Brilliant game, shame theres no plans for a sequel.
The singleplayer campaign is nicely done, you hope from region to region fighting various peoples and the missions are a little varied but usually its just kill the opposition which dont get me wrong is extremely good fun but the best missions are definitely the difficult siege missions.
For example on a level you control a small fort and have a limited number of troops you can recruit and have to man the walls and destory the enemy armies as they repeatedly attack, you can even oranise little sorties and send troops and calvary outside to attack and its spectacular fun seeing your troops struggle to push back the assault ladders, seeing men fly of the walls after theyve been struck by catapults and ballista, its very good fun and a memorable moment.
The game itself is fantasy-esque, you have troops but then you have troops with special abilities, centurions for the romans increase stamina regeneration and attack/defence of freindly troops, egyptian priests can duplicate enemies with their mirrarge effect to make it look like there are more in their army than there actuall is, with offering similar defence/attack bonuses, and the barbarian chiefs offer a much MUCH higher attack bonus.
Like these special units other units in each army have their own abilities aswell, the legionaries of the Romans can form testudo formation to protect against missile weapons, priests heal people automatically, german heavy cavaly can use their impale ability to destroy many soliders automatically in a charge, the roman gladiators throw a net to immobilise a troop, barbarian heavy infantry throw rocks and so on.
Each troop is also better at certain things, heavy infantry are the main fighters, light infantry are pretty bad fighters but can construct things like towers, siege weapons etc , archers are good but have to be used properly otherwise their easy prey for quick light cavalry, heavy cavalry are good for attacking infantry of all types and spearmen whilst not as tough as heavy infantry are superb as defenders when deployed properly.
The game offers alot of strategy and tactics as you can imagine from just detailing some of the units, but the terrain also features quite heavily, archers on high ground can attack without fear of immediate reprisals, they can even attack hidden from forests, you can have troops hidden to ambush which is very important and works well for the barbarian troops who also have cavalry which can ride in forests too offering a unique advantage. Also you can hide troops in long grass but this can work against you, for you can select different types of attacks with some units, including archers who can fire a volley of flaming arrows to burn whatever is hidden in the tall grass.
Not only this but you need to take towns in order to keep training troops, each troop depending on how good it is takes up a certain population from the village and takes varying times to create, obviously the best troops like Praetorians take many population and alot of time, wereas light infantry are produced quickly, but after a village's population has been used up it takes along time to replinish so you have to be on the move to the next town quickly BUT you cant split up your forces too much because you have a army limit so you have to think very carefully about your strategy and use tactics wisely in the heat of battle, you could even use a scorch earth policy and destroy towns you feel you cant hold by burning them to the ground with catapults, ballistas or archers, but you'd also have to stop the enemy from repairing them if theyre not destroyed quickly enough.
Each side has its own strengths and weaknesses, the Romans have more troops on average per unit than other races, have very good heavy infantry but weak cavalry, but they are also quite ponderous, the barbarians have very small unit sizes but are quick and very powerful, they can overwhelm oponents quickly in battle and the Egyptians have a emphasis placed on mobile archers such as parthians who can fire whilst on the move making for a dangerous enemy in the long run but pretty weak at the start, my favourite is offcourse the Romans with their balanced army with superb heavy infantry.
Now that ive covered the gameplay ill look at the graphics, they are pretty good, better when the game was released offcourse, units look pretty undetailed today but the terrain still looks very good.
The sounds are very good but like mos tother games the voice acting lets it down abit, the Romans sound abit pompous, barbarians like pirates and egyptians sound strange, but the saving grace is the music it is one of the best sound tracks in a computer game, definitely a good soundtrack which changes pace to fit the action before falling back into the gentle pace when theres relative peace.
Overall, Praetorians is a polished RTS with alot of strategy and tactics involved which includes a nice skirmish mode but no random map generator, a decent singleplayer with superb moments such as sieges and a good multiplayer component, definitely worth getting even now, but dont expect it to be historically accurate, its just fun!