Solium Infernum Review – Devil and the Details

Solium Infernum Review

Some game genres are evergreen. Take strategy games, for example. Get yourself a strong premise, some bulletproof rules and voilĂ : chess. Or Go. Risk, Battleship, the list is long. When it comes to computer games, strategy titles tend to hold up really well. Solium Infernum originally dates from 2009. Although it wasn’t even popular enough to be a true cult classic, savvy strategy gamers loved it. Now, developer League of Geeks has remade one of the most engaging and unique strategy games of all time. If you thought office politics was hell, you’ll feel right at home. Plus, you get to play as nothing but the bad guys.

In for the Long Haul from Hell

The original Solium Infernum was developed by Victor Davis and Cryptic Comet, and was — and still is — a turn-based strategy game. Just like with the original, you can play vs. AI or against six human players. Because the 2009 version could be played via email, games could last days, weeks or months. An asynchronous option is available in the new version as well. You can set the turn-timer for up to a week.

The premise is elevator-pitch simple: Lucifer has taken a leave of absence from Hell, and there is a power void that needs filling. You play as one of several Archfiends, and your goals are to lie, steal and battle your fellow fiends for prestige, power and control. Maybe even capture and try to hold Hell’s capital, Pandaemonium. In any case, the capsule description only hints at how the game plays.

I’ll give you a brief summary, but even this will be drenched in the game’s specific jargon. You start with a home base Citadel, and use the legion specific to your Archfiend to expand into neighboring cantons (i.e. hexes). Run into an enemy and you can’t just fight it out. There are a number of choices to make regarding conflict. You can demand tribute. You can insult the competing Archfiend, wagering some of your Prestige in the process. If you don’t want to send your legion into battle, you can hire hero proxies called Praetor to do your fighting dirty work.

Add to these systems a card mechanic that changes up the rules, allows for espionage, special events, rituals and other tactics. And there’s more! There’s a full upgrade system for your Archfiends. Of course, there’s also combat, which has a complex, three phase system of its own.

Mission Accomplished: Head Spinning

To dive deeper into the rules and complex strategy would be tedious in a review. Also, I’ll freely admit that, after several hours, I’m really just starting to get comfortable with the systems at play. As a game for casual 4x fans, Solium Infernum is a tough nut to crack. The tutorial throws players into the jargon-filled deep end of the pool. I struggled to come to terms with basics. I wished the game did a much better job of easing new players into the experience.

Once acclimated, though, Solium Infernum really starts to shine as something different. Each turn consists of only two actions, which can be agonizing for strategy or turn-based action fans used to greater choice. This mechanic really pushes players into deep strategizing and chess-like planning.

Not having played the 2009 original, I was expecting a combat-focused game akin to Total War or a Civilization-type 4x experience. Those elements are there for sure, but folded into a much more layered concept.

A Good-Looking Hellscape

When it comes to presentation, Solium Infernum’s cinder-grey and fire red map looks like a beautifully animated tabletop diorama. It’s uniquely global, meaning that you can circle from north to south and come back to where you started. One might wish for a tiny bit more detail or variety in the color palette but that doesn’t suggest that the art is lacking. The cards and characters are striking and infernally beautiful. The music is excellent, and some of the excellent voice acting is actually recorded in an invented, hellish language.

There are three basic modes, including a tutorial, multiplayer or AI-filled campaign and a series of scenarios of various difficulties. For a game that really isn’t dependent on graphics, there are a lot of options to tweak. The package is rounded out by a deep and absolutely essential encyclopedia.

You Can Check Out, But Never Leave

The original 2009 Solium Infernum was a unique take on turn-based strategy. League of Geeks’ 2024 update preserves and polishes what should have been a familiar classic. Solium Infernum is a complex game more about politics, double dealing and uneasy alliances than fights on the battlefield, though there are those, too. This is a game that might be too dense for more casual players, but patient strategy gamers are in for a treat and a good, long season in hell.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

 

 

The Good

  • Deep and thoughtful strategy
  • Slick presentation
  • Unique ideas and mechanics
85

The Bad

  • Tutorial could be better
  • Intimidating for casual fans
  • Lots of jargon
  • Not as much fun vs AI