Zanthia. Alchemist of Kyrandia.
Already back when King Brandon fought the evil jester Malcolm in his younger years, she could be of good service to him (or was it the other way around?). The master of brewing all kinds of useful potions now becomes the centre of all attention all over Kyrandia. The royal mystics have chosen HER, the youngest one, to retrieve a magical anchor stone from the centre of the world. Only this anchor stone can prevent the end, because Kyrandia is disappearing. Stone by stone, tree by tree.
The sequel to Westwoods graphical adventure classic Fables & Fiends: The Legend Of Kyrandia, Book One isn't just the continuation of the story of the first part's protagonist, but instead provides an extension to the wonderful world of Kyrandia.
This has been very well made so that you can now, in part 2, range through areas which were inaccessible in part 1. For example, in the first part, you could visit Zanthias hut in the woods of Kyrandia as Prince Brandon, but its surroundings couldn't be explored in some directions (meaning the swampy part). And exactly those areas are now accessible in part 2. (Basically, you could make a more complete map of the island of Kyrandia by putting the appropriate locations of parts 1 and 2 together.)
In Hand Of Fate, as already mentioned, you don't control the freshly crowned King Brandon from part 1, but the young alchemist Zanthia, whom you've already met in the predecessor. And Zanthia is a smart one! Why would she take the hard trip to the centre of the earth? No, no, she will rather just brew a teleportation spell! Which wouldn't be an issue if her home hadn't been smashed to pieces and her kettle stolen!
So, begins a journey which leads our good Zanthia – always appropriately dressed for every occasion – to places which are full of danger, but also gorgeous, and which always confront her with new tasks. Where Brandon relied on the fabled Kyragem, an amulet with four crystals which provides its wearer with four different magical abilities, Zanthia makes use of her alchemistic skills. Once she has found her camping kettle and the recipe book from magician school, she can make use of all kinds of potions.
Zanthia can actually die in her adventure, which means you either have to restore a saved game or restart from scratch. However, you will recognize such hot situations immediately, because there is the distinct feeling that things could get tight. Even Zanthia herself will not just act in such situations (e.g. when you click on a wild crocodile), but she will first provide a comment. Only after clicking again, she will commit the action which then usually leads to her demise.
Hand Of Fate sports a very balanced amount of puzzles whose difficulty gradually increases. The obstacles which Zanthia faces are, no exception, fascinating tasks just waiting to be solved. So she will stumble into more and more tight spots, but will also meet new allies supporting her. Often – what else could it be – only traded for recompensation, but we're used to this, aren't we? And this leads us right to another aspect of the game which has been designed just as lovingly as Kyrandia itself: its characters!
It's a bit of a pity that so many characters from the first part can only be seen in person in the intro (like for example the magician Darm and its pet dragon Brandywine), but the new acquaintences will more than make up for it. Marco, the magician apprentice, who wants to support Zanthia on her journey at all costs; his chamberlain, an oversized hand, which just loves getting its feet… pardon… its fingers wet in the swamp; a scarecrow full of life; a love-stricken yeti; a postman-dragon with a lisp; and a simple stick which will turn up in the strangest of places again and again. All in all very memorable encounters in a great adventure.
The journey is a colourful, varied and funny fantasy fairytale. Hand of Fate is definitely one of those old graphic adventures which feature some adorable VGA graphics. Though this isn't the only thing making the fan's heart skip a beat – there is also the unbelievable music which Westwood was really famous for at the time! (Compare also the music of Kyrandia 1, Lands Of Lore and Dune II!)
The cherry on the cake, however, is the perfect speech. Just like in part 1, the second part also features English dialogues accompanying the selectable English, German or French texts. And the voice actors live their roles really well. Many of the characters receive a very special three-dimensional quality and… well… just character! Zanthia even has something to say about every location if you don't do anything for some time. The introductory video is even completely localized according to the language version.
Where there is light, there is shadow, and even Hand Of Fate isn't without flaws. Though they aren't flaws in the actual game, but rather of the localisation. Some of the lines have been terribly mistranslated. For example, “You're welcome” is taken literally. In one place, this actually turns into a very real issue:
Mixing the very first magic potion in the game, you need a toadstool. Though when you throw one into the kettle, nothing happens, the potion isn't finished. Why? Because this is a play on words of “toad” and “stool”. So you don't actually need a toadstool to brew the potion, but rather a “toad's stool” – a stool belonging to a toad! This just doesn't work in other languages.
Of course, it is understandable that this is a tough job for a translator. Just think of the wordplay of root beer in Monkey Island, where you need to steal the root for the cannibals. The “toadstool” case from Hand Of Fate is a prime example of how NOT to do it. If you can look beyond the localisation glitches, there is nothing standing in the way of untarnished fun. Absolutely nothing.
In conclusion, it can't really get much better for a graphic adventure! If you don't already know it: play it at once. Since there are a couple of allusions to part 1, it would be interesting to know that one – but it is not strictly necessary.
Translated by Mr Creosote