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Cards on the table: Artifact is out

Dota but cards

I've already played a little, but I'm not yet sure whether Valve and Richard Garfield's 'Dota but cards' game Artifact is going to consume my every waking thought, or if I'll bounce off it like hard cheese. One of those two.

I'm about to find out, because it just launched on Steam.

Yep, there's a new Valve game out in the wild. I don't get to write that every week.

Artifact takes Dota 2's heroes and its three-lane dynamic, and turns them into a bewilderingly complex card game that promises to be deeper than any TCG you ever did see. I played a few matches in the beta, and I can attest to that not being empty marketing.

Here's what it looks like - when Valve try to make it seem as unintimidating as possible.

It warms my heart to see a big red axeman transcend physical existence by leaping into a blazing white rectangle that just fell from the sky. That takes Axe to a plane where battles involve numbers more overtly, and gremlins dance across an in-fiction game that represents key moments in Dota-land being altered by time-bending wizards. That's explained in this prelude comic, and this launch day one.

I've only played a few matches, so I'm still craning my neck up at a fittingly Dota-esque learning curve. You get one hand of cards to take care of three lanes, and win by either knocking over a tower on two of 'em or doubling down on one lane to drub up an Ancient. That structure forms the bottom of a teetering pile of equipment, consumables, lane upgrades and hero abilities that's constantly threatening to topple over and crush you.

Guidesman Dave has had longer to dig himself out of the rubble, and has plenty of advice on how to go about that yourself.

To get started you'll need to fork up £16/€18/$20, which nets you two decks, ten packs of random cards, and five “event tickets” to enter competitive modes to win more cards. If you do well enough in events you can earn earn another ticket, though I wouldn't count on that at first.

More money can (and likely will) be spent on additional card packs and event tickets, as well as individual cards from the Steam Community Market. The monetisation model is reportedly less stingy than planned, though I still see a money chasm opening up before me.

Here's the Steam page.

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