mission in every game is to sniff out and defeat the dungeon's boss. Getting to each boss alive with enough strength to survive the encounter is a challenge on its own. Adding another neat wrinkle to the mix, every step you take consumes food, which is a precious resource. Food restores your health a little each move when you have it, but running out causes damage. Ill planning or unfortunate mishaps can lead you to starvation before you even get to the boss. This makes managing your food, and the gold needed to buy it, an important balancing act as you push your way into the unknown.
Unexpected twists and intense battles you stumble into along the way make the journey all the more interesting. The encounters you face run a wide gamut, ranging from traps and combat scenarios to item shops and quests. Most are accompanied by a snippet of narrative and a choice for you to consider. You might be asked to help a stranger in need or decide whether to pursue a treasure-hunting opportunity, for example. Your chances of success in many choice-based encounters rely on picking wisely in three-card-monte-style shuffles. Succeeding can earn you helpful reward cards, though failure forces you to draw pain cards that have negative effects or throw you into combat. The latter is where the game takes a very different turn from its tabletop roots.
Engaging in combat drops you into third-person action RPG arena battles against human and monstrous foes alike. Running around these tight but slickly designed map areas, you control a burly warrior who dishes out a clobbering as you click to attack, block, and dodge. It's a great change of pace--both visually and gameplay-wise--that also gives more life to the gameworld you're exploring through the card-based narratives. As far as the fighting goes, it's pretty straightforward stuff. You trade blows, dodge magic and missiles, dish out counterattacks, and flit around the mob trying to take your foes down without getting caught in the melee.
These twitch-heavy brawls are messy, chaotic fun that lasts just long enough to whet your whistle and switch up the tabletop vibe, but they're also one area where Hands of Fate's beta status pokes through at the seams. Combat mechanics are sloppy in spots, and the rigid camera angle offers a sometimes cramped view of the action. If you're not packing more powerful gear when you run into battle, it's also easy to get steamrolled by bosses and larger mobs of enemies. Therefore, the weapons, armor, and buff cards you amass and equip on a given run play a big role in how well you fare when it comes to caving skulls in, and it's the main way to bolster your hero's capabilities as you push toward each boss encounter.
Modular, ever-evolving gameplay goes a long way to keeping you in the game. Completing quests, defeating bosses, and surviving obstacles unlocks new equipment and encounter cards with every run. You can build out your deck, tweaking the experience each time by selecting the potential range of gear and risky-but-rewarding encounters in any given match. This encourages replay naturally and takes the sting out of getting clobbered in mid-run. I died a lot in my quest to best the realm's boss baddies, and often in horrible ways, but the possibility of a different outcome and my ability to influence it by throwing new cards into the mix spurred me onward.
For the tabletop RGP set, Hand of Fate's appeal is undeniable. This beta is finely tuned to make you want to sit down and test your wits over and over again, even if the game lacks a few finishing touches. Tremendous replay value and skillful execution trump the weaker aspects, and I'm confident that this will be one to watch as it pushes closer to completion.
A deep and accessible card-based tabletop game/action RPG hybrid with high replayability.
What's To Come?
The introduction and tutorial are missing in this current beta, though those elements, along with a final boss and updated audio, are planned to be added in for launch. Additional cards and expansions are likely too.
What Does it Cost?
When Will it Be Finished?
No specific date yet announced.
What's the Verdict?
Hand of Fate packs all the engagement of a tabletop RPG, but injects some excitement into the mix with action-centric combat sequences and unpredictable encounters. What's here is a blast, even if the game is still missing a few important ingredients.
This story has been updated with additional details about the service.
The original story appears below:
Electronic Arts today announced a new subscription program for Xbox One called "EA Access." For $5/month (or $30/year), you get endless access to The Vault, a collection of digital EA games.
EA Access is available today in beta for some users, with a wider launch planned to arrive "soon." The current games included in The Vault are FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. More titles will be added "soon," EA says, pointing out that you're getting access to more than $100 worth of games for $5/month.
According to EA, you will have "unlimited" access to the four games during the beta. It is unclear if the same "unlimited" nature of the service will apply when the service rolls out in full later on.
"At EA, we are always looking for new ways to make it easier for gamers to play more EA games across all platforms, and we are excited about what EA Access will offer to players on Xbox One," EA said in a statement on its website.
