Tobold's Blog
Sunday, February 25, 2024
Solium Infernum

Solium Infernum is Latin for "the throne of hell", and that is exactly what you are fighting for in this game. Solium Infernum is a 4X game that just released for $40 (-15% discount now) on Steam. You play as a devil, an archfiend, on a relatively small hex map in a relatively short game, with "relatively" being in comparison to other 4X games like Civilization. The main reason this is so, is that you are limited each turn to just a small number of orders, only 2 at the start of the game, and later potentially going up to 6. With tons of possible options, selecting the best orders for this turn is quite a challenge, and completely fulfills Sid Meier's condition that good games are a series of interesting decisions.

Things work differently in hell, you can't just attack your neighbor when you want to. Instead you need to start with a diplomatic play, like sending him a demand for tribute. If he pays up, good for you! If he doesn't pay up, even better, as that now gives you the opportunity to attack him. But even then wars are limited, you set a goal for limited objectives, and the war automatically ends if you fulfill those. Because the overall goal of Solium Infernum is gaining the most prestige, with prestige wagers on wars just being one of many possible ways to gain it.

Solium Infernum is great fun, as there is a lot of treachery and backstabbing going on, and other players can play events that completely mess up your careful plans. It actually works a lot better in multiplayer than the typical 4X game, because there is a lot more player interaction, and players can take their turns simultaneously, with all of them then being resolved at the same time. It reminds me a bit of the board game Diplomacy.

The one downside of that is that if you play this game solo, the AI is only mediocre. It can make good moves, but lacks the ability to plan ahead and coordinate several actions into a greater whole. There also is only one level of AI, and once you understood the game mechanics completely, you should be able to reliably beat the AI in a standard game. To help out with that problem, there is a series of scenarios, which get you to play all the different archfiends, getting increasingly harder due to unfavorable starting conditions. Like in the very first scenario your one legion starts with only a single hit point, giving the other players time to conquer stuff while you heal up.

Solium Infernum is not an early access game, but a full release, based on a previous game from 2009 with the same name. The current version is a lot prettier, and somewhat improved in other ways as well. There are still a few bugs left, but hotfixes are already incoming, and there seems to be a plan for continued support. It might be something of a sleeper hit, as there was very little marketing for this game, and as a result the game is a lot better than the player numbers would suggest. Solium Infernum is a lot more solid and balanced than Millenia, but Millenia had the huge marketing of publisher Paradox behind it, while Solium Infernum is self-published. As we are still in the oversupply phase of the video games pork cycle, Solium Infernum risks being overlooked in the flood of new game releases. Which would be a pity, because it sure has a lot of interesting concepts and fun to offer.

I you haven't read it Tobold the Rock Paper Shotgun series about an epic playthrough of the original Solium Infernum is an outright classic.
It looks like it could be good if there's a healthy community. I wouldn't mind giving it a go if it pans out that way. Maybe a niche 4X will get online players who will see out a game even if it's going poorly (I played online Risk a couple of times, one move a day, and people did stick with it.)
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