ARTIFACT IS AN INTRICATE AND REWARDING CARD GAME. $27.95 | PC | store.steampowered.com
MUCH HAS BEEN made of Artifact’s complexity. It’s certainly true that a lot of the game’s concepts will be new to even seasoned card game players. The three lane setup, which I’ve touched upon, certainly falls into this category. Artifact also has a DOTA- inspired item system – every turn, there’s a purchasing phase where players can spend gold earned from hero and creep kills on items to buff up their heroes. And then there’s the ‘initiative’ mechanic, which sees players trade actions back-and-forth hot potato style, with the last player to act ceding their initiative to the opponent when play moves to the next lane.
All that said, I’m not sure Artifact’s learning cure is as massive as some are making out. The tutorial, while on the brief side, does a good job of explaining the basics of how to play. I wasn’t 100 percent on all of the nuances after I’d finished training, but I definitely knew enough to muddle through. It helps that Artifact’s turn structure follows a predictable rhythm, with hero deployment, item-shopping at the end, and rounds of combat in each of the three lanes in between. I got the hang of things quite quickly.
Valve has done a great job crafting Artifact’s visuals, too. Mischievous imps dart around the board, shipping the decks from lane to lane, wincing when your life total is low and guffawing when you apply the lethal blow. The interface is strong too. Information about cards is very easy to access: a quick double click will blow one up to full screen, where you can read the description more clearly, and mouse over any unknown keywords to quickly get their definition.
Value for money, I’m well aware, is going to be a big factor for many looking to buy the game. But the strength of the design will be enough to keep me hooked. Not only is Artifact’s depth remarkable, it also doesn’t come at any great loss of accessibility. I’m excited to see the metagame develop over the coming weeks and months.