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PC Review - 'Praetorians'

by Hank on May 8, 2003 @ 2:04 a.m. PDT

Genre: Real Time Strategy
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Pyro Studios
Release Date: 11-Mar-2003

Welcome to the Roman Empire, where only the truly strong will survive. Management of each troop member is critical to one’s victory or failure. A false move and your entire troop can be eliminated. A strategically maneuvered move and you’ll crush the enemy. Welcome to the world of Praetorians.


There are a total of three factions: Romans, Barbarians, and Egyptians, but you can only play as the Roman Empire in recreating historical battle events of the past. The missions start off with a short black screen accompanied by the date and the name of the event, followed by awe-inspiring cut scenes. You will then be informed of the battle situation and the objectives that you must complete in order to achieve victory. For your convenience, hitting the F9 key brings up a list of your mission objectives, with completed objectives marked in blue. After triggering an event in a mission, you might acquire new goals, so it would be wise to check your objectives list periodically. The missions range from escort, defending, rescue, divide and conquer, and last but not least, conquering missions. Depending on the mission, you will start off with a few infantry units or almost no army at all.

This game does not support the theory that strength lies in numbers but rather in the commanding officer’s skills. There are a total of 24 different missions, and each mission is never an easy task. Instead of using resources, the game’s unit-building system was based on time, which is extremely time consuming and ultimately took me at least an hour to beat each mission. Each town has a set amount of villagers that you can use to create infantry units. Choose these units wisely (descriptions follow), or it will cost you the game. Each unit has a different build time, with the stronger units requiring more. Some units cannot be built without honor points, which are awarded based on the amount of units that you have killed. You must also have villagers in order to build units, with each unit requiring a certain amount of villagers in order to recruit them. Because of this system, however, you may have to wait hours before you can create enough military units to overtake the enemy. This game may not be appropriate for all RTS players, but it will definitely appeal to the truly talented.

Like most standard RTS games, most of the controls are performed with the mouse. It applies to this game as well, using the left and right mouse button to move and attack as well as deselect. The mouse wheel allows you to zoom in and out of the map but does not work as well as C&C Generals, in which you can also do a 360 degree rotation. The keyboard is also utilized, with Control + a number for grouping of your infantry, the “A” button to execute a move attack, and Shift to perform planned movements, such as indicating a particular path through the woods, rather than have the computer AI select one for you. Once you get used to these controls, you are almost ready for battle.

This game is probably the hardest RTS game known to man. The three difficulty levels are the standard easy, normal, and hard. Now I don’t know who was responsible for the naming scheme, but they should consider renaming them to be hard, brutal, and downright nightmarish.

Each race has a total of 12 units, with different names but almost identical stats and attacks. Each unit has its own strength and weakness, and a few of these units have different formations. Each unit has a long range and short range attack, but depending on the character, they will move towards their more powerful attacking position. I will name all of the units but will only further describe the Roman units, since you can only play as the Romans in single player mode. For reference purposes, however, I will provide the other races’ corresponding unit names.

The auxiliary infantry is the lowest-ranked infantry unit, and as it is quite weak, is better suited for building rather than combat. The units can build and repair items to help overtake the enemy. The Barbarian counterpart is the infantry, while slaves are the Egyptian counterpart.

The legionnaires are probably my favorite infantry unit because they can attack enemies hiding in trees, and are the fastest recruitable close-range melee unit. The Barbarian counterpart would be warriors, and the Egyptian counterpart would be soldiers.

The auxiliary archers are the best long-range infantry unit, as they fire arrows at the enemy and make it difficult to approach your front line. With the ability to use flaming arrows and shoot from trees, this unit is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The Barbarian counterpart is the bowman, while archers are the Egyptian counterpart.

If used properly, the spearman can be one of the most powerful units in the game, and if you take advantage of their strong formations, you can demolish your enemies. The Barbarian counterpart would be pike-men, and the Egyptian counterpart would be guardsmen.

The equites are basically legionnaires on horseback and are one of the fastest units in the game. These units have great long-range accuracy and require honor points to build. The Barbarian counterpart is the noblemen, while camel riders are the Egyptian counterpart.

The archer cavalry consists of archers on horseback. These units are only good for secondary support and hit-and-run tactics. The Barbarian counterpart would be mounted bowmen, and the Egyptian counterpart would be camel archers.

The gladiators can mount powerful attacks and have a special ability, the dragnet. The Barbarian counterpart is the German cavalry, while the Nubian archers, with their poisonous arrows, are the Egyptian counterpart.

The Balearic slingers throw rocks at the opposing units and when located in trees, are invisible to the naked eye. The Barbarian counterpart would be the hunters, and the Egyptian counterpart would be Parthian cavalry, which can shoot while still in motion.

The physicians are very helpful units behind the lines and can be pivotal in winning or losing a battle. Like the name suggests, they heal any injured units within its radius. Like the equites, these units also require honor points to build. The Barbarian counterpart is the druid, while the priest is the Egyptian counterpart.

The Praetorians are the most powerful unit in the game and require a lot of resources and time to build. They carry spears, shields, and possess strong defense and offense. With the correct backing, all enemy forces are in danger. The Barbarian counterpart would be berserkers, and the Egyptian counterpart would be war chariots.

The last two units would be the hawk and wolf scouts, which utilize their respective animals to conduct their recon. The hawk scout is used for long distance observation and finding enemies on a hill or path, and the wolf scouts are used to find enemy units in trees. Making use of these two units is beneficial; the more knowledge that you have of the surrounding areas, the better chance you have of completing the mission.


The graphics and environmental interactions are great. There are always weather effects, such as snow, rain, desert dust, and environment effects, such as thick bushes and trees. You can hide in either of these locations to launch a surprise attack on unsuspecting enemies. Unlike other RTS games, you can watch thousands of units battle it out with each other. The better your formation, the more kills you will receive.


The music in the game is pleasant and very appropriate for the time period. The clashing of swords, the war cries, and the background music all combine to create a great gaming atmosphere. The ambient weather sounds also fit nicely in the game. By and large, the most impressive sound in the game is the narrator, who issues orders perfectly. The other voice actors in the game are also great and sound quite similar to those in Commandos.


You can play against a total of eight different players, but finding a game is almost impossible. If you somehow manage, most the players online are quite nice and friendly. Playing online allows you to prove your skills as a commander.


This game is perfect for the dedicated RTS fan, as it can take away a good chunk of your life. You must control your units flawlessly and be familiar with all of their strengths and weaknesses, or else they will be demolished before you can blink. The game implements but requires too much time to create a good enough army. If it weren’t for the fact that everything revolved around time, the game would be flawless. The missions are extremely difficult when you have nothing to work with, but when you have an army, the missions can be extremely fun. The music and video are really impressive, but overall, the game is just too difficult to recommend to everyone. This is only for the true RTS fans out there who don’t mind the high learning curve and want to prove that they can beat any game.

Score : 8.7/10

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