Valve have been drip-feeding us details about the return of Artifact, but now they've opened the flood gates. The latest blog post about their card 'em up digs into all sorts of nuances, from revamped mana curves to fiddly initiative rules. They're also muttering about a ranked progression system similar to Dota Underlords', and a singleplayer campaign that will continue the story from the Call To Arms comic.
"Campaign" could mean a lot of things. This could be a tiny sideshow, with some barebones interaction between Dota's wizards - but a fair bit of love went into that Call To Arms comic, so who knows. It's about gruff war folk betraying each other and doing big sieges, with a focus on Legion Commander. Valve say the new campaign will help teach new players the game.
It sounds like it might be handy for returning players, too. They've fiddled with turn-taking, and I'm struggling to wrap my head around exactly how the new system works:
"The initiative rules haven't changed much, but the implications are different due to the round being shared across lanes. Players still take turns performing actions until both players pass in a row, and then you go to combat. This sequence continues across rounds, so while you can't control initiative across lanes you can still do so across rounds. There are more rounds per game, although each round is shorter. And 'Get Initiative' spells still exist, although they have been renamed to 'Quick.'
I THINK that means you'll want to think carefully about whether you play the last card in a round, because that means your opponent will get to go first on the next one. Maybe. It's hard to get a clear picture without the game in front of me.
The changes to mana are a bit clearer. Every action now costs at least one mana, while "costs have been reduced for low-end and mid-tier cards, but high-end cards remain expensive". You're dipping into the same mana pool to use across all three lanes, giving you a bit more control over which lanes to focus on. Oh, and the arrows that determine which enemy a unit is going to attack now "point forward by default but can be modified temporarily". That's a huge dollop of randomness being excised, which sounds appealing until I think about how subverting that randomness was integral to the game. I hope Valve know what they're doing.
They're also giving players profiled with new bells and whistles, "letting people track statistics about the games they've played, view match histories, and watch replays". There'll be a new ranked system too, which Valve hope will "provide people with goals to aim for" and "a meaningful way to measure yourself against other players". They've already made a big deal about how you'll earn cards through playing rather than buying, this time. Climbing a ladder should be much more appealing when I know I'm not playing against people who've bought themselves rungs with more grip.
I just dipped back in to remind myself how olde Artifact worked, and remembered just how much more enticing I find this than Legends Of Runeterra. Artifact is the gorgonzola to Runeterra's cheddar: rich and punchy, rather than satisfactory beige.
Still no word on when they'll let people have a go.