I harnessed the power of deceit to conquer Hell in Solium Infernum, but I’m still not sure what I’m doing

These are the names of some of the legions you can recruit in Solium Infernum: The Defilers; Vile Apostates; Iron Maidens; 10,000 Screaming Bastards. You want to recruit 10,000 Screaming Bastards, don’t you? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t?

It’s a strong theme. The throne of Hell is empty and all the devils sneer. You’re one of the archfiends, a Mammon or a Lilith (how many videogame Liliths are we up to now?), so you raise some legions, work some dark arts, stab some backs, and compete—through the medium of turn-based strategy with synchronous turns—to reign in Hell.

Under the hood there seems to be a fair bit of the original Solium Infernum, of which this is a remake. I only know the 2009 version second-hand from the reports of the doomed souls who participated in a legendary game diary, but core elements like the order of combat going ranged, melee, then infernal as well as stats like deceit and prophecy remain the same. One change is those archfiends—in the original you created your own devil, an infernal Build-A-Bear, while the remake gives you eight to choose from with pre-set stats. Though you get to change their relic loadout, Astaroth’s always going to start with a couple of points of wrath and a unique diplomatic ability that lets him enter into open hostilities for a turn.

Diplomacy is important to Solium Infernum. Hell is rulebound and bureaucratic, which provides neat explanations for both the things that restrict you and the ways around them. Claimed territory can’t be crossed unless you’re in a state of formal vendetta, which might be triggered by delivering insults or making demands. It only lasts for a set number of turns, however, and requires wagering prestige points on a condition—that you’ll capture three hexes in three turns for instance, or capture a place of power, or destroy a legion. Line up enough vendettas and you can enter a blood feud and then attack your opponent’s stronghold directly, but that’s a long-term goal requiring turn after turn of preparation. “I just want to attack Belial with my 10,000 Screaming Bastards,” you say, and a fiend with a suitcase replies, “Certainly, you’ll just need to fill out these forms first, in triplicate.”

The goal is to amass enough prestige points, whether by winning battles or completing plans, or performing rituals, to impress the Conclave that decides the next Pit Boss somewhere around turn 50, or wherever you set the limit to be. There are other ways to win, because finding ways to subvert the rules is what Solium Infernum is all about, but it usually seems to boil down to an election—truly the most infernal form of deciding rulership. 

(Image credit: League of Geeks)

Being able to find and exploit the loopholes in Hell’s law relies on understanding where they are, which is where Solium Infernum let me down a bit. When I went all in on deceit I could perform a Dark Augury to reveal my opponents’ stats and what they had in their vaults, only I had no idea how to actually find the information after performing the ritual. Turns out you can click on the icons at the top-right of the screen to see summaries of the other devils, which I had to beseech another dark master—Google—to learn. Other things remain opaque. I’ve committed my praetors to fight in plenty of duels on my behalf and won several, but I’ll be damned if I understand how they’re decided. 

Solium Infernum does have an encyclopedia where you can look up rules, but without a search function it’s not super useful to me. Instead I’ve relied on learning by playing, which works but can be frustrating. It’s like playing a board game where you only find out what the rules are when other players use them to thrash you with. I didn’t know someone could just summon an angelic host like they left the door to Hell unlocked and that angel would demolish my best Legion instantly. Cool cool cool, I learned something new. I also learned the hard way that units I almost defeated can heal just by hanging out near a stronghold or a place of power, and that you can raid someone’s vault to steal the money they spent a whole turn raising, also cool, good to know.

(Image credit: League of Geeks)

The theme makes up for a lot. Not just because it’s fun to be a devil fighting over souls, delivering insults to Astaroth and summoning armies of guys right out of a Warhammer Chaos army to biff him with, but because the pain points feel appropriate. It’s a sadistic game because of course it is. Everyone in it is a sadist, and those 10,000 bastards are screaming for a reason.

Solium Infernum is available on Steam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Destiny 2 is adding Back to the Future-style hoverboards and I doubt I’ll ever ride a boring old Sparrow ever again
Next post Helldivers 2 players become part Automaton by mapping stratagems to a Stream Deck