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Praetorians - PC - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 7.5 Good

When Julius Caesar teamed up with the richest man in Rome and the greatest general the empire had known, it wasn’t just to socialize over a glass of wine. The plan was to expand the Roman Empire well beyond its bounds to consume most of the known world. But there were those who were not about to stand idly by while Rome plotted to rule the world.

To the north were the fierce Gauls. Across the Mediterranean, to the south, was Egypt. Both stood ready to oppose the might of Rome.

Praetorians, a Pyro Studios and Eidos Interactive PC release, derives its name from the elite bodyguards of the Roman Empire. But while the name has a certain ring to it, it is really limiting in describing what this game is about. You see, the Praetorians are just one of 13 units available to players as they set about this giant chess match of world conquest.

This isn’t so much a micromanagement civilization simulation as it is an ongoing campaign with real-time strategy, which encompasses not only unit force but terrain tactics. Players will be able to scout the size of the opposition (a nice twist here, you can send raptors or wolves to scout out enemy locations and sizes), then muster the appropriate forces to take them on. Some units do not fare well in certain environments. You cannot send missile-oriented units into the thick forest, but rather must rely on melee-style units.

Your units have marched through the forests and valleys, battled through mountains and across rivers and stand at the threshold of the enemy camp. Unfortunately, the enemy is ensconced behind fortifications. What do you do? Easy — that is where catapults, ballistas, assault ladders and towers, and battering rams come into play.

Though you can play from three different perspectives in this game (Romans, Barbarians and Egyptians), each side has units that rival the others. The Romans horsed attack are the Equites while the Barbarians use the German cavalry and the Egyptians have chariots, Camel Riders and Parthian cavalry.

Graphically Praetorians is solid, with lush environments and very nicely animated battle scenes. However, this game doesn’t really come close to the graphical quality of releases such as Microsoft’s Age of Mythology. The sprites used to simulate the units are a little weak and every soldier or warrior in a division looks alike and moves similarly. But while these characters are a little bland, the environments are very well done. The rivers shimmer and flow with realism, the bridges and buildings are nicely constructed and the environments are lush and richly designed.

The game utilizes mouse-oriented controls that seem standard for other games of this nature. You can drag and group several units together, and right click to send them scurrying off to a new post. Hot keys simplify the movement options, such as attacking, holding position, patrolling, or repairing.

There is a simply tutorial that allows players to work through the fundamentals of the program, but those who have played this style of game before can bypass that and get right to the action. There are 24 single-player missions and up to 8 players can participate online through GameSpy in a winner-takes-all battle.

The game’s sound sports nothing extraordinary or new to the genre.

Praetorians is the kind of game that will not set the RTS afire with innovative gameplay, but what it does manage to do is bypass the micromanagement civilization side of these styles of game and ask players to use their brains to outthink, not simply outmuscle, the opposition. Yes, you will have to build siege machines, and you will have to recruit new blood for your army, but all that is within the spectrum of what armchair generals should expect to do.

Praetorians delivers solid action, and much rides on the preparation for battle as it does on the battle itself.

This game is rated Teen for violence.


Gameplay: 8
The load times are fast, and the mapboards, which are often cloaked in the fog-of-war, are a good size. The camera angle will not always reveal units hidden in forests until you bump into them, requiring that players utilize the scouting options available.

Graphics: 7.6
The environments are well done, but the units are not quite as detailed as in other games in the genre. The animations are solid, but not exceptional.

Sound: 7
Though nice, there is nothing exceptional here.

Difficulty: Medium
The game has several difficulty levels and each scenario has conditions which that be met to win. The control elements are typical of the genre.

Concept: 7.5
The time period and units available in the game are well done, and the scouting options are also nice. But the style of gameplay is somewhat generic for the genre.

Multiplayer: 7.8
The multiplayer games can be frenetic, and you can win or lose quickly. The style of multiplayer gaming is simplistic but this is fun.

Overall: 7.5
The game looks good and plays well ­ it just doesn’t really offer much that is new or innovative to the genre.

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