Our Artifact: The Dota Card Game guide contains release date information, confirmed details, and all the rumours and speculation about the direction of the franchise.
Artifact: The Dota Card Game was announced at the Invitational 7 last August, but up until the end of last week we'd heard nothing but radio silence from Valve about their next game in development. Would it be casual or hardcore? Free to play or premium-priced? When would it be released into a market currently dominated by Hearthstone? These questions and plenty of others had gone unanswered for a very long time.
Towards the end of last week though the Artifact hype machine exploded into life, and we now have a great deal of information about what to expect when the game goes live at some point in 2018. While it takes some obvious inspirational clues from Magic The Gathering and Hearthstone, it's clear that Artifact is very much its own thing and when you've been playing card games as long as we have that's very good news indeed.
In this article we've got an overview of the game's background and fundamental gameplay mechanics, along with release date details, monetisation information and plenty more besides. Expect this article to be updated continuously as we approach launch, and when we can start building out gameplay guides to help get you started with Artifact.
If you have any questions or there's anything you'd like to see added to this guide, just let us know in the comments!
UPDATE - 12th MARCH 2018
We've updated our Artifact guide with all of the latest confirmed inforamtion from the recent press hands-on. If there's anything you think we've missed, please let us know in the comments so we can get it added in straight away.
Artifact FAQ and gameplay overview
Let's start with the basics. Artifact is being developed by Richard Garfield, best known for creating the phenomenally successful Magic The Gathering (the game that all but invented the concept of the collectible card game). Garfield first conceived of Magic while studying at college, ultimately dropping out to work full time on the project. Good choice.
As far as content goes, Artifact will feature 280 cards and an impressive 44 heroes at launch. Unlike Magic and Hearthstone, the objective of the game is to manage a total of three boards which represent the three lanes of combat you might be familiar with from MOBA games like Dota. Each lane contains a tower.
Towers begin with 40 points of health and the objective is to do enough damage to these structures to bring them down to zero health. When any tower is destroyed, the controlling player's Ancient is revealed. This has 80 Health.
Your challenge now is to either destroy that Ancient, or destroy a total of two towers. Achieving either of these objectives results in a win for the assailant.
Still with us? Lets move on to how combat actually works in Artifact:
You can fit up to five heroes in a deck, and when a game begins your first three heroes are split across each of these lanes. They'll be accompanied by spawns of "creeps", which in MOBAs are minor minions designed to slow the forward progress of attacking units. When each round of play ends, a pair of extra creeps will spawn in randomly chosen lanes.
Play moves between the three lanes, working from the top to the mid to the bottom lane in turn. Once the bottom lane turn has ended, the action moves back to the top lane once again and the cycle continues. Although these boards will largely act as independent entities, certain heroes can influence boards other than the one they currently occupy.
Each of the three lanes has its own Mana pool, which starts off at a value of three and increases by one point as each turn plays out. It is possible to use special spells to accelerate this rate of resource gain, however (Hearthstone Druid fans will be very familiar with this concept, of course).
Unlike the individually targeted action of Hearthstone minions, combat is largely automated in Artifact. Your playable units will attack the enemy directly ahead of them or to the diagonal left and right positions. There'll be an element of randomness to the targets that are chosen as well, although we've heard reassuring noises that RNG is very limited in the game.
Finally, there are no limits to the number of minions you can have active in any given lane. If your board presence is wider than the screen real estate allows, then you'll be able to scroll left and right to view any action that's currently obscured. Have no doubt this is a deeply complex game that will require you to manage a lot of information.
Let's talk about deck building for a moment. We know the following things about Artifact deck-building based on the recent press hands-on event:
- Decks will consist of 40 cards in total.
- They will include 5 heroes - equivalent to the number of heroes in a Dota match.
- You will be able to include three copies of any given card in a single deck. This presumably excludes hero cards, but this has not been confirmed.
Alongside the 280 core cards, there are 44 heroes to take into battle in Artifact. Here's the lowdown on what we know about them so far:
Hero characters are separated into four distinct categories known as “suits”:
- Black - Heroes that are capable of interacting with other boards in sneaky ways.
- Blue - These are your more mage-like creatures, which become more powerful later on in the game.
- Green - Support heroes that help restore and empower other combat characters.
- Red - Tough, warrior like heroes designed for a melee offensive
When constructing a deck, you will be able to choose from two suits, and you can have up to five heroes in every deck.
If a hero dies in Artifact, it returns after an absence of one turn, and can be deployed to a lane of your choosing. Note, however, that green heroes can actually return faster than this thanks to a special resurrect ability that brings them back into play on the next turn.
The “land” system in Artifact is quite interesting as well. Your heroes each have their own associated spells, and you won't be able to cast those spells on a given game board unless you have that corresponding hero in place.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Certain cards can be used to affect game boards other than the one the hero in questions is currently sitting on on. It'll be interesting to see how this affects the overall strategy of the game, and as with all sections of this guide we'll have more for you just as soon as we can get our hands on the info!
Thanks to some solid internet sleuthing, we now have a list of confirmed heroes for Artifact. Make sure you take a look at that article for an idea of who's new for the franchise, and who's making the journey over from Dota 2 to Valve's new franchise.
Hero item slots
Heroes will each have three item slots. One of these slots is for equipping a weapon, the other is for a piece of armour, and the final slot is for a health boost of some kind. Again, more details will become available in time and we'll update this section when we know more.
