Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Artifact Game Poster Image
Fun but pricey hybrid blends cards and strategy elements.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The ongoing conflict between two opposing factions doesn't indicate one side being better than another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes from both factions are shown as powerful, but not necessarily moral. 

Ease of Play

It takes a while to absorb the rules and understand how to construct effective card decks to help you successfully defeat opponents. 


Combat's the core of the game, but violence is abstract, represented by cards taking hits and being removed from the board when units die. 


Players can get by with the decks included with the game, but players who purchase additional decks are much more competitive.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Artifact is a downloadable collectible card game for Windows PCs. The game has MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) elements based on the popular strategy game, Defense of the Ancients 2. Though the game comes with two starter decks and five card packs, kids will likely want to buy more of both from the in-game shop in order to be more competitive. Violence is mild in the game: Unit damage and death are indicated by flashes of light and the removal of cards, and heroes are resurrected after one turn. Players are rewarded for killing though—one gold for regular units, three gold for heroes. Limited (blockable) chat is available through a list of preselected lines and players can invite friends to chat via Steam.

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What's it about?

ARTIFACT is a strategy game hybrid based on hit online battle arena, Defense of the Ancients (aka DotA). As such, its game board and collectible cards feature fantasy art and characters from that game. The DotA reference goes beyond the mere visual style; gameplay builds on typical turn-based gameplay with various MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) elements, including hero respawns, shopping for items and upgrades, combat advancing via multiple “lanes,” and victory contingent upon destroying your opponent's base. Gameplay's turn-based, takes place across three lanes, and involves several phases: Deployment, Action, Combat, and Shopping. During the first two phases, players choose cards and lay them on the board; when both players are done laying cards, combat happens automatically, rewards for the round are calculated, (players earn gold for kills) and players use their rewards to shop for upgrades from the in-game shop. The game ends when one player destroys two of the other player's Towers or takes down one Tower and the Ancient underneath it. Players can practice deck building in single player solo mode, play for prizes online in Gauntlet mode, or play for glory in player-created Tournaments and a range of other competitive online multiplayer modes.

Is it any good?

Collectible cards games (CCG) are popping up everywhere lately, and though many are well-made and nice to look at, it's easy to mistake one for another. That's unlikely to happen to Artifact, Valve Corporation's new CCG/MOBA hybrid. Well-made and beautiful as it is, its mix of turn-based card gameplay and real-time battle arena mechanics make it a totally new species of strategy animal. At first glance, it might seem that MOBAs and CCGs go together about as well as peanut butter and sardines, but there's many parallels. Both involve strategic thinking and smart “building” to succeed. The approach differs of course -- card game players build decks full of powerful cards before each game; MOBA players build powerful heroes as the game progresses—but success in either means knowing how to plan your moves carefully and thinking ahead. By bringing the three-lane concept into a card game, Valve has effectively multiplied the need for strategic planning and created a dynamism that doesn't exist in other CCGs. That frantic MOBA energy creeps in early as cards affect other lanes and shift among them, combat blasts past your defenses (attacks happen simultaneously rather than one after the other), and your opponent lands hits on multiple Towers. The MOBA madness also makes for some amazing turn-arounds when your downed hero comes back to life, and you get to slap them down right where your opponent will hate it the most.

Valve's struck a good balance here, not only in terms of gameplay, but difficulty as well. New players might feel there's a lot to absorb when it comes to the game rules, but Artifact does a reasonably good job of teaching newbies how to play. Furthermore, Solo mode offers plenty of opportunity to learn the ins and outs of deck and card types before jumping into competitive play. And though experienced CCG players will get up to speed more quickly, there's plenty of competitive play and card-building intricacy to to keep them occupied. Granted, players with more cards build better decks, and cards cost money. Too soon, your kids could be clamoring to spend money on card packs and event tickets (the latter are required to participate in special online events), and due to the Vegas-like nature of card pack purchases (you never know what you're getting and might have to buy a lot of packs before landing a particular rare card), the demand could become never-ending. In addition to that, the game's player base has dwindled due to controversy over Valve's card purchase model. Still, despite shop-related issues, Artifact is a unique, beautiful, entertaining strategy game that -- if you can keep your card pack purchases under control -- is well worth the download.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the gambling aspect of collectible card games. Do your kids understand why buying card packs can be come addictive? 

  • Do games like this offer good value, or are they exploiting players? Can you really enjoy your gaming experience with the basic group of cards that you earn with the game, or do you have to spend money to enjoy the game (or even be competitive)?

  • Do you form your own opinions when it comes to games, or does popular opinion affect how you feel?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $19.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid (Additional card packs sold separately.)
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Valve
  • Release date: November 28, 2018
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: February 26, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strategy

Themes & Topics

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