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Praetorians

I first stumbled upon this game probably sometime in late 2007; I am almost certain that I first played and enjoyed a demo version of it for maybe a week or so prior to deciding to buy the full version. The game itself is a real-time strategy game set in the late Roman Republic, during the middle of the first century B.C. (the game's campaign mode begins in the year 59 B.C. and ends in the year 45 B.C.), and features Romans, Egyptians, and barbarians as playable factions.

I have never played this game's multi-player mode; I've only ever played the skirmish (i.e. single battles against computer-controlled opponents) and campaign modes. Initially I ignored the campaign mode and played only skirmish mode battles, always using the Romans as my faction. As I hadn't played through the tutorial missions, and as I either had not read or had quickly skimmed through the game's manual, I was, unsurprisingly, quite bad at it during this time: I recall constantly losing to the computer opponents even on the easiest difficulty setting, being slow and inflexible in my tactics, and recruiting armies that were overwhelmingly composed of only legionary and auxiliary archer units (along with a few scouts and physicians), any other units being generally too complex and mysterious for me to handle. I also obscurely remember that the first skirmish battle I ended up winning had taken hours; I had played it over a handful of sittings, saving and loading my game between each one, and I had only won through a slow, tedious battle of attrition with the computer opponent. (The few other battles which I ended up winning during this time would also be won in largely the same manner.)

I returned to playing Praetorians a couple of times during the late 2000s, and I believe that it was only during a later session that, wisely, I decided to play through its four tutorial missions, upon which my knowledge and grasp of the game's mechanics was greatly expanded—I can still clearly recall feeling, for the first time, confident that I could at least handle myself competently in battles. From then on, most lingering uncertainties that I had concerning certain aspects of gameplay disappeared, and I started recruiting and properly using other types of units, including catapults and ballistae; I even felt confident enough to begin playing through the game's campaign mode for the first time, though I ended up completing only a handful of the missions. (Initially you need to complete a campaign mission to unlock the next one—that is, the second mission unlocks only after completion of the first, the third unlocks only after completion of the second, and so on—but I didn't like this, so at some point, I remember, I downloaded a cheat/patch that unlocked all of the game's campaign missions at once, and thereafter I proceeded to pick and choose whichever missions appeared interesting to me to play.) Mostly, however, I returned again to playing skirmish battles, this time with much less ignorance and far greater success; eventually I even tried out the Egyptians and the barbarians, though ultimately I still preferred the Romans.

Later on I can recall reading gameplay tips and strategies online to improve my skill within the game, but another, greater effect which Praetorians had upon me at the time was that it managed to motivate me to learn some Roman history, or at least the period of Roman history during the first century B.C. on which the game focuses, particularly the details of the First Triumvirate as well as the life and death of Julius Caesar. I was rather enthusiastic about learning this information, and I credit Praetorians for being the sole inspiration for my efforts.

Playing this game again in December 2020 (which is when this page was written and published), it is remarkable just how much of it I can still remember, despite not having even looked at it for well over a decade. I quite like the game's soundtrack, especially the pieces Through Tears to Victory: The Calm (skip to the 2:45 mark of the same video), Through Tears to Victory: After The Rain (skip to the 8:11 mark), The North Wind: Loki Awakening (skip to the 14:55 mark), and The Lure of the East: Dawn (skip to the 26:55 mark), which are very pleasant and relaxing. Additionally, I have played both StarCraft and StarCraft II since playing this game, and I was immediately struck by the many gameplay and user interface similarities between those two games and Praetorians when I played the latter once again, though two significant differences are that, in Praetorians, there are no resources to mine, and also, very unfortunately, there are far too few hotkeys—most notably, they are omitted entirely for unit recruitment. This is probably the game's biggest flaw, but it is nevertheless a fine title.


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This page last modified on 2 May 2021.