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
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
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.
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.
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.
Though nice, there is nothing exceptional
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.
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.
The multiplayer games can be frenetic,
and you can win or lose quickly. The style of multiplayer gaming is simplistic
but this is fun.
The game looks good and plays well
it just doesn’t really offer much that is new or innovative to the genre.