Valve has continued to put out updates for Artifact since launch, and the latest puts out the first bunch of balance changes we’ve seen since the massive update in December. But the most notable element in the patch is one thing marked as “unchanged” – Valve is “still in it for the long haul.”

Prospects for the game have seemed grim since launch. Artifact player counts have occasionally dwindled to triple digits, and the value of a card collection has been on a steep downward trend. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Valve to turn around the stats – and player sentiment – and here the studio’s referencing a December tweet that “We’re in this for the long haul.”

The update itself includes a broad set of buffs for items, including a couple of ability boosts and an extensive set of gold cost reductions, which you can see in detail via the full announcement. There are also some new options for private games and tournaments, including speed timers to pick up the pace of play and “Random Two Color” deck options to offer some randomised matches.

Valve was extremely reticent to do balance changes for Artifact early on for fear of disrupting the real-money economy, but the community’s demand for Axe nerfs won out. Now a broader set of balance tweaks are upon us, and it seems Valve is prioritising flexible changes for playability over a stable market. Which is probably for the best.

I was mesmerised by the game’s accessible strategy in our Artifact review, and it ended up as one of our GOTY 2018 picks, as well.

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Despite an excellent core, Artifact has so far failed to draw in new players or hang onto many of the folks that did give it a chance. Here’s hoping Valve figures out the formula to turn things around. It will, indeed, be a long haul.

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