Lanes within lanes...

So, I played Artifact

iOS/Android (coming in 2019), PC/Mac/Linux (available now) •

Artifact, if you’re not aware, is the latest digital CCG to hit the market, this time from streaming bigwig, Valve. While playing Civ VI on my laptop, I was inundated with ads for the game [there was one, and it was only when he logged in -ed.] and, [being a simpleton -ed.] couldn’t resist. After playing through the two tutorial matches I can only say one thing for certain: I’m not a huge fan of CCGs.

That’s not saying anything bad about Artifact. As I mentioned, I played the two tutorial games vs. AI and that was it. What convinced me that the game wasn’t for me was what happened after those tutorial games. That’s when you’re dumped at the standard CCG menu of playing against others via ranked or casual games or a Hearthstone-like Arena mode called Call of Arms in which you get a random deck and then see how many matches you can last before losing. That’s when I lost interest and went back to Civ VI. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know, but the CCG model of 1v1 PvP matches, deck-building, unlocking cards, buying cards, etc. just isn’t doing it for me.

So, apart from my dislike for the entire CCG model, how is Artifact? Pretty cool, actually. It’s lane based, but there are lanes within lanes, which is something I’ve never seen before. There are hero cards as well as “creeps” which are basically just weaker monsters that heroes can bring along with them. Heroes have a color associated with them and only creeps of that color can be summoned into the same lane as that hero, thus it pays to have heroes of different colors in each lane.

There are also spells that work like spells in just about every other CCG as well as other effects that you can play on a single lane and trigger when something happens, such as earning gold after every combat phase or dealing damage to all enemies before the turn begins.

So, it’s a lot like other CCGs, but that lane thing sets it apart. Let’s discuss. Basically, you’re playing three separate card games at once, one in each lane. Within each of those lanes are lanes where cards are actually played. Cards without a card opposite will deal their damage to the opponent’s tower. Each mega-lane has a tower and the game is won by the player who destroys two of their opponent’s towers first.

Graphically, the game is incredible. Cards are zooming and flying about and there are two cute little dragons helping along the way. Not sure if those dragons hang out in regular games or are only there for the tutorials, but I kind of liked having them about. If there’s a downside, it’s the same downside I have with other digital card/board games for which I don’t have an intimate knowledge of the rules. There’s a lot happening between hands here with cards flying about, icons everywhere, arrows pointing every-which-way, and I, honestly, wasn’t sure what the hell was going on. I’m sure I’d pick it up eventually, but I have to admit I wasn’t sure where my cards were coming from or what the hell was happening most of the time. I still won both tutorial games, so hooray!

I’m not writing this as a condemnation of CCGs or as a review of Artifact. I used to love playing Hearthstone, but lost interest when I couldn’t keep up with the meta and all the new cards flooding in. I feel like I should love a game like this, getting some good strategic and tactical decisions out of my brain and finishing a game in minutes instead of days. As for reviewing Artifact, as I said I’ve only dabbled against a horrifically weak (on purpose) AI and that’s it. I haven’t looked at how you earn cards or what the monetization is like (you have to pay $20 just to download the game, so I’m hoping new cards are cheap…)

So, why am I writing this? Because I assume some of you are playing Artifact as well. I’d love to hear what you think. What are its pros and cons? Also, if we can get a (very)  casual SP group going where I don’t have to play total strangers, maybe I’d give it a chance. You never know. Let’s talk it up in the comments and see where this goes. I know the lack of a mobile version is a detriment to getting regular matches going around here, but an iOS/Android version is slated for early 2019. I can wait if need be.

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Notable Replies

  1. I am enjoying the free draft modes and the non-rat race F2P card collection grind. Having the steam marketplace attached helps. No in between currencies to cloud costs

    That said, the games are long.

  2. I rarely use PC and when I do I prefer dedicated clients to download platforms. I’m looking forward to this game but I am holding out for iOS.

  3. I’m still on the fence. I don’t feel like I grasp what makes a good deck, even looking at some of the net decks out there. And to go the abhorrent route of net decking a midrange deck would sink me at least another £20.

    Maybe I’ll luck out with the expert phantom draft and get a few free packs.

  4. Kolbex says:

    How long we talking?

  5. Most of mine have been 20-30 min so far.

  6. Pretty much the same, 20-30mins. Might get quicker, but that end around turn 7 or 8 most games.

    Which is
    7-8*3 turn phases consisting of I go you go until a double pass
    A buy phase
    A placement phase

    A lot of stuff going on

  7. What is the RNG like in this game? I despise RNG in competitive card games like this. RNG absolutely killed Hearthstone for me.

  8. I don’t remember any in the two games I played. Of course, I’ve probably seen about 2% of that cards…

  9. RNG kicks in the most in the deployment phase.
    Creeps seem like they’re added to random lanes (might be formulaic, seems random to me).
    The placement of those heros and creeps deployed that turn in those lanes is also random.
    Each hero or creep without an enemy on the opposite side to block will also get a random targeting card, targeting directly ahead or to one of the slots to the left or right.
    (plenty of cards to negate a lot of this randomness from the common tier on up).

    Outside of that there’s a few cards with a “target random creep/minion/hero” or “move to random lane” sort of effects.
    And of course, what cards you draw from your deck each turn (think each player draws 3 cards a turn by default)

  10. That seems mild. And even though it is technically random, I don’t consider card draw to be RNG, at least not in the way that I object to. As long as there is minimal “do 5 random damage” or “summon a beast” or “summon a random legendary…” or any of that garbage, I’m probably ok with it.

  11. I’m glad you kind of understood what was happening. I saw all those arrows and cards and had no clue what to make of it. The arrows were probably the biggest…I couldn’t figure out what all the arrows meant and didn’t realize that a creature’s targeting was based on that.

  12. Theres also a wee bit of guaranteed information about your opponents deck, as each hero you pick has a set of 3 cards guaranteed to be in the deck (so 15 total cards you can know for sure will appear for your opponent).

  13. Haven’t seen any “summon a random rare card” type of cards so far. Not saying they don’t exist, just haven’t seen em in the 10ish games I’ve played so far or decks I’ve checked out online.

  14. Kolbex says:

    I read in a Steam review that there are also “coin flip” cards, though I don’t know in what context.

  15. There’s a card that moves one of your heroes from a lane, relentless pursuit maybe? A couple like that. Slightly cheaper but adds an element of risk.

    Guaranteed effects are slightly more expensive.

    But not random HS summon shit.

  16. Giving up after giving it a fair chance over the week.
    Selling all my cards has actually netted me a bonus £8 on top of what I originally paid, so I guess I can’t complain (other than it’s all in Steam credit, instead of back in my bank account)

    I really wanted to like it, but ultimately the matches are too long, and I don’t understand the deck making whatsoever. Drafting I’m even worse. I’ve only won when playing the Event decks.

  17. It is growing on me actually, and I am really enjoying the back and forth.

    No way will I ever get back the full money investment. I have been buying up commons for the “pauper” style future events

  18. I think I’m going to have to punt.

    There’s some interesting ideas, for sure … but, man, what a slog. Game time is 20 minutes, minimum. I’m not sure I want/need that from a card-battler.

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