Solium Infernum

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Solium Infernum review
Jordan Helsley


Delightfully bureaucratic

Hell and strategy are delightfully bureaucratic

Solium Infernum is so reminiscent of simpler times it's hard to fathom its release date. While it's a remake of a 2009 game, which itself was rooted so heavily in tabletop sensibilities, once you get past the fond memories of sitting around the table on the weekend with your friends or repeating "one more turn" until lunchtime the next day, you'll find some smart modernizations to create a smart, gruelling contemporary strategy game.

Made For Modern Times

You know how apps on your phone will ask to send you notifications for just about every new app you install? When my steam deck asked me that same question upon booting Solium Infernum I was legitimately thrown for a loop. Rather than it being a sign of a further decent into notification hell, it was an early sign of a smart adjustment to the old play-by-email gameplay. Much like the original game, or a game of chess, the game features fully asynchronous multiplayer, allowing your game to progress while you're off doing other things, with a notification prompting you when it's time for the next turn. It's the type of interaction many grand strategy games could have used to improve their multiplayer experiences, but something very few have implemented.

For a player like myself: growing older, family, job, general responsibilities, it means I actually have a chance to engage with multiplayer sessions with the crew, because it's entirely independent from everyone's schedule. It is an organic fit, too, for a game so heavily drenched in tough decisions, strategic planning, and a slow paced victory condition. Even engaging solo benefits from the generous respect for your time. Each turn is recapped for you, and you can save and hop out at nearly any time.

A Civilization In Hell

The real charm of Solium Infernum is in the extremely strict democracy you have to navigate to ascend to the Infernal Throne. As you and the other five archfiends participate in this game of a throne, so to speak, each must navigate the rules of engagement and diplomacy while finding ways to enact beneficial schemes to gain influence. You must play the political game, and by a certain set of rules, to come out on top.

For instance, contrary to other grand strategy experiences, there's a prescribed series of actions that need to be taken before any hostile conflicts can arise. You won't be flanked by an imposing army without warning, making the diplomacy the star of the show. You'll still need a few legions of soldiers, for those few conflicts, but also to take over neutral places of power to grow your influence. These combat rounds take place under a simple "highest number wins" set of rules, but in three stages each time: melee, ranged, and archane. The added layer of strategy here, taking increased damage in the first two actions because you know you'll seal it in the third, for example, gives you even more to think about in this already extremely dense game.

It Boggles The Mind

There are so, so many elements to consider while navigating hell, making it absolutely the type of game that requires a significant amount of time for it to become natural. Upgrades to combat units, your leader in general, even shuffling the order of combat engagements, all play a role in your slow-moving strategy. Each game consists of 50 turns, at which point the most influential leader is elected to the throne, and each turn has just 2-3 actions that can be performed, be they movement, bidding on new units, or gathering money. For a game that can take so long, the amount of "action" is not comparable to contemporary games.

It'll be too much for many, even with generous time requirements, and that's before considering you can make strategic wagers with your influence, or make demands of other archfiends, as long as you're prepared for potential backlash. You could craft a rather large manual for the elements at play here, but what matters is the strategy and betrayal is quite satisfying.

Hell Of A Time

Solium Infernum is made manageable by its generous and informative tutorial. The way it introduces you to the world, the cogs that exist to be manipulated, and the characters you'll often be deceiving is matched by the way it holds your hand through the various mechanics. Not too long into the training the shackles are removed and you’re free to test the waters in a low-stakes environment. Keeping this training siloed off also means that your full experience is less hampered by tooltips you've seen a hundred times over.

Once you've become accustomed to the pace of play and mechanics, Solium Infernum is a charming and strategic game. If you can get over the slow movement and learn the rules, you'll find an engaging grand strategy game that is rewarding on subsequent playthroughs. And, if you've got a few friends to betray, the overall experience becomes heightened. I struggled with that pacing at times, but after sinking more time into it the hurdles because less and less imposing. The only problem is you have to spend that amount of time over a series of rounds, rather than a long one or two.

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fun score


Incredibly deep and varied layers of strategy with a great asynchronous play option.


Gameplay moves at a glacial pace, it takes a few full rounds to fully grasp the concepts, and there’s a single win condition.