Review by numbthumb007

Reviewed: 08/08/03

Caesar: Bad Haircut, Great Ruler


I’ve been a fan of RTS games for quite a while, ever since I picked up my copy of Warcraft. (Didn’t everyone own that at some point?) In any case, let me say first of all that I never intended to buy this game at all. I had never heard of it, in fact. I was simply returning a Novalogic military strategy game that I was horribly disappointed with, (it shall remain nameless here…) and I was told that I couldn’t get a refund. Ah, well… that just means new software for me! Gotta love exchange policies these days.
I chose this game on a whim, because I love the genre, and it didn’t look bad at all. I must say, I was exceptionally lucky that day. If you like the Real Time Strategy genre at all, I can assure you that you’ll be impressed with this lil’ piece of software. Simply put, the game is a blast to play, and once you try it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t heard of it more than you have. On to the categories…

Gameplay 10/10

Praetorians hooks the new player pretty quick with a nicely done training set at the beginning of the game. A nice point here is that they didn’t just throw in an in-game manual to show you the controls. You can actually learn a bit of strategy as well, like how to defend against a flanking maneuver, and how to approach enemies on an elevated position. Nice touch, I thought.
The difficulty level involved here is moderate, I would say. Might be quite difficult on the player just learning the RTS system, but a little time is all it takes to get the hang of things. The enemy AI is quite impressive, really. I never found myself thinking that the enemy was predictable or repetitive at all.

Controls 9/10

Another reason I chose this game was because I saw the “magic word” on the box. That word is “EIDOS”. Every Eidos game I have had the opportunity to try has had a lovely user interface, even if the game was not so simple. Praetorians is no different, in that regard. A simple mouse/keyboard combo is all it takes to start slaying Gauls, burning garrisons with flaming arrows, and firing catapults at castle walls. I thought the controls were kind of reminiscent of warcraft and starcraft, actually. There are quite a few similarities, which made things simpler for me.
Only issue I had with this category was that every once in a while (not often) I’d have to give the same command more than once to a unit. They got halfway there and just… I dunno, they stopped for Twinkies or somethin’, I guess. It had nothing to do with terrain, and I couldn’t figure out why it happened. But as I said, it was quite rare.

Graphics 9/10

Visual effects are quite nice in this game. While not “stunning”, the individual motion attributed to each member of your unit is quite impressive. (Consider here, that each unit usually has around 30 soldiers in it, and several units are usually fighting together. Then add in the enemies as well.) The backgrounds and environment is exceptionally well done, in particular. Wind, weather, water, and trees are excellent, and actually become part of game play in several instances. (Birds fly away if you move near them. Giving away your position? I knew I hated pigeons for a reason. One thing about the graphics though, is that I would have loved to see more cinematics. With war on this scale, I think just a few nice battle scenes would have been epic.

Sound 9/10

Voice acting is minimal really. Mostly just the intros to the missions, with a bit more thrown in to keep you interested during the interim between missions. It is well-done though, which seems to be a rare thing these days. And get this… even though it is very rare, they use the actual Latin language. It made me feel better after taking 3 years of it during high school. This is the first time I ever used it. Thank you, Eidos and Pyro…
The music is very good, I thought, although I know some people do disagree on this point. I’ve played a few games where I basically turned off all the sound because they didn’t have an option to turn down just the music. Sometimes the tunes are just that bad. The music here is fitting for the theme, really, and it’s not over the top or brain-numbingly repetitive either. Ah yes, and I actually liked the battle noises. It was quite refreshing after so many years of the “craft” battle games.

Replayability 8/10

This was a tough one to rate, because for me personally, the replayability is a “10” easy. Thing is, I think most people don’t want to fight the same battles again trying a different strategy. This game’s strongpoint is strategy, though, so if you are looking for a lot of easter eggs and secret flashy animes, you might be disappointed. Every time I play this game, I second guess my own tactics, and I can’t wait to get back and try another flanking move, or try to draw out the enemy cavalry with quick troops into crossfire from my archers. That’s the draw for me, so I refuse to give this category a low rating.

Final Thought

This is simply a great game, and it really puts you to the test. I’d recommend starting this game on the “Easy” difficulty, even if you think that the tutorials are a breeze the first time. The tutorials are not indicative of the enemy AI or the objectives at all, and you will most definitely be challenged later in the game.
I promised myself that I’d be fair in this review, so I feel it necessary to mention the one thing that bugged me more than anything about this particular bit of software. Some other reviewers have said it, and I’ll echo the sentiment. Retreating is really not an option in the game at all, so if you step a bit too far, you might find yourself reloading and old save more than once. Then again, maybe that just makes the game more “real”… I never tried on the gladiator outfit and swung the sword, so I guess I’ll never know. It probably would have made my butt look big anyway.

Rent or Buy?

Definite purchase. This is one of those games you put in the drive to just see how it looks before you go to a class or to work, and the next thing you know, you are faking a cough as you call your boss or professor to explain why you won’t be coming in today. Good luck with this one, and remember to get some sleep, Why dontcha?

Final Score from my Perspective 9/10 (A Classic in the Making)

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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