In Artifact, your goal is to make your way through 40 levels of mayhem without getting destroyed, racking up as many points as possible on the way. Each level consists of a screen filled with a variety of different orbs. These orbs must be isolated by the player. Once 75% of the playing field has been isolated, the level ends, and the player moves on to the score and powerup allocation screen. Score is based on time left in level as well as the degree of isolation.
The player controls the dual-direction Welding Blaster that can be rotated to fire vertically or horizontally. When fired, a welding beam will slowly traverse the screen in 2 directions. Once both ends reach a wall, the playing field will be cut, isolating balls on each side of the beam. However, care must be taken not to hit the orbs, as they will create a feedback surge, damaging the Welding Blaster. Once the Welding Blaster reaches critical damage, it will leave the Artifact, and the game will be over.
For every level a number of new orbs will be added to the game. These can be of any type depending on the level. Early levels will not include any of the most challenging orbs and vice versa. Orbs carry over from every level. This means that as the game progresses, there will be more and more orbs present. To counter this, the player may use the Annihilator Shield to get rid of some of the orbs.