The first big Artifact update is out, slapping new decks on the table and letting people chat while they use them. There are no new cards in Valve's CCG, but fans of the Call To Arms mode - where everyone dukes it out with pre-constructed cards - might be pleased to see two new decks. That's not my jam, but the new Pauper tournaments where expensive cards are forbidden just might be. I'm most intrigued by the new chat wheel though, which lets me tease opponents using my unit's voices.
We've also got bot gauntlets, leaderboards, colourblind support and more. None of that's especially interesting to me, but hey - a "skill-based progression system" is coming next week!
Social features are the focus of this update, providing new ways to interact with people that don't involve chucking wizards at them. Holding 'Y' over any unit now pops up a voice-acted dialogue wheel, letting you choose whichever line seems most appropriately sarcastic. I wondered if that sort of thing hadn't been included for fear the features would be used maliciously, but nah - you can mute people with one button press, and I think there's an upper limit on the toxicity of spamming voice lines anyway. I haven't seen any lines that are straight up insults. It's a tool that lets you flick people's ears, not insinuate stuff about their mums.
There is also just straight up chatting now, though you can decline the message request if you'd (fairly) rather not risk it. I'll be interested to see if the backdrop of hostility I associate with online multiplayer manifests in 1v1.
As well as those two new Call To Arms decks, that mode now lets you queue with a random deck. It's also got leaderboards which track your win streaks. That's a weird thing to focus on, in my mind - a win/loss ratio would be a much more accurate reflection of performance.
Elsewhere, you can play gauntlet runs against bots, where you try to win five games before you lose two of them. I find removing a human mind takes most of the fun along with it, but if you want a low-stress place to practice then sure, knock yourself out. Here are the patch notes in full.
I closed my Artifact review by doubting how long I'd keep playing. That doubt hasn't gone away, but nor have the evenings I've spent with the drafting mode. I've still had games where I've been screwed over by a lack of powerful cards, but at least with drafting I have an equal shot of landing them.
Will this skill-based progression system lure me back towards constructed next week? Will those pauper tournaments? MAYBE.
Artifact is available on Steam for £16/$20/€18, though that's before you start buying more cards.