Since I first saw it back in 2022, Solium Infernum has consistently captured my imagination. A strategy game set in a classic, Dante-inspired version of Hell, it casts you as one of several ‘Archfiends’ as they fight, debate, and conspire to take over the infernal throne now that Lucifer has gone missing. Civilization, Age of Empires, and more bureaucratically centered strategy sims like Tropico are clear reference points, but there’s an affection and an energy in Solium Infernum’s fire and brimstone aesthetic that comes right from John Romero’s Doom designs.
It has asynchronous multiplayer, dozens of units and factions, and a seriously refreshing focus on manipulation and political psychology. And now, thanks to an exclusive interview with League of Geeks co-founder Ty Carey, we can see that Solium Infernum is also bringing – to quote one of the great artists of the 21st century – ‘sexy back,’ with the introduction of new Archfiend Andromalius.
If you haven’t encountered Solium Infernum before, here’s the deal. Lucifer has vanished. Hell’s throne is vacant. And out of this power vacuum come several faction leaders – members of the Infernal Conclave – vying with one another for total dominion over the underworld. Like any grand strategy game, military might is vital.
But where some Archfiends specialize in open battle, others are more cunning and deceptive. At various times throughout each game, the Conclave will meet to debate, deal, and threaten one another. Make the right allegiances, and you can conspire and machinate your way to victory. Anger the wrong people, and it can affect your standing in front of the rest of Hell’s political class, making it harder to strike deals and recruit units.
In my first meeting with Solium Infernum, developer Ty Carey demonstrated how you can turn the tide of a game without a single military encounter. Now, they introduce Andromalius, one of several playable characters who embodies that unique gameplay dynamic. Andromalius is a fallen angel who believes that they are naturally superior to the rest of Hell’s power brokers. This is their strength, but also their weakness.
“Andromalius is a social manipulator,” Carey explains, “concerned with advancing their status and rank with the Infernal Conclave via clever politics, while also attracting and empowering the most powerful Praetors as protection. Andromalius is crafty and darkly magnetic. They stand vainly in the Conclave, making life hell for anyone who gets in their way by throwing demands and insults at other players, forcing them to respond to their manipulations.
“They also have a headstart in the ‘charisma’ power tree, meaning better outcomes in duels, and more tribute (resources) from the Conclave, among other powers that suit their dark magnetism.”
See, the higher your standing in Solium Infernum’s Conclave, the more you are respected by the various legions of Hell, who, in turn, will offer tribute in the form of resources and units. Insult and belittle your opponents during debates, and your status will improve. Suffer too many humiliations, and you’ll find yourself with less materials and less military might.
“What I like about Andromalius is that all of their claims – that they were a favourite of the Prince of Darkness, for example – are a product of their own arrogant beliefs and are never substantiated,” Carey continues. “If Andromalius has weaknesses, it’s starting behind in the powers of Wrath and Prophesy.
“Wrath allows an Archfiend to control more legions and is useful in the art of battle. Starting with no Prophesy also means that Andromalius may not see the strategies of his opponents, nor the traps they’re preparing, which is an appropriate flaw for someone so vain and egotistical.”
And this is where Solium Infernum’s superb visual design and artwork come in. Many of the Archfiends are overtly demonic – wings, horns, fangs. But Andromalius is pretty. Partly based on a painting by Alexandre Cabanel, their appearance betrays not just their narcissism, but their disarming allure and charisma, their unique ability to seduce and deceive opponents.
“Andromalius is an amalgamation of Lucifer as seen in Alexandre Cabanel’s incredibly hot painting ‘Fallen Angel’, and Griffith from Berzerk,” Carey explains. “Importantly, Andromalius is beautiful. Often the villains of stories are deformed to ‘show they’re evil’, but more often a narcissist is hidden behind a beautiful face. It makes them a frustrating figure. You can’t help but be attracted because of basic instincts, but you know that they’re rotten to the core. That’s a fun concept to play with.”
These concepts of deception and manipulation perfectly complement Solium Infernum’s asynchronous multiplayer. You log on, you make your move, and then you can log out and wait while your opponents make their moves, too.
Not only does it make Solium more accessible, since you don’t need to allot hours and hours to play a single game all at once, but it gives you time to scheme and plot between turns. We’re still waiting on a release date, but Solium Infernum is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing strategy games we’ve seen in a long time.
If Solium Infernum has piqued your interest, you might want to try some of the other best 4X games. You can also get the best management games, if you want to practice your Machiaevellian strategizing.