17 years after the first publication, Praetorians returns to the console in the Remaster version. Will its charm remain intact?
All of Gaul is divided into three parts, wrote Caesar. Similarly, the return of Praetorians to PS4 must be framed from three perspectives: first, we must ask ourselves if the game as such works well in design; secondly, it must be understood whether the console adaptation has paid off; finally, it is necessary to analyze the technical opportunity, ie whether the remastering process has had any positive effects on the operation. In general, Praetorians HD simply offers the original product on new hardware, Nothing more and nothing less. Unfortunately, especially considering the peculiar characteristics of the consoles compared to the PC, it is really difficult to be able to enjoy the clashes between the Roman legions and the Gallic troops.
Rules of engagement
Published in 2003 in a season of triumphs for the original studio (Pyro Studios), Praetorians had a moderate success and widespread appreciation, also because at the time it had a trait that distinguished it from the competition: its focus is almost entirely focused on combat and unit management, staying as far away as possible from mechanics related to the use of resources, money and more. So forget the classic RTS model where everything – or almost everything – depends on the richness of the speakers and the power of the structures: in Praetorians the pitched battle is the only relevant element.
The simplicity of the relationships between the various types of units is in some way due both to the historical period of publication, and to the need not to make pitched battles too complex otherwise unmanageable, given the absence of the tactical pause. Consequently, the structure is of the most classic: the men of the simple infantry are often used as meat for slaughter and as engineers (which is historically accurate), while the legionaries are the pivot of the army; the spearmen are slow but deadly against the cavalry, which in turn must aim at the enemy archers; the barbarians have more unity but less organized, while the Romans optimize smaller numbers with high tactics.
Yet we must not imagine pitched battles as those of a modern Total War (in this regard, we recommend our review of A Total War Saga Troy), since the Praetorians cut is decidedly more traditional.
In fact, we will have to conquer one or more villages in order to recruit the units we want to use, depending on the type of mission we are facing: besieging a fortress will be impossible without ballistas and catapults, while a battle on the plains against the Parthian hordes will be impossible without a good cavalry covering the hips.
One pad is not enough
The main problem of Praetorians HD Remaster, which unfortunately affects the entire product, lies precisely in the fact that the entire game structure is based on the very rapid large-scale clashes that we will be called to fight, given that the absence of the tactical pause and the poor general maneuverability of the pad compared to the mouse (peripheral for which the game was originally designed) make it almost impossible to control everything. It will often happen, almost always in reality, to launch a unit to attack and, before having finished assigning a command to the other (for example, ask the spearmen to advance against the cavalry and the infantry to attack the front line) , to see her already engaged, with the enemy that in the meantime has already managed to circumvent our forces.
It is not that these limits make the title unplayable, but they oblige those who use the console to giving up virtually any difficulty level that exceeds “normal”, and above all they don’t do justice to the various techniques that can be used on PC, stifling many of the game’s design choices.
Furthermore, as often happened (and happens) with both turn-based and real-time strategists, the level of difficulty increases the artificial intelligence exponentially, and at medium-high levels even a couple of patrol battalions could cause us big headaches. .
All of this also occurs by virtue of the fact that some old school stylings are still present in the game, and render it almost indigestible for today’s audience, because they are more interested in Praetorians’ quality of life than in its design. For example, it is impossible to rotate the camera, which makes positioning yourself on the battlefield much more difficult. Even the interfaces, faithful to the original product (and therefore to be appreciated), are difficult to read quickly.
From Britain to Parthia
The game retraces the facts narrated by Cesare in the two De Belli, both in the Gallic and in the civilian, and consequently the variety of enemies and settings remains intriguing until the end of the campaign, which has a decidedly sustained duration compared to the average of the genre: in addition to the 4 tutorial missions (which we highly recommend ), 20 brutal clashes between Romans, Roosters, parts and much more await us. Do not expect, however, who knows what I will tell, clearly, because it is evident from the very first bars that the facts narrated by Caesar are a mere pretext to offer a frame to the gameplay.
It should also be noted that the variety of settings has a purely aesthetic and atmosphere value, and does not generate any effect in playful terms. This too, more than a criticism, is a simple observation on the nature of the product, born in a profoundly different era and with fewer means available. The presence of the skirmish and multiplayer modes adds a lot of longevity to the game, but it does not clearly erase its historical limits and a far from effective adaptation of controls.
Praetorians HD RemasterVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4After 50 years of history, the video game begins to be a means that feels the need to be preserved, handed down, preserved in its original form. Praetorians HD, in its substantial identity compared to the 2003 version (only some control dynamics of the groups change) is in this sense a positive operation, because it proposes to the masses a game otherwise impossible to find on consoles (on PC it was relaunched in 2014 always from Kalypso Media). Unfortunately, its advantages stop there: between the historical limitations linked to the development period and the very difficult operation of adapting to console peripherals, Praetorians HD implicitly suggests us to opt for the PC version.