Solium Infernum, a turn-based strategy game about archfiends vying to take control of the throne of Hell, was originally released by creator Vic Davis in 2009. In 2022, Armello studio League of Geeks announced plans for a wholesale "re-imagining" of the game, updating its visual style, adding more accessible singleplayer campaigns, and improving the multiplayer options. During the PC Gaming Show today, we got a fresh look at how the overhauled game is coming together ahead of its planned release in 2024.
The original Solium Infernum was "a product of pure passion and insanity," game director Ty Carey told me during a recent chat. "There was no other experience like it—bringing nail-biting deception and politics to strategy games—and it reveled in its vibes and ruleset. It didn’t care if people got it, it just existed because Vic knew the idea was cool."
But some people did get it, including the team at Armello—and, importantly, League of Geeks felt it was the right studio to bring Solium back. "We had specialty experience in similar titles and understood how the original title couldn’t reach a broader audience," Carey said. "The original game was cryptic and somewhat inaccessible, and we knew we could crack it open for people to enjoy while preserving the deep strategy gaming that made it so compelling."
What I find most interesting about Solium Infernum is that despite naturally conjuring images of anarchy and brute violence, it's very much a game of politics. Hell is a place of rules, and dirty tricks will often get you farther than a legion of ravenous demons.
Of course, violence has its place—this is Hell, after all—and if you'd rather roll as a "wrathful warmonger," that's an option too. Each archfiend in Solium Infernum has unique powers and assets including "strongholds, legions, and champion Praetors" to do their bidding on the field of battle. But blood must be spilled within the confines of strict codes of conduct, because Hell, Carey said, is "not a place of chaos but one of red tape," where the rules of the Conclave—essentially Hell's parliament—are paramount.
"You might insult a rival in front of the Conclave and put them in a position where they must respond or lose face," Carey said. "You might make a demand of them, permitting you to wage a short war called a Vendetta if they refuse, with tightly controlled objectives (as an example, you cannot take and eliminate another player’s Stronghold without meeting very tightly controlled political rules). So even if you want to be a warmonger, you have to learn how to play politics.
"There is the possibility for open, unending war between two rival Archfiends (called a Blood Feud) but you have to work to get into that condition, and it’s not guaranteed because the Conclave, and other players, love meddling with infernal disputes and may find a way to end it if it doesn’t ultimately suit them."
Solium Infernum supports singleplayer skirmish and story-based "Chronicles" modes, and local or online single-session play. League of Geeks also brought back asynchronous play from the original game, which enables long campaigns to be played over a period of days or weeks without demanding marathon sessions from the players. The original Solium Infernum is designed to be played that way, and Carey thinks it's the ideal way to really get the full experience.
"Nothing can compare with the challenge and excitement of dealing with human opponents in a long game, especially if they’re your friends," he said. "Incredible moments and stories fall out of that—the game is an epic story generator."
"It also allows for the above-board social aspects of the game to shine, as the pressure mounts and you find yourself having to deal with and manipulate your competitors. There’s as much psychology needed as there is in the strategy of moving units on a map. The play style also suits busy people with limited time, who can’t play games for hours on end, and who can play a few quick turns of Solium a day."
League of Geeks' take on Solium Infernum promises to be more "approachable" than hardcore strategy games, which is good news for people like me who want the glory of rulership without the mind-numbing minutiae of every little peon-level decision that needs to be made. Carey said it's a "tighter and more bespoke experience" than massive, sprawling grand strategy games like Crusader Kings or Victoria: "Where Paradox games require many micro-decisions to move the experience along, we only require a few decisions from the player each turn. There’s a lot to consider, but ultimately we’re a tighter set of decisions with a huge amount of consequences built into them, which is why the game has been described as ‘losing yourself in the cold glory of a difficult decision'."
Solium Infernum is expected to be out in early 2024, and is available for wishlisting now on Steam.