Score: 8.7 / 10
lot of time in recent years it seems more and more prevalent that real
time strategy games have become more about economy management than about
the combat that these economies are supposed to finance.
Players regularly find themselves spending over half of their
time telling their towns’ populace to collect resources to build new
structures, and creature huge military forces that only wind up being
used to fend off attackers until their numbers are so great that they
can march on the enemy’s compound utterly obliterating it through the
player’s forces being so numerous.
The folks at Pyro Studios, on the other hand, have gone for a far
purer approach to the genre, focusing on fighting, not finance, making
for an excellent combat oriented RTS.
place in 56BC, Praetorians follows a time early in Rome’s expansion as
it starts to work its way into Europe and wrap itself around the
Mediterranean, making for a game steeped in history.
As such players will have the opportunity to play as Romans,
barbarians and Egyptians through the over 20 campaigns available in the
game with similar units and units unique to the different factions.
From the moment a map loads up and the player can get down to business the only resource they will ever need to worry about is the different villages’ inhabitants. Simply occupy the town and slowly recruit its population to add to your army until you have sucked it dry and can move onto the next one. Different units require different numbers of villagers and take varying amounts of time to create whether you want something as basic as an infantry unit or something as lofty and formidable as some praetorians. Bare in mind also that some of these higher-ranking units also require honor points, which are accumulated through victories in the battlefield. It’s really great to have things kept so straightforward in this regard, not having to worry about chopping down trees, mining minerals, and maintaining a food supply. Simply focusing on deciding which types of units will suit you best for the terrain of the battlefield and what intelligence your scouts have gathered is and ordering their training accordingly is a breath of fresh air.
And while the adage that there is strength in numbers holds true to Praetorians, it’s not just a matter of training as many units as possible, then moving on to the next settlement, continuing the process until you have a monolithically huge army to swarm the enemy with. The different units each serve distinct purposes and can have specific reactions to certain terrain. You could imagine my surprise when I tried to send a squad of spearman into a
forest after some retreating archers only
that they would not enter the area, resulting in their annihilation at
the hands of the archers now safely concealed in the woods.
I later learned that infantry are the unit of choice to send into
such areas which makes sense when you consider that they are armed with
swords, far better suited to confined spaces like that of a forest, as
opposed to spears which need considerably more room to function
properly. There actually is
quite the rounded out selection of units to make as well, ranging from
infantry to spearman to archers to legionnaires to praetorians and
beyond. There’s a little
bit of everything and players will find themselves needing to keep a
good balance of these units to get far in the game.
They have a surprisingly symbiotic relationship; so building too
much of one and not enough of another could prove disastrous.
also play an important role in Praetorians, whether laying siege to a
fort or finding the best way to have your forces maneuver on the
different terrains, there is quite a bit to consider in battle.
Terrain plays a huge role in strategy in the game, as the high
ground gives units a better view of what’s around them, and units some
units can even hide in the forests and tall grass, popping up seemingly
out of nowhere to strike their foes.
Many of the units have special attacks that they can use as well,
ranging from the legionnaires’ turtle technique where they put their
shields overhead and encircling their unit, preventing archer attacks
from having an effect, or the pike men sticking their poles firmly into
the ground to repel charges. It’s
also nice to see that the enemies are quite smart, adjusting their
tactics accordingly, taking advantage of any opening players present, as
well as taking advantage of the terrain around them.
a visual standpoint Praetorians takes a 3D presentation, which by and
large looks nice. The
vegetation is lush, the soldiers have a decent level of detail, and the
animation stays smooth throughout.
The trouble spot in the game’s graphics comes from the camera.
Rotating is not an option, and zooming is highly limited,
restricting players’ ability to see what is happening on screen as
well as they may like. It
won’t ruin a campaign, but can serve as a distraction.
But as far as the audio experience of the game is concerned
things are great. The music
is comprised of very engaging orchestral pieces that go a long way to
add to what’s happening on screen, and generally the sound effects are
well done. Listening to the
sound of a legion march is very impressive, though the screams of fallen
soldiers sound like they were recorded in somebody’s bathroom.
controls are kept fairly simple in the game, never becoming
overwhelming. Most of the
work is handled through point and click commands, but there are several
hotkeys to streamline play and players can assign units to the numbers
on the keyboard for quick, easy reference.
There are some nice little tweaks like being able to dictate
which direction a unit will face after completing its march and being
able to balance out the numbers within units who have ad casualties at
the push of a button.
is a breath of fresh air in PC real time strategy.
Stepping away from the tedium of resource management, with a
focus on combat will be a draw for many.
The sheer focus on tactics and all of the available options
within this makes this an extremely challenging game, but persevering
and learning these intricacies will reveal a true gem.
(April 20, 2003)
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