Artifact is the first game announced by Valve after Dota 2. Despite being a game developer, they have not had many games to show post-2013. The initial announcement during TI6 created a lot of excitement and hype around Artifact. The game is hotly debated in several Dota 2 communities and there are whispers of pros playing the game regularly.
Still in Closed beta Artifact borrows heavily from the Dota 2 universe. The synergy between the games is definitely visible as the lore, the universe and the storyline are interwoven together. Artifact is not your traditional card game, it has a level of complexity and layers of difficulty to it.
Artifact will contribute heavily to the Dota 2 universe adding layers to the storylines already forming in Dota 2. Valve recently invited several industry veterans to their office for a private unveiling of the game. Valve assisted the reporters to get a first-hand experience of the game which is still in beta.
First Mobile Source 2 Game
Artifact is going to be the first game on Source 2 to be played on Mobile. Valve released Source 2 in 2015 and till now Dota 2 has been the only game to use the Source 2 engine. Artifact utilizes the full prowess of the source 2 engine. There are beautiful 3D graphics, card animations through the game.
The most interesting tidbit of the day is that Valve has their Source 2 engine running on mobile hardware. They also have DOTA 2 running on a tablet. Doing anything with this beyond using it to bring Artifact to mobile isn’t something anyone at Valve is focused on currently.
— Eli Hodapp 🚀 WWDC (@hodapp) March 9, 2018
Valve has been working hard on ensuring the efficiency of the Source 2 engine. While Artifact is playable via Source 2 on mobile, some users report that Valve has managed to make Dota 2 playable on a tablet as well. This is definitely a big leap forward for the game and the engine as well.
What is Artifact?
Artifact is not the same as Blizzard’s Hearthstone. There are various differences in the games despite Gabe Newell acknowledging Hearthstone as the benchmark in card trading games.
Gabe Newell has 10,000 hours on Dota 2. Once we get past that data, we realize the intricacies of the developers choosing and developing Artifact. Artifact is a marriage between Dota 2 and Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner. The complexities of the game make it much more difficult than a regular card trading game.
Valve has planned in-game trading to be an integral part of the game and rarities will directly translate into the cost of a card. The rarity of a card will depend on its availability in your deck.
It’s a Paid game
Artifact will be going straight to the esports section to help boost its popularity. Much like Dota 2, Artifact will arrive with a $1 million prize pool tournament. The game which draws heavily from the Dota 2 universe was never intended to be a Dota 2 subset. The developers chose from the best possible universe which could have been from TF2 as well. However, seeing as the Dota universe best suited the Artifact game, they proceeded to use the Dota 2 universe.
Artifact will heavily expand the lore and storyline of Dota 2. The lore from the games will be mutually adding to the Dota universe. Valve recently held a presentation for upcoming Dota 2-themed card game Artifact at Valve’s offices. Players who played the game in Bellevue, Washington reported three new heroes within the game.
— DOTABUFF (@DOTABUFF) March 9, 2018
In this release, the three new heroes appear to be:
- Sorla Khan, Axe’s replacement in the Red Mist Army
- Kanna, the shadowy horned creature with little to no history as of yet
- Rix, a wolf-like fighter with alleged ties to Legion Commander
The characters keep using the Dota 2 voice lines as well as additional voice lines prepared specifically for the game. There is a lot of lore added as characters talk about different events and the places they have been to.
Our writer is really great and has already pushed a lot of that story into Dota patches that have shipped to set the stage for what we’re doing.
Jepp Barnett to PCGamesN
There are a lot of abilities and talents similar to that in Dota 2. There have been new abilities created which interact with each other similar to that in Dota 2. 
How will it Play out?
The access to the game is extremely limited with about 40 players playing the game right now. There is still lots of work to do with regards to the spectating experience as well as adding new content to the game.
At the presentation, Valve allowed the users to play the game. There were no restrictions on the release of information so we have a lot of data on our hands. Quoting several aspects from the PCGamer Artifact Guide, we have the following points available.
- Each deck contains 40 cards and includes 5 heroes (which is the same as a Dota 2 team). There will be 280+ cards in the base game. There are 44 heroes. You can include three copies of each card in your deck.
- Your cards and heroes are selected from four possible colors: Red, Green, Black, and Blue. As per Magic, each color has its own personality which themes what its cards do accordingly.
- At the beginning of the game, your first three heroes will be deployed evenly into the three lanes (which are essentially game boards), along with some randomly spawned melee creeps. After each round, two more creeps will spawn in random lanes on each players’ side.
- Each lane contains a tower which has 40 health which you must protect. Lose two towers and the game is over. Once a tower is destroyed, it’s replaced by the Ancient, which has 80 health. Destroy an Ancient and you also win the game.
- Heroes that are killed aren’t gone for good, they just have to sit out an entire round, after which you can choose which lane to redeploy them in. (An exception here is a green hero who has a ‘rapid deployment’ ability and can be sent back into the fray in the next round.)
- Each lane also has its own Mana pool, which begins at 3 and increases by 1 with each turn—though you can also use Ramp cards to accelerate your Mana pool. Hey, it’s a Richard Garfield game.
- In order to play a card, you must have a hero of the corresponding colour placed in the lane where you’re spending the mana. However, Mana spent in one lane can be used to cast certain cards in other lanes.
- Each time you play a card of any sort the initiative passes to your opponent. Once you’ve both finished taking it in turns to play cards in a particular lane, combat occurs with heroes and creeps attacking whatever is opposite them. If they aren’t facing another unit, they will attack the opposing tower.
- After combat, the action then switches to the next lane. The idea of the player initiative is carried over to the next round, which ends when you’re both done in the third and final lane.
- As enemy cards are destroyed you will accrue gold. Certain cards can also affect gold generation, such as black’s ‘Day at the Track’ which doubles your gold total. Gold is spent on equipment between rounds during the Shopping Phase.
- Only heroes can use equipment, and each hero has three slots: weapon, armor, and accessory. If you want to use a different weapon it will overwrite the current one.
- Equipment varies from cheap simple buffs like a cloak which gives your hero +1 health through to powerful, expensive stuff like the Apotheosis Dagger which adds +8 attack, +4 siege (tower damage that can’t be blocked), and condemns (ie kills) any enemy it hits.
- Importantly, equipment on characters is persistent. So buffed heroes will keep coming back with their upgraded stats and abilities.
What does it mean for Dota 2?
Artifact borrows heavily from Dota 2 rather than vice versa. While the initial time on Artifact will be regarding borrowing lore from Dota 2, there are going to be several new characters and storylines added to the game. This will help us understand the Dota 2 universe in more detail and help fill certain gaps right now.
Apart from the sharing the same universe, Artifact is also the only other game to be played on the Source 2 engine. It will help pave the way for potential development of more mobile-based games by Valve. With the promise of future Dota 2 heroes to be announced first on Artifact, there is a lot of mutual exploration of data.
Artifact is not a free game, quite unlike Dota 2. It is scheduled for a release towards the end of 2018, with a $1 million tournament slated for 2019. Will Valve be successful with their first post-Dota 2 game?