Due to the massive success of the Steam service, it looks like Valve completely stopped with the making of the games. That’s why the announcement of another game by Valve made quite an impact a few years ago. Unfortunately, the impact turned to a wave of disappointment upon finding out they’re doing a card game which is a tie-in for Dota 2. However, the finished product seems to be worthy of Valve’s reputation.
Artifact is apparently made to be a contender among digital card games, taking inspiration from DOTA 2 and other MOBA games with the three-lane system. This innovative element might be daunting for new players to learn the ropes since it differs greatly from the usual DCG gameplay.
Like in all others digital TCG games, the main objective is to build the best deck in order to crush your enemies, see them flee before you and hear the lamentations of their women. Oh, sorry, that’s Conan. The game is won in one of two ways: you either kill two of three towers, or kill one tower and it’s ancient outright. Each tower has two health bars, with the second one representing the ancient, with double the health of the tower. You should keep in mind that the second tower has immunity to damage in the first turn, so you cannot pile-up a damage on it and forget about it.
Every turn consists of five phases. At the beginning of the game, players will skip the first phase, where you usually buy items with gold earned from killing creeps and heroes, and their units will be deployed for the first wave. At the beginning of each subsequent turn, players will be able to shop for items. The second is a placement phase, in which players put Heroes and creeps onto a corresponding lane, and then their position rearranges randomly. After that, the players will draw two cards and then begin to play cards on to the left-hand lane, starting with a player who has the initiative. Some cards can affect who will play first, and some players can choose to pass priority. If both players pass there units will attack each other. Units usually attack only the units in front of them, which means that units which have a clear path to the Tower can attack it as well. The cycle repeats for the remaining two lanes, with the exception that every lane has its own mana pool. There is another thing you should pay attention to, and that’s the timer in the bottom right corner. This timer ticks down when you have priority for the turn, regardless which phase you’re in.
Artifact has multiple modes to play, but the game itself doesn’t explain the restrictions for some of the modes. This will probably change during the game’s lifespan. The first of Artifact modes are Gauntlets, which is a basic competitive mode with some special conditions, the one currently running is “Call to Arms Preconstructed”, which gives you 6 preconstructed decks to choose from and try to win as many games in a row until you lose.
As for solo play, Artifact has bot machines, which are good for testing your strategies as you create match-ups. The only flaw is that this mod doesn’t take human thought into account.
Social play modes feature Open Play, Challenge a friend and Tournaments. Casual Play is an easy multiplayer mode and it gives you Global Matchmaking (unranked), Casual Constructed, where you choose a deck and play until five wins or two loses, and Casual Phantom Draft. For a real challenge, there is Expert Play mode, where every event is ranked and requires event tokens and booster packs. The modes are Expert Constructed, Phantom Draft and Keeper Draft.
Artifact is not a free-to-play game and has a prize attached, and buying the game will give you two decks to play with which are Green/Red and Blue/Black. Additionally, you will receive ten “Call to Arms” set packs, which usually cost 2$ to buy, without discount when buying multiple packs at the same time. You can also earn packs as rewards for winning games in Expert Play modes. Packs consist of 12 randomized cards, but you have a guaranteed hero, two items and at least one rare card. Cards you obtain in Booster Packs can be sold on the Steam Community Market Place, but there is still no option what to do when you open a duplicate hero in a booster pack. However, Valve announced that they will change that during the next week, and that duplicate starter Heroes will be converted into event tickets for other modes. There are other improvements coming, but it isn’t announced what they will be.
Artifact is obviously very ambitious, but also very intricate and complex game. The MOBA 3-lane system is a refreshment in the execution and it branches out your tactical prowess, as well as planning the simultaneous maneuvers on the field. All in all, Artifact is a serious candidate to topple down the Hearthstone from the throne of the best digital TCG, and will this game do it, remains to be seen in the days to come.