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Manor Lords hands-on: Medieval calm

Manor Lords hands-on: Medieval calm

Manor Lords

Being more of a fantasy guy, I'm not a fan of games set in the medieval era. But despite that, Manor Lords is actually pretty fun. Made by one-man developer studio Slavic Magic over the last seven years, and published by Hooded Horse, Manor Lords, which is set in the 14th-century, will finally go into early access on April 26. The most wishlisted game on Steam (over 3 million), Manor Lords is a mix of city building and Total War, but you can also choose to just focus on city building if that’s more to your liking. 

Quick notes 

  • Game basics are there but certain elements such as guides are missing
  • Beautiful graphics
  • City building can feel mesmerising

I love city-building games such as Against the Storm, so I figured I would take to Manor Lords like a duck to water. However, the first hour of the game was a bit of a mess for me. Since it’s early access, the tutorials aren’t quite there yet. So I had to muddle around trying to figure out what to do. Then I had to figure out how to house my families, figure out how to feed them, acquire materials to build, and even trade. You do this by deciding if you want to farm or trade, and figure out how to.

This is important, because you'll need to figure out how to feed your village and keep them warm. This is all even before you have to worry about building up a militia, figuring out the combat mechanics, crafting weapons to arm them, and engaging in diplomacy with other nobles. If you decide to attack an enemy, you'll need to worry about the impact of that on your economy, as you pull menfolk away from farming, hunting, and making stuff to wage war. 

Manor Lords
Credit: Slavic Magic

It’s honestly really challenging. But after a few restarts, I started to find my groove. My first game, I traded away all my resources and then spent it all buying the wrong things. My second game, I had no idea about building a military and got stomped. My third game, I decided I wanted to just focus on city building so I turned off warfare. That, in hindsight, made the game click for me.

Of course, that meant I would never have to worry about having to maintain a militia and building weapons, but I figured I can tackle that aspect of the game when I felt more comfortable with the basics. And as the requirements for upgrading your buildings get increasingly complex, you'll need to start planning ahead (and maybe restarting your game again if you already completely borked it up).

See Also
Astro Bot

Manor Lords
Credit: Slavic Magic

Other things I like include the ability to go into third-person view and walk around your burgeoning town. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game is gorgeous. Seeing your town up close as you walk around the roads that you’ve built is honestly pretty cool. There’s also the satisfaction you get from watching it all come together as your town starts to grow and expand, as you figure out optimal layouts for you to min-max. In fact, as the game grew on me, I started thinking about how I would plan out a medieval city, with its various agricultural and industry requirements, by using a spoke-and-hub layout, which is so obviously different from the grid layout of a modern city.

While Manor Lords is still in early access, it's already functional and fun. It may be a few years before we revisit this hands-on as a review, but I'm hoping it will get there. Manor Lords can only get better with future updates and patches. However, given that it’s a one-man project, fingers crossed that it doesn’t take too long. Get it from Steam

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