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Solium Infernum review: HELL YEAH

Hex-based and hellbound.

Fergus Halliday
Feb 23, 2024
Icon Time To Read6 min read

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Solium Infernum key art
Solium Infernum
4 out of 5 stars
4
Platforms
PC
Release date
23 February 2024
Price:
🔥15% off🔥$58.50 $49.75

Reviewed on a PC.

pro
Pros
pro Deep-and-broad strategy
pro Gorgous look and feel
pro Fantastic replayability
con
Cons
con Buggy UI
con AI isn't great
con Limited maps

Like the road to damnation, the path to making yet another strategy game that can't hold its own or stand out is paved with good intentions.

It's easy to make a game that's sort of like Civilization, but hard to replicate or emulate one that scratches that same itch and leaves you itching for just one more turn. The 4X landscape is littered with also-rans that don't go quite far enough, let alone succeed on the fronts where Firaxis' iconoclastic strategy title falters.

Thankfully for Melbourne's League of Geeks, Solium Infernum is more mature than it looks. The 2024 release is a remake of the 2009 strategy game of the same name and cult-classic status. Where Vic Davis' original sin was baroque and austere (especially by modern standards), this update offers up more than just a fresh coat of paint. The dark heart and soul of this sinister strategy game beats the same, with every match an invitation to descend and indulge in its delights.

Despite the occasional technical hiccup and odd corners, Solium Infernum is an accomplished and satisfying spin on the 4X sub-genre that begs to be played again and again while beckoning you to tempt others into its depths.

League of Geeks' follow-up to 2015 Armello embraces an entirely different aesthetic but manages to blur the lines between board and digital gaming experiences in much the same way. To its credit, Solium Infernum often feels like a board game where an AI handles all the hassle.

Right from the moment you decide to start a fresh game of Solium Infernum, you are presented with compelling choices. Each match starts with you choosing the devil you know. There are eight Archfiends to choose from, who vary in personality, stats and special abilities.

This intersects with the Reliquary system to create even more replayability. There's a hoard of different rings, amulets and crowns that can be used to round out your Archfiend's weaknesses or embolden their strengths. Some combinations can give you an edge in combat while others can ratchet up the action economy in the game.

Regardless of how these and other variables shake out, the overall arc of a match remains the same. As is often the case, there are multiple routes to victory in Solium Infernum. The most common one is to win by-election. Typically, this is done by having the most prestige at the end of the final turn.

Prestige is only one of several currencies in the game, but it's the most significant. It's awarded for everything from including winning battles and fulfilling schemes to insulting other players. While it's easy to accrue, there are also plenty of ways to spend and lose it throughout a match.

Democracy is far from the only path to victory though. You can also win by seizing the fortress of Pandaemonium at the centre of hell, exterminating your opponents outright and even stealing that aforementioned election that occurs on the last turn.

Akin to tabletop fare like the Dune board game or Twilight Imperium, Solium Infernum is bursting at the seams with systems and mechanics designed to cultivate unexpected consequences.

While hoarding Prestige plays a key role and other resources (collectively referred to as Tributes) are used to pay for things, the devil in the details here is that you can only make a certain number of actions in a given turn. Initially, you're limited to two actions but this can be upgraded as the game progresses.

That compressed scope for what you can do with any given turn keeps the action moving along and forces you to prioritize what you want to achieve. Giving any part of your underworld empire attention is always going to come at the expense of another. Committing to a crusade means that you won't be able to defend yourself against schemes by adversaries or even scrounge up resources.

Speaking of, there's a steep learning curve to Solium Infernum when it comes to the combat system. More than once, I'd march into a battle where I thought victory was certain only to be utterly trounced for reasons I couldn't initially grasp. A quick detour to the in-game rulebook usually helped untangle these mysteries but a combat log could probably achieve the same results in a less roundabout way.

That said, the flip side of this complexity is that the more militarised aspects of Solium Infernum feel very satisfying to get good at. It's rare to find a 4X game where less can often be more when it comes to fielding armies and projecting your power across the map. If you aren't investing in the specific quality of your units, using terrain to play up their strengths or managing your diplomatic ties to deter conflict in the first place, you might as well not have them.

One of Solium Infernum's better twists on the formula is that it prevents you from invading or fighting other players unless you've got a cause for that underlying Vendetta beforehand. The fastest way to get that is to start talking smack. Insulting and trying to extort another archfiend is one of the easiest ways to either score free prestige or a reason to march your forces over their borders.

Solium Infernum screenshot

League of Geeks has given the original Solium Infernum more than just a makeover but it's hard to divorce that from the sense that the developers are benefiting from over a decade of robust playtesting and feedback when it comes to the core gameplay involved. What's here is less of a sequel and more of a second edition.

It stays true to the spirit of the original, but this incarnation of Solium Infernum is more than a mere adaptation. It's a smart evolution on the sturdy bones of a cult classic. League of Geeks has done a terrific job at bringing the gothic and archaic aesthetics of the underworld to life while also modernising the barebones interface of the original Solium Infernum. This is very much a hell of the studio's own making in the most positive sense.

The lavish and well-realized results of this update are occasionally let down by the odd UI issue but still dripping with an old-school flavour. At the same time, Solium Infernum does a great job at keeping all the important stuff at arm's length without overwhelming you with information. Akin to strategy gaming classics like Starcraft, what's here strikes the right balance between charming to use and cleverly streamlined.

While the combat, diplomacy, economy and intrigue in Solium Infernum are typical of a 4K game, the depth of each respective direction feels much greater. If you want to lean heavily in one direction over the others, you'll probably still have a pretty fun and interesting experience. You won't necessarily be punished for it unless your opponents identify and opt to take advantage of that opportunity.

Compared to Armello, the length of a given match is also much longer. This change is mostly for the better as it gives you a lot more room to plot against your enemies, dabble with the game's more interesting mechanics and better learn how to use them to your advantage in future matches.

Once you're done practising against AI opponents or working through the Chronicle challenge maps, Solium Infernum supports up to 6-players in a single match. You can play against other people in real-time or asynchronous multiplayer, so there's plenty of flexibility to scale it up or down as desired.

That sentiment also applies to the matches themselves, which can easily be tweaked in both size and duration. There are only three playable maps in the game though, which does feel like a fairly stingy selection.

Frustratingly, one thing that can't be tweaked here is the difficulty of the AI. Although these bot opponents were well suited for learning the ins and outs of the various systems in Solium Infernum, it didn't take all that long to find the limits of the challenge they could offer. 

The more I played it, the more I came to wish that Solium Infernum had more of a concrete progression structure to it. It's one thing for the game to lack any sort of single-player campaign mode. It's quite another for it to lack any progression hooks beyond a list of missions to complete. 

While I appreciated that the entire roster and Reliquary are accessible from the get-go, it would have been nice to have something to work towards. This feels like one of the few areas where it feels like the straightforward simplicity of Solium Infernum works against it rather than in its favour.

Solium Infernum screenshot

Is Solium Infernum worth the money?

League of Geek's take on the hellish strategy game that time forgot isn't perfect, but it's easy to fall for. The sharp corners of the original are shaved down but the bones of this board game-like strategy game remain firmly intact.

Rather than desecrate the legacy of a strategy gaming cult classic, Solium Infernum feels like the right kind of resurrection.

Solium Infernum trailer

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What can I play Solium Infernum on?

Solium Infernum is available now on PC.

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*Pricing and deals only accurate as of last page update. 

Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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