When Cass (Brian Lewis) sets his eye on scoring a date with Natalie (Trin Miller), one of the world's top Romance of the Nine Empires players, she issues him a challenge: to show that he's ...
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When Cass (Brian Lewis) sets his eye on scoring a date with Natalie (Trin Miller), one of the world's top Romance of the Nine Empires players, she issues him a challenge: to show that he's gamer enough to win this year's national championship. Determined to prove that he can win any game, Cass enlists his long-suffering game buddy, Leo (Scott C. Brown) to teach him everything he needs to know about collectible card games. But The Legacy, a group of hardcore gamers with an evil plan, has raised an army of the undead to win the game for themselves. Written by
The name of the restaurant they eat at when Cass announcers they're all going to Gencon is called the AFK Cafe. AFK is gamer speak for Away from Keyboard, and refers to the time when a gamer steps away from his keyboard but leaves the game running. See more »
Though initially dismissive of customizable card games and its player base, when the abrasive Cass meets beautiful gamer girl Natalie he enters a tournament for the CCG Romance of the Nine Empires in order to wrangle a date from her. In an alternate reality, the heroic princess Myriad searches for a way to protect the kingdom of Holden from the wars that rage across the world of Countermay. She begins to suspect, however, that her fate is controlled by something altogether outside of her reality. Will Cass get the girl? Will the land of Holden survive the coming war? The fate of the land of Countermay depends on the outcome of Cass's CCG tournament...or is it the other way around?
For viewers unfamiliar with the previous movies The Gamers and The Gamers:Dorkness Rising (the original movie was more of stand-alone, extended sketch comedy skit than a full-fledged movie, and featured few of the same characters from its two sequels) , the story should be pretty easy to follow, though a few elements may leave some people scratching their heads, and some of the humor might fall a little flat with those who aren't familiar with the gaming community and its tropes. Also, it should be noted that this is a low budget, Kickstarter-funded production, so the production values might be lower than what most viewers are used to which could be a turn-off.
For returning fans, while Dorkness Rising focused on nice guy Lodge and his frustrations with both his dysfunctional role-playing group and a case of writer's block, Hands of Fate shifts its focus to the ultimately good-hearted jerk Cass. There's also a larger focus on the real world plot than there was in the last movie. I think Cass is an entertaining lead protagonist, so these aren't problems so much as things to be aware of.
If you're hoping for a continuation of the story-within-a-story that was the focus of Dorkness Rising, you'll be disappointed, as one of the sub-plots of Hands of Fate is the fact that the gaming group can't seem to get together to play. Instead, we get to see into the world of Romance of the Nine Empires, a fictional CCG, and its inhabitants are their own entities rather than the extension of their players in the real world. This is a negative, in my opinion. It's not that the CCG world is any less engaging than the RPG world was, it's just that the fantasy storyline was never the point in the first place--it was the dynamic of seeing the characters switching back and forth between their real and fantasy personas that made the whole thing fun. Unfortunately that's mostly absent here.
As far as the acting is concerned, I thought the the main cast was pretty good. Brian Lewis as main character Cass did a great job, and takes a character that was originally designed as kind of an antagonist in Dorkness Rising and turns him into a relatable protagonist. One of my favorite performances is actually Scott C. Brown as Leo--while Leo was new to RPGs, he's actually experienced in CCGs, so his character gets to transform from fumbling newb to wise master, and I thought he was able to pull it off without it seeming like we were looking at a new character with the same face.
Some of the less prominent acting can be a little hit or miss around the edges which is to be expected since the cast seems to be fleshed out a bit with amateur actors. What might be a problem to some viewers though is understanding when the acting is bad on purpose, such as when a character in the movie is himself playing a character and is meant to be bad at it. For instance, there's a sequence where a number of people are Live Action Role Playing, a sequence filled with bad deliveries and cheesy speeches--but they're supposed to be that way. I can see how some people might not get it if they're not really understanding what they're looking at.
I do have a few nitpicks, mostly it just seems like a little more finesse could have been used. Sometimes Checkov's gun is set on the mantle a little too obviously, or points where I feel an emotional payoff for a storyline seemed a little too calculated. The one major problem I had was with the plot for the Gary character--it starts off amusingly silly but then goes off into a really darkly absurd place that's out of sync with the rest of the movie--while still being treated as just slightly kooky.
In all, don't let the low budget or the niche genre nature of the material turn you off to the movie--it's a funny, smart movie about gamers. Sometimes they antagonize each other, sometimes they have different ideas on how things should be played, but at the end of the day they are there because they love gaming.
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