You don’t get many new RTS type games on consoles these days. I think the last one I really sank some time into was the Playstation One version of Red Alert. It’s probably fitting then that Praetorians is also an old game, but one that’s spruced up a bit with the HD remaster treatment (similar to that of the recently reviewed Commands 2 HD Remaster).
Thankfully, it holds up better than Commandos 2 does. Set against the backdrop of the emerging Roman Empire, your quest to become Emperor takes you across Egypt, Gaul and Italy. Originally released for PC in 2003, I was surprised and please to see how well the visuals have held up given the HD upscaling treatment.
That’s the first relief – it doesn’t necessarily look like an old, rough game. The controls were my next worry though, and it all starts off simply enough. Fairly intuitively, the tutorial takes you through the basics, and just when you think that this is manageable as an RTS game on console, you’re hit with menu and icon overload. There is a lot going on.
To be fair, Praetorians does a decent job of slowly introducing you to the various controls. Shortcuts for grouping, and setting your groups of troops are helpful, as are tooltips for what each option does. It’s very much a military strategy game – so if you were hoping for the hunt for, and source resources to supply your army then you are out of luck here. But setting waypoints, flanking enemies and fighting for tactical advantage is the order of the day here, so if, like me, your RTS strategy was predominantly ‘build a massive army then send them in at once’, you’ll come a cropper here.
Fairly quickly, the controls felt like second nature and if not well suited, well adapted to joypad control. Taking over buildings, garrisons and recruiting new troops becomes second nature, and your army will easily move around as a dynamic force. Exploration is important, with ‘Honor Points’ awarded for overcoming skirmishes you find yourself embroiled in which can, in turn, be used to build special units.
Field of view comes into play too, with verticality and obstructions playing a part. Hiding in long grass is a crucial tactical move, as is luring enemies into forests where it’s much harder to see what is going on – great if you’ve established ambushes and choke points across the natural geometry.
Whilst visibility for the troops in-game is important, it’s a bit of a shame that the camera for you, the player is limited. It’s serviceable, and perhaps I’ve been spoiled with being able to really manipulate the camera in other top-down games recently. It’s a minor point, at at least this levels the playing field for when you embark on multiplayer skirmishes too.
There is a lot to sink your teeth into here, and it’s nice to see an old game that people may not have had a chance to play be brought up to date and made available for a new (and console) audience. Praetorians HD Remaster is not just a decent remaster, or a good option for those wanting an RTS game on console, it’s a genuinely good RTS game.
Reviewed on PS4