Manor Lords: Early Access Review

Posted on : April 29, 2024

Manor Lords, a new entry into the city-building and strategy genre, comes from the solo developer Greg Styczeń, known as Slavic Magic. Released in early access, the game has drawn attention for its authenticity and intricate representation of medieval life. This review delves into Manor Lords’ strengths, areas for improvement, and how it’s received by the gaming community.

An Authentic Medieval Experience

Manor Lords stands out for its dedication to historical accuracy, immersing players in the intricate workings of a medieval world. The game’s aesthetic captures an earthy, authentic setting, with its hazy vistas, wonky thatched roofs, and plodding oxen. The core unit of housing, the burgage plot, showcases the era’s distributed work style. This plot can evolve into a small business venue, allowing villagers to set up chicken coops, breweries, and vegetable gardens, reflecting the structure of real-life medieval communities.

The game’s sound design and visual presentation further enhance its immersive quality. Rainstorms patter on the cobbled roads, winter blankets the town in frost, and villagers go about their daily routines in a grounded, detailed manner. This attention to detail rewards players who zoom in, creating a sense of immersion that ties into Manor Lords’ overall charm.

Economic Challenges and Gameplay Loops

Manor Lords introduces a unique economic loop, centering around supplying villagers with essentials like food and fuel, then leveling up their dwellings with amenities such as beer and clothes. This loop prevents snowballing, making it challenging to sustain a large population dependent on farms, mills, and bakeries. The game also offers the option to specialize in making money and trade for materials, adding variety to the economic gameplay.

The game’s economic system ties neatly into its warfare aspect, allowing players to equip and arm their troops for battle, creating a cohesive experience. RTS battles, reminiscent of Total War, see players raising formations of troops ranging from spearmen to archers, each unit equipped individually with weapons, shields, and armor. This ties the economic and military systems together seamlessly.

Game Setup

Relaxing

Manor Lords’ relaxed game mode offers a tranquil city-building experience, allowing players to focus on crafting their settlements without the pressure of managing military conflicts or dealing with bandits. This mode emphasizes the game’s core strength: its detailed and authentic representation of medieval life.

In relaxed mode, players can take their time developing their settlements, expanding from simple burgage plots into thriving communities. The freedom to build at a leisurely pace lets players fully appreciate the intricate systems that drive the economy, from cultivating crops to producing goods, and managing the complex supply chains that keep their villagers thriving.

Additionally, relaxed mode provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the game’s historical accuracy. From organic settlement layouts to small-scale businesses, the mode captures the essence of pre-industrial society. This slower pace also allows players to explore the game’s sound and visual design, appreciating the patter of rainstorms, the shimmering frost of winter, and the daily routines of the villagers.

Ultimately, relaxed mode offers a stress-free alternative for those who want to focus on the city-building aspect of Manor Lords, crafting a harmonious, self-sustaining community at their own pace. It’s an excellent option for players who prefer a peaceful, rewarding gameplay loop without the urgency of military conflicts.

Default & Challenging

Manor Lords’ default mode provides a balanced experience, blending city-building, economic management, and military strategy. In this mode, players develop their settlements while managing resources and defending against bandits and rival lords. However, some players have found that off-map adversaries can claim regions too quickly, making it challenging to maintain a balanced progression.

Despite this, some players have had success in navigating this mode, enjoying the interplay between building settlements and managing threats. For those who wish to avoid immediate conflicts, the option to set AI aggressiveness to “Reactive” provides a way to build up resources and armies before confronting rival lords.

It also offers a challenging mode for those seeking greater difficulty. This mode increases the pressure, requiring players to balance resources effectively and prioritize tasks to avoid collapse. In challenging mode, farming and maintaining a stable economy can be particularly difficult, with some players noting that this can hinder progress.

At the moment it is safe to say that these two needs a lot of work.

Early Access Hurdles

Manor Lords’ early access release reveals its unfinished state. While the game explicitly labels incomplete features, this lack of polish is felt throughout. Visual glitches, like deformed sheep, and inconsistencies, such as running through buildings or encountering impenetrable invisible walls, mar the experience. The manor system, designed to support endgame features, also needs refining, lacking meaningful engagement in its current form.

The game’s tutorials and UI lack comprehensive information, making it difficult for some players to navigate. This can be particularly challenging given Manor Lords’ complex gameplay, which demands careful management of resources, families, and seasons.

Community Reception

On the Steam forums, players have praised the game for its deep historical accuracy and satisfying city-building mechanics. The enjoyment of building organic settlements and managing a pre-industrial society is a common thread. However, the community also echoes concerns about the game’s early access state, highlighting its need for polish, more tutorials, and balancing.

Final Thoughts

Manor Lords is a game that, while lacking in some areas, can still capture your attention for entire weekends as you strive to build the perfect medieval city. If you expect a robust military strategy game, you may find yourself disappointed by its early access offerings. However, if you seek the calm of constructing an intricate settlement, Manor Lords can provide a gratifying experience.

I played the game in relaxed mode, and found it to be an absolute gem for city-building enthusiasts, allowing for peaceful and organic growth at your own pace.

Review Score

Let’s explain why I gave it a 7/10.

  1. Historical Accuracy: Manor Lords offers an immersive, historically accurate representation of medieval life. (+1 point)
  2. Visual and Audio Design: The game’s visual and audio design enhances immersion, from detailed animations to realistic soundscapes, making every zoomed-in moment enjoyable. (+1 point)
  3. City-Building Mechanics: Manor Lords provides an enjoyable city-building experience, allowing for organic settlement growth through balanced economic loops and resource management, fostering a satisfying gameplay loop. (+1 point)
  4. Gameplay Modes: The game offers multiple modes, including default, challenging, and relaxed modes, providing a variety of playstyles to accommodate different preferences. (+1 point)
  5. Incomplete Features: Manor Lords’ early access state reveals several unfinished elements, including military mechanics, tax systems, and other critical features necessary for a polished game. (-1 point)
  6. Balancing Issues: The game suffers from balancing problems in its economic and military systems, leading to an uneven gameplay loop that diminishes enjoyment. (-1 point)
  7. Lack of Endgame Content: Manor Lords currently lacks sufficient endgame content to sustain long-term play, with limited challenges from rival lords and bandits. (-1 point)
  8. Economic and Military Integration: The game’s economic and military systems tie together nicely. (+1 point)
  9. Community Feedback: Player feedback highlights areas for refinement, including more robust tutorials, balanced gameplay, and difficulty scaling, indicating that the game is still in its early stages of development. (-1 point)
  10. Replayability: The game’s existing modes and mechanics offer some replayability, though improvements in balance and depth could make the game more engaging over the long term. (+1 point)
  11. Promise for the Future: Manor Lords shows promise for future updates, potentially making it a more balanced and polished experience, appealing to both city-building enthusiasts and strategy gamers. (+1 point)

Once the game fully releases, we’ll revisit and provide a new review, exploring how it has evolved and whether its full potential has been realized. For now, Manor Lords shows promise, making it a title to watch for fans of city-building and strategy games.

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