Solium Infernum: Engage in Hellish Diplomacy

For the longest time in my younger PC days I remember Real Time Strategy games were my go-to. Engaging your brain on how to best beat your opponent, manage a city scape or grow your civilisation through its technological journey I couldn’t get enough of them. That was until the thrill of strategic victories was taken away, RTS titles became more and more commercialised and with them while often positive mechanics added to make titles more appealing to a wider audience, the strategy element began to make way for brute force instant gratification. For years I moved away from anything within the strategy genre, occasionally dipping my toe back in to test but ultimately failing to find that enjoyment from years past.

When the opportunity came up to look at Solium Infernum originally came up it was a hard pass if I am being completely honest. Then I began looking into it more as more as the premise was different to what I’d seen previously and gameplay loop while daunting had a certain hook to it.

The devil himself has vanished and the throne of hell lies empty. Eight of the highest ranked Archfiends are vying for the top seat and are locked in an unholy war to seize power from the others by any means necessary. Unlike others in the genre there are no resources to mine or a base to expand for territorial gain, your job is to gain the most prestige through politically maneuvering your troops, obtaining services from those without remorse, perform rituals behind the scenes and almost bully your opponent's so that you can twist and manipulate the rules of engagement governing your actions.

Unlike others in the genre the hex playing grid is much smaller in Solium Infernum, infinitely looping back on itself as you’d expect in Hell. Only two actions each turn are available immediately forcing players to plan and execute exactly what key objectives you are going to use to get you on the front foot. These come in the form of simple movements or fighting a battle, sending a diplomatic proposal or taunt to a rival, bidding on auction items and even levelling up are all vying for place in your action list.

The grid isn’t straight forward either, you cannot enter an enemy’s tile without cause, so in true hellish fashion it may be best to manufacture a cause. Demand a tribute of a rival and if they refuse declare a vendetta against them opening them up to your whim. A vendetta doesn’t allow you to attack their stronghold instead it can be used to take strategic tiles back to your control, turn a prestige generating landmark to your control or even cutting through an opponent forces all options must be weighed up before committing your own prestige and turn limits for this brief warfare. If you manage to pull it off a heft prestige boost towards your ultimate victory will be yours, fail and face an eternity of mockery.

While Solium Infernum has a good amount of single player experiences to keep the solo player enticed multiplayer is where it really comes alive. Solo gameplay is derived from specialised scenarios for each of the eight Archfiends giving you insight into each’s plans in Hell and offering distinct conditions for you to reach victory. The only problem with the solo campaigns is that after a while enemy Archfiends become a little predictable in how they respond to your certain demands and actions.
At the time of writing, I have not been able to jump into a full multiplayer experience as yet however, through the beta release and seeing it played out live by others in the media and the team behind the game, League of Geeks, multiplayer is what will continue to keep Solium Infernum alive for a time to come. While the technology behind the AI Archfiends is well designed, having human players with real world tenacity all scheming their way between each other opens you to an infinite number of strategic possibilities.

Allowing you to play multiple games at once Solium Infernum’s multiplayer mode is best suited to the asynchronous option available. Friends can join in, or you can search for random active games looking for more players. Turn time can be set anywhere from 24 hours to a week meaning a single game can take you up to a year to finish. The asynchronous mode is a perfect mix of accessibility in todays over saturated market and working around your busy lifestyle. Log in once a day or as needed, see what happened the last turn, make your decisions and turns based on where you’re planning to advance set and walk away. I can see this opening up many twists and turns amongst friend groups and plenty of questions being asked about what exactly are others scheming in the background.

Core gameplay elements aside the team at League of Geeks have really created a beautiful looking game. Each Archfiend is meticulously designed and drawn with some stunning artwork and collected cards worthy of space on a wall. The simplicity of design of the game-space makes way for the depth of character creation more often found in much higher end titles while still evoking the very real sense that you are running around a hellscape.

While Solium Infernum tick all the boxes and more required for a strategy title, like many before it falls into a very niche category. One that through my own proclivity I have moved away from over the years. Throw into the mix that none in my group of fellow gamers would even look at the title despite my reassurances and advice, and you have an ever-diminishing pool of players to enjoy spreading chaos with.

Unfortunately, Solium Infernum’s coolest features and ideas may spell its death note from me. I cannot fault the game only my own tendency for a need for that instant gratification when gaming. League of Geeks has managed to take a niche game and open it up to a wider audience removing the barriers of an immensely complex gameplay style with plenty of tutorial options, an easy to navigate UI and options for quick on long term gameplay. I am looking to try my hand at more multiplayer scenarios to see if the strategy bug can be reignited in me as I evoke my will on the throne of hell.

I hope the dedicated communities around strategy titles form a good welcoming base to allow more to experience a title that really does take into account every play you make in your quest for the highest seat in hell.

Solium Infernum was reviewed on steam thanks to the team at League of Geeks and ICO      

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