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Praetorians

Developer: Pyro Studios | Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Players: 1 to 8 Player Game | Release Date: 03/10/03 | Genre: RTS

In looking at the game Praetorians, I began to think that this was another Age of Empires or the like, but I was wrong. I was wrong because even though there are many similarities, Praetorians is a new game all its own. It is set with a different time line, and with a different world, or civilization.

One thing that has impressed me about this game is that there is nothing that keeps you in it except for the excitement. It is based on events in history, well, a group in history. You control one of the most powerful armies, and get to go through what they went through. Unfortunately you can only play as the Romans in the single-player format, but have other options in multi-player. This does not really take away from the game, like I said, you're one powerful army. With all of this power though, it is easy to get killed, so take your time and most importantly, scout! It is easy to get caught up in moving troops without paying attention to what is going on around you. For those who are history buffs and know about ancient armies and weapons, this is a game that allows you to create and use them. How's that for some fun?

Oh, something I forgot to say, do the tutorials, it pays off. If you are the type that just goes gun-ho, you are going to die. That is exactly what I did and in the first battle, I lost and lost bad. Let's talk about the tutorials, they are every bit as challenging as the game itself. They AI (artificial intelligence) may not be as tough on the computers side, but it takes a little bit of adjusting to the game play and the screen and how it moves. As you travel over the different terrains, the higher the elevation, the higher the camera moves, but you always see the same amount of the land. There is a problem though, you are limited to a screen resolution of only 1024 x 768. For those who like to use resolutions that are higher, sorry, you can only go lower.

Despite this, the graphics and interface do not go lacking. The graphics are superb, I guess that's why you are limited to 1024 x 768, they don't want to lose any quality. This is the only fault I found about the graphics. When walking through the forest, you are left with only being able to see the trees and an outline of the troops, you are red, they are orange. Scout the forest well with the wolf scout, it will come in handy because you are able to detect any enemy units without prematurely losing a unit. The water, trees, characters and buildings have detail that stands out. A beefy video card is a must if you want the details that shine through.

I did find the interface to be a similar arrangement of other games, but that is something you will not get rid of. One thing that is nice is the bars that show you what troops are hot keyed and which you have selected. This helps in your selection of who fights when and where. Keeping with the fighting and building that you do, the interface is nice and compact allowing for quick transitions for when you need to build a quick ladder or get another troop to protect or pick up a fight. Watching your troops status in a fight is important and easy since you are given a Battle Status window to monitor the life of your troops.

The troops that you control are scouts for land and air, archers, and infantry units which do hand-to hand combat as well as working the siege weapons. Now for the weapons you get to build, shot and climb. Forget the trebuchets and catapults of old generation games. Click, create and watch your troops, infantry, build right before your eyes. Build catapults, ballistas, assault ladders, battering rams and of course, assault towers. Many people are aware of the catapults, ladders, rams and some ballistas, but not many know about the towers. These towers allow for troops to move up against a walled in building while having protection. Troops no longer have to rely just on ladders.

Each siege weapon requires a certain number of soldiers to man. There is no longer a siege weapon that moves under its own power, you watch the troops move and begin to sweat while they work. If you don't have anyone to man a weapon or build something, just demote some of your infantry, they live for it. But if you're expecting to make new troops quickly, you're going to have to wait at least 30 seconds before you are able to send them into battle. You have to wait for the entire group instead of getting them as they pop out one at a time.

Now, for the battles, the meat of the game. This took a little getting used to because there is more strategy needed. You have to have troops protecting each other, if not, you will go through units like water. One thing that could be approved upon is the response time in battle. It is very hard to move troops from one fight to another or take a couple units from one group and focus on another point. It would be nice if you could select a small number to move around instead of having to split a group or have small groups hot keyed. Many times I felt that too many soldiers were killed because I could not select a small portion to help out. Too many times it feels as if there are too many troops needed to kill a small group.

The action is nice and smooth with real time movement and realistic speed. Also, since there are not many enemy troops trying to rush, it is easy for one healer to heal large groups if needed. But, the more healers the have, the faster you can move on. So here are some tips, if you can do it, rotate troops regularly keeping your healer near by. Use the special features and formations to help ward off attacks and defeat the enemy. Oh, don't forget the movies that pop-up. Once you complete objectives or something you need to know happens, you are given a little movie with dialog. Pay attention to what they say, it can help. Usually there is not extra loss of life when this occurs, but you have to be ready to get back into the action.

Overall, every game is going to have its moments where the AI just kicks butt and those times where you question the level of difficulty. If you want something that is make believe, this isn't for you, play something else. If you want something that has a lot of reality, and want to conquer your opponents, play on. Remember to save your game often, unless you're so good that you can finish a game in a night. But I don't know about you, I can not do that. Well, have fun and conquer your foes.

By Lawrence Filler - 04/05/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for Praetorians

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