Solium Infernum is the coolest new strategy game I’ve seen in years

Solium Infernum, the strategy sim set in Hell, takes on Civilization 7, Ara, Millennia, and Total War, but its unique twist and new character set it apart.

Solium Infernum Astaroth: A gigantic hellish monster with red eyes and horns, Astaroth from strategy game Solium Infernum

Solium Infernum has the best gimmick I’ve seen in a strategy sim in years. Set in Hell, Satan has suddenly disappeared, leaving the Infernal Throne suddenly vacant. Playing as one of several archfiends, the objective is to marshall the forces of the damned and defeat your rivals to become the new ruler of the underworld. But this isn’t all about military might, building armies, and plundering resources. Facing competition from the likes of Civilization 7, Ara History Untold, Millennia from the publisher behind Cities Skylines 2, and Total War Pharaoh, Solium Infernum has a unique take on videogame strategy – it’s all about politics, charm, manipulation, and psychology. And it’s just revealed its newest playable character.

A triple-A remake of the underground strategy game hit from 2009, in Solium Infernum, political cunning and bureaucratic double-dealing are just as – if not more – important than raw military power. Every time you meet with Hell’s enclave, and debate and trade barbs with the other archfiends, you have the opportunity to insult them, side with them, or stab them in the back.

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The best example comes from a skill you can select at the start of the game called ‘Power Behind the Throne.’ No one knows you’ve got it, but if you buddy up with another archfiend and swear allegiance to them, when they win the game, you suddenly overthrow them and become the winner yourself. Make them your friend. Do their bidding. Then murder them at the last moment. It’s a brilliant game of psychological trickery.

We’ve already seen Andromalius, the beautiful and vain fallen angel who uses their charm and swagger to lull opponents into a false sense of security. But now, in a PCGamesN exclusive, developer League of Geeks shares a look at Astaroth, another of the playable Solium Infernum archfiends who prefers pure power over clever manipulation. See, just because Solium has this unique interest in psychology and the Machiavellian, doesn’t mean it cuts corners on the grand strategy game essentials. Astaroth is perfect for players who want to amass an army and capture Pandemonium, the seat of the infernal throne, by force.

Solium Infernum Astaroth: A huge, Hellish monster made of rock, Astaroth from strategy game Solium Infernum

Huge muscles, giant horns, a wrath that knows no bounds – Astaroth is the beating, corporal heart of all Hell’s bloodlust. Building an army is different in Solium Infernum. When the infernal conclave meets, they can place bids on the varying legions willing to join the war. You might have your eye on a particularly potent pack of demons, but if one of the other archfiends has more power, more sway, and more resources, they can potentially outbid you, leaving you with a lesser force – and some more involved strategic decisions.

Astaroth, however, inspires awe in Hell’s legions. With little interest in diplomacy, the archfiend is able to recruit the more fearsome and rageful demons in the underworld. Forged of rock and lava, Astaroth is also a testament to League of Geeks’ superlative character design. Just as Andromalius is inspired by the great Renaissance paintings, Astaroth is more than just a straightforward hunk of muscle.

“We wanted to find an angle that allowed Astaroth to stand out from a crowd of demons,” League of Geeks explains. “What if Astaroth was made from the stuff of hell itself – volcanic rock, magma, and fire? This allowed us to integrate Astaroth’s ‘armor’ into his body, made of rocky scorched plates. Note that Astaroth’s ‘helmet’ (actually part of his head) is inspired by the concept of multi-animal-heads often seen in traditional depictions of demons. Beneath Astaroth’s rock-hard exterior lies a volcanic rage, literally represented by the light shining between his body’s plates.”

Solium Infernum Astaroth: A huge Hellish creature forged of rock, Astaroth in strategy game Solium Infernum

With a diverse range of archfiends, all boasting their own strengths and weaknesses, Solium Infernum also has a refreshing take on multiplayer. Games of Solium Infernum are asynchronous, so you log in, put in your turn, then log out while the rest of the players do the same. It becomes a kind of postal chess – you can never see what your opponents are up to until the turn is over, so that suspicious, paranoid, and political intrigue builds and builds throughout each match.

If you want to know more about Solium Infernum, PCGamesN spoke with game designer and League of Geeks co-founder Trent Kusters about the game’s history and ambitions – the idea is that you make fewer decisions than a traditional strategy game, but that each one has a lot more weight and more severe consequences.

The game is now entering into live playtesting, with a free demo planned during the upcoming Steam Next Fest, which runs from Monday, October 9 until Monday, October 16. If you like great strategy games and want to play something that upends the formula, while still remaining true to the most beloved fundamentals, Solium Infernum is one to watch.

The future is looking good for strategy games. Find out more about Millennia, the new, alternate-history-based game from Cities Skylines 2 publisher Paradox. You should also take a look at Ara History Untold, built by former Civilization devs, with a new take on classic strategy mechanics.