Quinns Reviews Solium Infernum

By Kieron Gillen on December 9th, 2009 at 5:55 pm.

This chap looks a lot like Quinns.

Hell – now there’s a setting for a video game. Hell lets a game’s artists and writers run naked and wild and free, and in just-released indie strategy game Solium Infernum it also happens to tease out some hugely intelligent design ideas. I’m glad for that, because it balances out the damage done to my precious brain every time I see footage from Dante’s Inferno. Man, that game. You take not only a nonviolent epic poem but the single most nightmarish and psychedelic setting known to Western civilization and you use it to make… a God of War clone? Are you kidding?

By contrast, Solium Infernum is a turn-based, play-by-email creation, and it’s my second favourite game this year. Good year for demons, I guess.

As I said, it’ll be a while before an RPS Solium Infernum review, but Quinns reviewed it over at Game Set Watch. What that boy said. He’s not entirely stupid.

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24 Comments »

  1. Severian says:

    I agree with everything Quinn says. This is an excellent game and Davis is an exceptional designer. That this product was made by the hands of a single man (and several talented artists) is a testament to his genius and dedication. It should also be noted that Davis is known for incredible support of his products. The initial release of Armageddon Empires has enormous potential but suffered from some design flaws. He released an insane number of patches, many based on player feedback, to improve and deepen the game. His Cults of the Wasteland free expansion was amazing. Solium has already been patched twice, and one included a significant UI improvement (auto-sorting of tribute cards). He has now posted a threat at Cryptic Comet concerning AI, and is planning on improving AI behavior as much as he can.

    I’ve got a couple single-player games under my belt and I’m currently in a PBEM. Winning against AI’s is relatively easy, unless you self-handicap yourself by making an odd build (choosing a weak rank, for example). It’s fun to play, just because of the flavor and design, but the challenge is disappointing – and it’s less satisfying to try and pull off a major strategic coup when you’re already 50 points ahead in prestige after 10 turns.

    I can tell already that PBEM is going to be a whole different story. For example, against the AI’s you hardly ever need to cast rituals (think, “spells”) – but when dealing with other humans who also know how to build uber-stacks, a well-time ritual is going to determine outcomes more often than not. My group is trying to get in 3 turns/day, which means that a complete game should take less than 2 weeks.

    • Severian says:

      edit: “thread” not “threat”. oops.

    • Ian says:

      I can’t comment on the game, but I agree that Vic is very much immersed in the community. I was quite active on the forums at Cryptic Comet when Armageddon Empires came out and his genuine interest both in what the community said and reacting to that was great.

      I’m genuinely gutted that this seems so multi-player focussed because I very much liked Armageddon Empires.

    • Severian says:

      Yeah, Ian, I loved AE. The AI wasn’t good, really, but it was good enough. Right now, the SI AI isn’t there but I’m cautiously optimistic that Vic will make it so.

    • Quirk says:

      I’ve also bought it and played a couple of single-player games, with the latest, patched version, and I’ve actually had a reasonably good time fighting the AI. In the first game I had a healthy lead, and started getting nibbled from all sides at once; my tribute was repeatedly stolen, including most of my manuscripts, my artifacts and praetors nabbed from under my nose, events destroying stuff seemed to always target me, and when I did declare a Vendetta (as I had successfully done a number of times before) I got royally hosed with Deceit rituals and couldn’t finish it. In the end I was narrowly pipped to the post.

      In the second game, another AI was lucky enough to get several good Places of Power and stretch into a powerful prestige lead and was himself beset from all sides; thanks to some Praetor single combat sparring and the last-minute purchase of a certain relic, I managed to overtake him on the closing turn of the game.

      In both my games so far I’ve had an event hit fairly early that docked me a point of Charisma, and which has taken a little recovering from; it disproportionately affects the more unbalanced builds because that third point costs so much more than the second. Even considering that, though, the sheer pressure from all sides late-game when you’re the top dog can be pretty harsh, and I certainly found them very willing to repeatedly mess me up with rituals on their part and jockey for Vendetta.

      Disclaimer: I was playing a Prince / Charisma 3 / Intelligence 1 / Cunning 1 build. I don’t know how much of a difference the Wrath path makes. I did discover that without a high level in Prophecy against a Deceit-skilled opponent, life was made very very difficult – I was losing more resources per turn than I was bringing in.

      I definitely think at present that this is an improvement on Armageddon Empires in terms of AI challenge, and I’d recommend buying it just for the single-player. If you do find yourself getting too easy a game against the AIs, I think the build options give you plenty of room to self-handicap.

    • Quirk says:

      Also, I think the mechanics are a lot better than Armageddon Empires; I’m finding it much harder to perceive which way the balance tilts. I think this is a pretty resounding success for Mr. Davis.

  2. Excalibur101 says:

    I really like what I’ve seen and heard of the game so far, but the demo is extremely difficult to play, since it does not come with a manual of some sort.

