Monday, March 15, 2010

Solium Infernum Beginner's Guide (Part One: Creating An Avatar)

Good Lord.

I've been wanting to write about Solium Infernum since it came out in late November, over three months ago. My grand plan was to master all the strategic details of the game, then write a complete guide to advanced tactics.

I realized last week, though, that I will never master all the strategic details of this game. It's a strategy onion, and when you peel away one layer, another one awaits you. That's high praise, and the game deserves it--S.I. exists in one of the most interesting worlds in gaming history, and the game is so well-designed that almost every tactic, at the right time, is useful.

So, instead of turning into Harper Lee and working on a strategy guide for over thirty years, rarely leaving the house, I decided on a different tack. For those of you who haven't played the game yet, I wanted to produce a guide that would ease you into the interface and the game flow. The manual is quite thorough, but it doesn't necessarily provide information in the order that you need it as you learn the game.

I'll try to help with that.

I'm going to assume that you've never played the game, so first off, download the demo (or better yet, buy the game) here.

The objective in Solium Infernum is to rule Hell. Spicy. Primarily, a player does this by accumulating "prestige points," and when the game ends, the Archfiend with the most prestige points is selected by the Infernal Conclave. The player can also attempt to directly take over Pandemonium, the capitol of Hell.

There's a third way to win involving manipulation of the Infernal Conclave, but I'm not telling you everything.

Also, and we'll discuss this in more detail later, there are (to me) two fulcrums in the game: order slots and tribute. Since SI is turn-based, everything you do requires an order, and you will probably only have two order slots when the game begins. Focusing on increasing the number of available order slots is critically important to being successful.

Tribute comes from your minions, and it's also critically important, because almost everything you do in the game requires some amount of tribute. Think of it as resources, although its use in this game is quite clever. So you want to receive and keep as much tribute as possible.

What having plenty of order slots and tribute does is greatly increase your strategic and tactical flexibility, and in this game, flexibility is everything.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's get to the game.

The first thing you'll want to do is create an avatar. Follow this path from the opening menu:
--Create & Edit Avatar
--Create New Avatar

Now, you'll see this screen:

Yes, the rest of the art in the game is just as cool. This is a very, very stylish game, and the art is fantastic.

Note that you have 30 "Fiend Points" to work with, and there are a wealth of options to consider here. Primarily, you'll be deciding:
--perks (special or enhanced abilities)
--public objective (special goal for additional prestige)

With rank comes privileges, as they say in American Express commercials--in Hell. Higher ranks have more powerful strongholds, better Tribute cards (we'll talk about that shortly), and lower costs for diplomatic actions.

However, there are lots of other quite tasty things you can do with your 30 points, so just for demonstration purposes, let's stay as a simple Lord (which costs 0 points).

Attributes are next. Starting with all your attributes at 0 just isn't going to work, but you will very quickly discover that 30 points don't go very far. Improving an attribute from 0 to 1 takes only 2 Fiend Points, but the point cost doubles for each additional increase in that category--starting off with a 4 rating in any attribute category, for example, would cost you your entire 30 points (2+4+8+16).

Again, I'm focusing on order slots and tribute. Increasing the Charisma attribute also increases the Diabolism Discipline rating (you won't see it on the Avatar creation screen), which improves the number of tribute cards you choose from as well as how many you can keep (Appendix H has a detailed chart that explains the benefits of each discipline level increase). Improving the quantity of Tribute is very, very important, so I'm going to bump up Charisma to 1, which only costs me 2 Fiend points. I'm also going to increase Cunning to 1, because (like Intellect and Wickedness) when I increase this attribute to 4, I'll gain an additional order slot. That costs 2 more fiend points, so I now have 26 remaining.

As a note, the reason I'm not going to increase it more is that you can still increase your attributes during the game, either by rites or by use of Tribute. That's why I'm willing to have my attributes so low as a starting point, because Perks, which we're going to discuss next, are a one-time shot--if you don't select them now, you can't acquire them during the game.

On to Perks. There are 31 to choose from (Appendix G in the manual explains each one), and while your playing style will probably be different, here are a few useful ones from the order slot/Tribute strategy perspective:
--Infernal Cardinal (+8): +2 to all Tribute rolls.
--Devoted Minions (+8): keep an additional Tribute offering.
--Collector of Curiousities (+7): when you ask minions to seek out manuscripts, they have 2X chance of finding them.

What I love about this game is that you will find support for any strategy you want to employ. There are excellent perks for EVERY strategic approach you can take. And depending on map size, number of opponents, and turn length, almost every strategic approach is necessary. Certain strategies that are ideal for long games, for example, are almost useless in short ones, and large versus small maps do the same.

For my approach in this game, I'm goign to take the three perks I listed. So I have three perks that will help me collect tribute as well as rare manuscripts. Manuscripts (a form of Tribute), when all volumes are collected, will allow you to perform rites that will have an effect on various stats (we'll discuss more later).

Save your avatar and exit out to the main screen. Tomorrow, we'll create a new game.

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