Valve’s ‘Artifact’ is the perfect answer to Hearthstone

Unlike Valve’s other games, which are generally first-person shooters or multiplayer online battle arenas like “Dota 2,” “Artifact” is an in-depth, strategic card game.

“Artifact” is Valve’s first new game in years, and it’s quite different from their normal outing. Based on the ridiculously popular “Dota 2,” “Artifact” is a card game that’s unique, difficult, intriguing and all-around fun.

Unlike Valve’s other games, which are generally first-person shooters or multiplayer online battle arenas like “Dota 2,” “Artifact” is an in-depth, strategic card game. For Valve’s first time in the card game genre, they absolutely knock it out of the park.

One of the greatest things about “Artifact” is the sheer level of depth. Matches are split into three separate boards: left, middle and right lane respectively. Players start on the left board, then work their way through to the end. Each lane has a tower with 40 health. After a tower dies, it becomes an ancient, has double the health of a regular tower. You can destroy two towers or one ancient to win.

Players’ decks can have blue, green, red or black cards; decks also have five heroes of those colors as well. Players can summon a colored hero in any lane they want, but then can only summon cards matching the color of the heroes in the lane. You can place a blue card in a lane where there’s a blue hero, but you can’t place a red card if there’s no red hero in that lane.

Action phases start with one person taking a turn, either placing creeps or using a spell, and then the other player uses one card. This continues until both players attack the other player’s creeps, hero and tower.

Because of this depth, there’s a lot of strategy into deciding where you should place heroes and cards. It can be intimidating at first, but as you play more matches, understanding what cards synergize with other cards becomes second nature.

Despite how difficult it may sound, “Artifact” is a blast to play. The card art and animations are gorgeous. Cards also have a lot of voice lines to interact with other cards, creating a great sense of lore and worldbuilding. Most importantly though, “Artifact” is just enjoyable to play. Outplaying someone and playing a card at the right moment to barely snag a victory is enthralling and addicting.

Thanks to a great tutorial, it’s rather easy to pick up and play. “Artifact” is still a difficult game, but one that is great for any long term fans of the genre and newcomers alike. After the tutorial and a few offline matches against bots, it’s easy to head into online matches and start ranking up.

Players can pick between ranked modes, which cost $1 to enter, and receive entry tickets and packs for winning or players can pick regular modes, where they can craft whatever deck they want and play with friends. There’s also phantom draft, a mode where players are given 60 random cards and get to craft a deck. Phantom draft is great for trying out new cards, and will surely become more useful as more new cards come out.

There is a problem with ranking up — there is currently no matchmaking rank (MMR) system to show players where they rank among others. Also, there’s no good chat system or spectating system yet. There’s no way to watch a friend play a match, which seems like an odd oversight.

On top of that, charging $1 to play in the ranked modes seems a little shady. Granted, after winning a few matches, players will make their money back (and the base $20 game comes with 5 tickets to play ranked), but it seems like Valve is being a little money-hungry at the beginning.

That said, this won’t irritate most players. The ranked modes are for people who are looking to be the absolute best and want to dominate the competition, which doesn’t appeal to as many people as normal, just for fun modes.

There’s also absolutely no free progression, which is upsetting for many hoping to play strictly free after the $20 cost of admission.  Unlike “Hearthstone,” the most popular online card game currently, you won’t receive free cards for playing the game. Instead, you’ll have to fork up $2 to get a card pack with 12 cards.

Players also have the option of buying cards they want on the Steam marketplace. These cards can range from 3 cents, to around $20 for the most expensive cards currently. However, this is pretty standard with physical card games, and may shape up to be cheaper in the long run than something such as “Magic: The Gathering” or the “Pokemon” card game.

This monetization model could become problematic in the future, but it’s currently pretty stable. And, like many physical card games, important cards will cost you a bit. It’s nothing to fret over yet, but this could change as the game evolves.

Fans of card games absolutely need to check out “Artifact.” The monetization issues are currently a bummer, but that doesn’t hinder the experience for most players who won’t be looking to play high ranked matches. Thanks to fresh new mechanics and overall fun gameplay, “Artifact” has quickly become an addictive card game that is sure to eat up a ton of time.

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