    • AS says:

      You can grab the manual on the main page of the game’s site, underneath the link to the demo.

  3. Duderina says:

    Yeah the installer doesn’t make a shortcut that links to the pdf manual which is in the game’s main directory after it’s installed. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer AE’s straightforwardness better but I’m guessing this will change down the road and it’s mainly from my head not being able to be wrapped around SI’s mechanics and their relations quite yet.

    The 1.03 update awesomely added a much needed “Tom Chick” sorting method for tribute cards and I hope to see such support later as well.

  4. Urthman says:

    Hell – now there’s a setting for a video game.

    WW2 era France — now there’s a setting for a video game!

    Not sure which is #1, but surely more games have been set in Hell, France, or New York City than any other single location.

    • Torgen says:

      Ah, but how many have been set in 1940 France? Only one that I know of. :)

    • Dinger says:

      Yeah, and what a huge success that was. In all fairness, they did honor my sole games journalism paycheck three years after declaring bankruptcy the first time.

    • Torgen says:

      They’ve gotten better…

      they’re not dead yet.

  5. Mundus says:

    I so want this game, but sadly $30 is a wee bit over my budget for the month. (Damn you, unemployment and Christmas gift shopping!)

    Hopefully after December I can shell out the dough. Game looks awesome and have been playing the demo over and over. Although my grasp on the game is weak at best. Manual helped a bit but in general I suck at these kind of games.

  6. Arathain says:

    I didn’t find the interface that hard to work out in the demo. I mean, you give two orders per turn, and there’s a big list of the orders you can give. It’s not hard to work out most of the rest. I did need to read the manual for the core concepts, though.

  7. Sunjammer says:

    This is made by one guy? I applaud his effort, and the design of the game is really intriguing, but it is an absolute chore to play at this point, and that is 100% because of the interface. He really, really needs tooltips, and he really, really needs to make menu options stand out more from their background. This is almost hunt-the-pixel territory.

    It freaks me out a little bit when a game comes out, in this day and age, that makes absolutely no in-game effort to soften your landing. We have reached a point in video games where manuals are almost entirely unnecessary, especially now when there is often no physically boxed product. I do enjoy manuals in their physical form, but REQUIRING them and forcing players to read a PDF to even tentatively begin to understand what is going on is embarrassing.

    A game of this sort can feel free to overwhelm (that’s a big part of the appeal; to master and understand a complex game), but it should always have plain-English information available as to what is actually going on. Cyanide’s Blood bowl has also failed largely at this, and it’s a design problem a hell of a lot of PC strategy/tactics game developers seem to struggle with.

    Reading Quinns’ article i was ready to drop the money, but after playing (or attempting to play) the demo there is no way in hell, ironically, that I’ll be getting involved. I don’t have that kind of idle time.
    I’m expecting there to be some sort of update that softens the learning curve.

    • Severian says:

      Sunjammer, I understand the frustration at the lack of in-game tutorial or tool-tips. But, really, both Armageddon Empires and Solium are worth the effort to learn. You should think of them more like board-games, since that’s a major source of inspiration for Vic Davis. If you find board-games dull or don’t find the prospect of unpacking a rulebook to see what waits within somewhat stimulating, then I suppose it isn’t your cup of tea. But you’re missing out on some of the most innovative gameplay I’ve ever seen.

    • Sunjammer says:

      I love board games, and i totally see the parallel. It is, however, a computer game. Not adding a usability layer to your PC game is denying the platform a lot of its appeal. Considering this is play-by-mail, it might as well be an actual board game then.

      I hope i made it clear that I’m actually really intrigued. It’s just doing a better job of pushing me away than letting me in. I’m sure it can be fixed, and I’ll wait until then, so i can hope to involve friends to actually play it with me.

  8. Psychopomp says:

    Now if only Stalin and Steve would mail in their turns >:(

  9. mysteriesofkabir says:

    I’ve absolutely loved AE and think Vic is a genius, but I’ve become so accustomed to cheap deals under 10 bucks that 30 $ seems a bit hefty. But I’ll probably buy it next year and hopefully you guys will still be playing.

    • DMJ says:

      I agree, and I’m trying to wrestle with my underlying prejudices to understand why I feel unable to spend a not unreasonable amount of money on a game that I feel drawn to and which comes so highly recommended.

  10. Lucas says:

    I want to play Vic’s games and pay for them, but I refuse to be inflicted with interface madness. The AE demo was a complete showstopper for me.

  11. PUKED says:

    I could never get into AE either because of the horrible, horrible interface, but the one in this game does a lot better. It doesn’t feel like it was made by a person who hates your eyeballs, at least.

    Plus you don’t have to look at pretend dice rolling around for half a damned minute every turn.

  12. syrion says:

    Don’t forget Mars.