TI7 is over, Patch 7.06f is here, and there’s not much pro Dota going on right now. As we bask in the glory of The International, it’s a good time to turn our attention towards Artifact, Valve’s new Dota-based card game, and figure out whether or not it will be able to take on Hearthstone.
If you missed the announcement, there’s a new game from Valve in the works. Here’s the teaser they aired during TI7.
There’s not a whole lot of information about Artifact out there. Day mentioned a couple mechanics and features during the TI7 broadcast — it’ll involve three boards (likely meant to represent lanes), and feature heroes and other characters from the Dota universe.
Can Artifact dethrone Hearthstone?
Hearthstone isn’t the most exciting spectator sport, in my opinion. While there are plenty of extremely popular Hearthstone streamers, the screen is fairly static–cards have effects and animations, but not much else. The actual board is nothing visually special. I used to watch Hearthstone streamers when I wanted to wind down for the night, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t get people going like a good Dota match.
One area that Artifact may be able to challenge Hearthstone is with an improved Spectator Mode, much like we have with Dota. Where Hearthstone offers the option to spectate from a certain player’s perspective, Artifact could offer the option to watch both/all players. (Keep in mind that we don’t know if Artifact is a 1v1 card game or team-based.) Viewers could be able to see all players’ hands, perhaps as well as the players’ mouse movements. There could even be a toggle option for viewers to be able to see what’s coming up next in the deck. This might keep the game more exciting, especially if Valve puts a lot of effort into designing the graphics for the board and deck.
Hearthstone is prohibitively expensive if you want to be competitive. I tried playing for a while and spent about $20 on the game before I lost interest. Even using free or low-cost deckbuilding guides, I wasn’t able to put together anything particularly good. Without paying, I was limited to games against the AI (and some of the bosses during the campaign events were nigh impossible to beat). We don’t know yet how Artifact will be monetized, but Valve could easily capitalize on this major failing of Hearthstone by making Artifact less cash-dependent. The excessive grinding and punishing monetization structure of Hearthstone is Blizzard’s Achilles’ heel.
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Full disclosure, I haven’t opened up Battle.Net in months, but the last time I tried to play Hearthstone, the game’s meta was in a truly dire state. If there’s one thing that IceFrog and, by proxy, Valve, does well, it’s balance Dota. A card game with the same level of thoughtful design would be quite the formidable adversary to Hearthstone. Unfortunately, we don’t know yet if IceFrog is involved with Artifact.
I’ve been told that online Magic: The Gathering is hindered by terrible coding. It’s clunky and slow, and even hardcore MTG fans aren’t super into it. I tried Magic 2014, and it definitely didn’t run smoothly on my PC. Hopefully Artifact won’t be subject to as many bugs every time the game is patched, although that probably depends on if they’re going to include a Rubick card.
As far as personal interest goes, I’m far more interested in Artifact at the moment because I’m far more interested in Dota’s visual style. Give me Crystal Maiden over Jaina any day of the week. I’m speculating a bit in this article about the actual gameplay, as we don’t know very much about the specifics yet, but you get the idea. Valve may be able to take the key areas that Hearthstone fails in and make Artifact stand out as a viable competitor.