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Solium Infernum

Solium Infernum

This cult classic reborn might ruin your friendships, but it'll be so worth it.

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Everyone has their own idea of Hell. I'm not talking about your concept of eternal punishment, more the place itself. Personally, I've always been fond of the Nine Hells depicted in Dungeons & Dragons. Each devil lord in control of their own realm, constantly playing a game of 4D chess against their fellows in a desperate, endless bid for power over an honestly unattractive domain of screaming souls and barren wastelands.

Solium Infernum depicts a similar version of Hell, where the Devil himself has gone missing, and so the eight Archfiends immediately begin bickering and battling over who should take his place on the throne of Pandemonium. It's a great and intriguing setup for Solium Infernum, pulling you in right away and letting you know this grand strategy has a real unique flair and personality to it that is hard to find elsewhere.

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Everything in Solium Infernum is dripping with flavour. From the brilliantly modelled and characterised Archfiends to the plains of Hell itself. Seeing that grey landscape filled with horrid creatures and places such as the Wood of the Suicides makes you wonder why anyone is even vying for power in this place. Then another Archfiend demands you make a payment of three coins to their coffers and you're ready to die just to make sure they don't win.

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While your main goal is to win Pandemonium in Solium Infernum, there are multiple ways you can go about that and a lot of mechanics are involved in getting you from a lowly Baron all the way to being the ruler of Hell. You can even win the game by having someone else sit on the throne, so long as you strategize correctly so they end up being your puppet. To get to that end point, though, you'll need to build up a treasury, find legions and equip them with Praetors and Artefacts to make them stronger, as well as cast rituals, engage in diplomacy, and upgrade your own Archfiend all while finding the time to do it in just two moves.

Solium Infernum

It can be a tad overwhelming when you first step into Solium Infernum, and even after playing the tutorial multiple times there are still some intricacies that are best learned just by getting stuck in. While the focus here might seem to be on asynchronous multiplayer and ending friendships in this great game of backstabbing and treachery, there's a pleasantly surprising amount of stuff to do in singleplayer. Playing as each of the Archfiends and exploring the differing scenarios was a blast and even if the AI can't quite match the levels of a thinking player, I still ended up spending far too much time than I'd initially planned in the singleplayer, always lying to myself that the next turn would be my last.

What helps Solium Infernum stand out and be pretty accessible at the same time is this focus on the two moves you make in a turn. It's a real case of chess vs checkers, where rather than being able to do everything you want in a turn, you've got to think about 3 to 5 turns ahead, living in fear that someone is going to take the thing you wanted. You can unlock another order late into the game, but then you'd run the risk of losing precious prestige. It might seem strange or even frustrating at first to have to spend multiple turns not moving troops because you have to fill your coffers or bid for a powerful Praetor, but as you get used to it, it really flows rather well, and comes in handy when you're in multiplayer.

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Unfortunately, I've not had a lot of time to spend in Solium Infernum's multiplayer, but I'll echo what I wrote in an earlier preview of it. Pooling together a group to play a whole game of Civ or something simialr can be an absolute nightmare. Ironically, Solium Infernum's multiplayer is therefore a godsend. Because you only get to make two moves in a turn, and because Solium Infernum is made up of grand plans playing out over the course of a game, asynchronous multiplayer is a really innovative way to work around the shortcomings of online strategy. Of course, it is building on the work of the original game, but rather than sending your saves via email now, you can just get a Steam notification set up whenever it's your turn, and can even have days to complete it. Of course, there's the option to just bang out a game in a couple of hours if you want, or get midway through one game then switch to asynchronous. It's very well thought-out and allows Solium Infernum to be more than just a really fun singleplayer experience in a way most strategy games end up being as your friends just never manage to organise a session.

Mechanically, the game seems to first play like other grand strategies. You move units to take territory, battle against neutral Places of Power, and build up resources. But, you can't just make the world your own, declaring war whenever you like. You need a reason to do that. At first, I was sceptical of this, wondering how it would work and if it wouldn't just allow people to basically play a singleplayer settlement simulator by avoiding all conflict. But as you play Solium Infernum, you'll realise that it's pretty easy to get embroiled in a Vendetta. An insult is rejected, a demand isn't met, there are plenty of reasons for you to go into a rival's land and start kicking dirt. But, with each Vendetta having a win condition, you might want to think about how you enact your war as well. Not every fight is for a stronghold, and the longer you drag out a war, the more likely it is someone else takes their chance to strike at your back. I really couldn't touch the levels of depth available in the grand, political strategy here without writing thousands of extra words. It's very impressive, and once again shows just how much time you could easily get out of Solium Infernum. If there was something I had to pick out, it would be that it does seem that some parts of the game can be ignored, even if you're playing an Archfiend that is meant to specialise in them. Just making a unit really powerful and roaming around the map as an unstoppable force worked for me no matter who I was playing, so hopefully in time I'll be shown in multiplayer how flawed that strategy is.

Solium Infernum

Playing Solium Infernum is made to be even more of a treat thanks to the amazing art and sound put in. The art for units, Praetors, artefacts, events and more is striking, dark and makes me want a full artbook from this game. The soundtrack is also brilliantly made and the orchestral sound effects that occur when you do basically anything really throw you into the depths of Hell in the best way possible. It's not just still images that impress, either, as the animations are also very solid for a strategy game. Grand leviathans rise up from the ground, tiny troops march along the plains of Hell and engage in combat that's simple but very fun to watch. I don't think I skipped a single battle in my time with Solium Infernum, but if you hate fun, you're welcome to skip through those animations as well.

Equally gorgeous and grotesque in the way you'd expect Hell to be, full of depth and intricate mechanics that are worth the time to learn, Solium Infernum feels like a wonderfully wicked addition to the grand strategy subgenre. It catches the eye immediately and is crafted with a level of care that becomes clear as soon as you take your first couple of turns. The clashing personalities of the Archfiends are really fun to explore and I imagine I'll be staying up far too late, pressing that next turn button instinctively for some time to come.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
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Innovative multiplayer, flavourful and grand strategy, amazing art and characters.
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Not all of the mechanics feel as vital as one another, does take some time to learn
overall score
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Solium Infernum

REVIEW. Written by Alex Hopley

This cult classic reborn might ruin your friendships, but it'll be so worth it.



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