You can buy new items for your hero at the end of each third turn, and you'll earn currency by destroying creeps and heroes (and certain cards will actually allow you to accrue Gold at a faster rate).This purchasing window happens at the end of the bottom lane turn, and before the game cycles back up to the top lane once again.
Something to be aware of is that if a hero dies, they retain all of their equipment when they return to the game board. You don't need to worry about losing any of your awesome gear, and falling behind in terms of resourcing.
Will Artifact be free to play?
Of all the information that came out of the reveal event, most notable of all is the fact that Artifact will not be free to play. Although the exact details of how the game will be monetised are still a little obscure, the team wants to avoid a pay-to-win scenario for Artifact, and so you'll be able to purchase cards directly from the Steam marketplace.
In addition, you'll be highly incentivised to track down bargains on the store, and there'll be a far greater emphasis on buying cards from Valve and from other players, and selling cards on the marketplace too. In other words, trading's expected to be a big part of Artifact, and an area of the game you'll need to master every bit as much as the fundamental strategy of the game and individual deck archetypes.
What game modes are available in Artifact?
There will be a number of different game modes in Artifact, including a draft mode and a sealed deck mode. The precise details of what these modes will entail wasn't outlined at the event. Hopefully we'll hear a little more about how these will work in a future announcement.
What we do know at the time of publishing is that there will not be a single-player component to Artifact. There will be a tutorial to teach you the ins and outs of the game though - a good thing if you ask us, as it certainly sounds more complicated than the average CCG!
How will Artifact's tournaments work?
In much the same way that Dota 2's Compendium system funds tournaments for that game, a similar system will be in place for Artifact. A certain amount of the revenue generated from the game will feed directly into the esports scene, although the exact form and function of this funding hasn't really been explained yet.
Valve has stated that it will take all of the lessons learned from tournaments for Dota 2, CS: GO and so on, and use this experience to inform the development of Artifact's competitive scene. The developers also plan to allow spectators to browse competitor's decks and stats while events are actually taking place.
(For a closer look at Artifact's artwork, make sure you check out our page dedicated to Artifact screenshots and official artwork - we'll be updating it continuously over time!)
What engine does Artifact run on?
Artifact has been created using the Source 2 engine. Valve enthusiasts may recall that this is the engine that Dota 2 was ported to a few years ago. In other words, expect some seriously pretty gameplay when Artifact lands on your PC.
What's the release date for Artifact?
Artifact is still expected to be released on the PC platforms at some point in 2018, with a mobile version to follow towards the middle of 2019. We know that certain professional players have already gone hands-on with the game, and we'd be surprised if there wasn't a more public-orientated beta between now and the game's launch. There's a lot of data to crunch when it comes to balancing a game like Artifact, after all.
When we have an official statement from Valve on either the Artifact beta or the launch itself we'll update this section of our guide. In the meantime, take a look at our Artifact release date page for a little speculation on the likely launch window for the game.
When is Artifact coming to iOS and Android?
On the subject of the game's engine, it's intriguing to note that Artifact will be making its way to iOS and Android platforms towards the middle of 2019. This will be the first use of Source 2 on mobile devices.
Will Artifact have Workshop support?
Unlike other Valve games that facilitate modding, there will be no Workshop support for the game at launch. Whether that changes over time is something we'll just have to wait and see on.
Is there going to be an Artifact beta?
We don't yet know if there'll be a beta for Artifact, although we would be surprised if there wasn't some period of testing outside of the publisher's walls. Valve has used betas for other games in the past, after all, and so it's not exactly a new approach for the publisher.
Every major collectible card game released in recent years, such as Hearthstone, Elder Scrolls Legends and Gwent has also had a pretty significant period of closed and open beta testing in the run-up to launch as well.
Card game interactions and tightly woven metas generate a huge amount of balancing data, and while Valve will no doubt have the means to conduct simulated testing on a grand level, there's no substitute for getting hard and fast feedback on card balance from a large number of live games - not to mention individual player feedback.
We do know that certain prominent members of the CCG community have already been invited to playtest the game, and before the press reveal that took place in March 2018.
What's the background of Artifact?
Artifact is themed heavily around Valve's Dota universe. If you don't know your jungle from your creeps, here's a quick overview of Artifact's direct inspiration. It may well be we can deduce some gameplay clues from this comparison.
- Dota is a free to play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Given the competition from the likes of free to play games like Hearthtone, we would be very surprised if Artifact didn't follow this same revenue model.
- Two teams of five compete to occupy and defend a series of lanes across the map.
- At each end of the map, a team's base lies ready to be conquered. The team that manages to reach the base, destroy its defenses and turn it into rubble wins the match.
- As players fight enemy heroes and enemy defenses, they gain experience points and items that enhance their combat performance.
- Dota has a large number of hero characters (113 at the time of publication), each with their own defining hero abilities. Might Artifact place a greater emphasis on unlocking new heroes, rather than individual cards?
- There is a huge annual tournament known as The Invitational. Expect similar competitive tournament support for Artifact, if not at launch then in the months and years following its release.
- Dota heroes are separated into roles such as “carry” and “support”. The former focus on gaining experience to become more powerful over time, while the others provide utility and healing. It's likely we'll see a similar segregation of character types in Artifact.
- In Dota - and many other games of its kind - the character who gets the last hit on an enemy hero or creep gets all the rewards. It remains to be seen whether Artifact will have a shared resource system, or will carry on this “last-hitting” system.
That's the end of the second edition of our Artifact guide. Don't forget to let us know your own thoughts and speculation on the game in the comments!