In addition to access to multiple games in The Vault, an EA Access subscription gets you 10% off on purchases of EA digital content for Xbox One games through the Xbox Games Store. This includes full games and memberships like Battlefield 4 Premium. However, EA cautions that, conditions, limitations, and exclusions apply.
Another component of EA Access is that with a subscription, you'll get to play trial versions of new EA titles "up to" five days before their official release date. This begins with upcoming sports games like Madden NFL 15, NHL 15, FIFA 15, and NBA Live 15, as well as Dragon Age: Inquisition.
If you decide to upgrade to the full version of a game, your progress will carry forward, allowing you to pick up right where you left off. EA Access subscriptions will also be sold in physical stores, including GameStop, as well as online retailers like Amazon.
It remains to be seen what kind of fine print there may be for EA Access. You can read more about EA Access as the program's just-launched website.
GameStop shares fell today by more than 5 percent following Electronic Arts' announcement of a special streaming service for Xbox One that could have negative implications for the retailer's business. As you can see in the chart below, GameStop shares began to fall immediately after the announcement of EA Access.
EA Access hurts GameStop, at least in theory, because it incentivizes digital spending. However, GameStop will sell EA Access subscription cards in its stores, and the retailer has already proven that the proliferation of digital gaming is not really the thorn in its side that some make it out to be.
The stock market is inherently volatile and dramatic fluctuation in share value is no strange thing for GameStop. After Sony announced its own streaming service, PlayStation Now, back in January, GameStop shares tumbled, but later rebounded.
Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, says in a note to investors today that EA Access isn't likely to disrupt GameStop's business in any meaningful way. "While new subscription programs have the potential to disrupt/disintermediate the retail channel, there is little evidence to date to support that similar programs have taken the retailer's market share," he said.
Meanwhile, Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia says it's too early to tell if EA Access will be troublesome to GameStop. "In the current form, we don't think it's that disruptive to GameStop," Bhatia said.
We have reached out to a GameStop representative for comment and will update this post with anything we hear back.
EA Access has been immediately compared to Netflix, in that you will pay a fee ($5/month or $30/year) for access to a library of games, which you then have unlimited access to. Also included with your membership are discounts on digital content and the ability to play upcoming games five days before anyone else. A beta for EA Access is available now for select Xbox One owners, while a wider rollout is expected to happen soon. The first four games included with EA Access are Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, and Peggle 2.
In a post on the PlayStation Blog today, Sony officially announced that LittleBigPlanet 3 will launch across PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 on November 18. The game was officially announced at E3 last month, where it was given a vague release date of sometime this fall.
Sony also today announced the preorder bonuses for LittleBigPlanet 3. Preorder the game anywhere and you'll receive an adorable Sackboy plush toy. Meanwhile, Target shoppers will get the toy alongside a special hat (for the toy), which is exclusive to the retailer.
In addition, a special Dragon Age: Inquisition costume pack will be included with the Day 1 Edition of LittleBigPlanet 3, which anyone who preorders the game will be automatically upgraded to. This goes for preorders placed at physical retailers and online. On top of that, the LittleBigPlanet 3 Day 1 Edition also includes costumes for popular PlayStation characters like Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Ellie (The Last of Us), Delsin (Infamous: Second Son), and a Helghan soldier (Killzone).
There are also retailer-specific preorder bonuses for LittleBigPlanet 3. GameStop shoppers will receive the Mythical Creatures Costume Pack, Best Buy customers get the Hidden Creatures Costume Pack, and Amazon buyers will receive the PlayStation Favorites Costume Pack. A breakdown of the three bundles is available in the images below.
Finally, all preorders for LittleBigPlanet 3 come with instant access to the LittleBigPlanet 3 t-shirt pack. This means that the moment you preorder the game, you'll receive special in-game t-shirts for previously released games like LittleBigPlanet 2, LittleBigPlanet for PlayStation Vita, and LittleBigPlanet Karting. When LittleBigPlanet 3 is released this November, you'll also be able to have your character wear the shirt in that game.
The preorder bonuses mentioned in this post are for North America only. Sony will share details for European LittleBigPlanet fans in the time ahead.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is the first entry in the core series developed outside of franchise creator Media Molecule. Sumo Digital is developing the game, while Media Molecule is working on an unannounced PS4 game.