I got some hands-on time with Manor Lords, a new city builder that curiously doesn’t really have a theme – which is wholly unique as a city builder set during medieval times.
It does manage to capture the rough development of trying to survive when there are few workers able to build or gather supplies. Planning out your land requires future planning on understanding the potential consequences of certain actions, all of which affect your village’s population.
In fact it harkens a lot of similarities to Banished, one of the recent greats in the city builder genre as a whole. But the better question is if it’s a cheap imitation of an amazing game, or one which can possibly surpass it?
The demo for the game opens up with basically an empty settlement where you need to provide all the required buildings for storage. Assigning work is simple and easy as the AI is smart enough to quickly take up tasks if you allow idle workers to do so on a building by building basis.
While the graphics of Manor Lords are solid, albeit a bit standard when it comes to a game set in historical 14th century Europe, what really shines are the details of how things that you build get worked into the environment.
The world isn’t grid based and each road has that subtle curve and imprint that make it appear like people actually walk on it. The same goes for most of the buildings, especially the houses, where you have the ability to draw up how large and what shape they will take up.
It all looks so natural when you aren’t forced to create homes and farmland in squares or rectangles. It gives the feeling that you’re building to fit into the world, rather than the world reforming itself to fit into your vision.
Just like with Banished, Manor Lords is also a rather challenging title among the city builder genre. There are very few people that live in your village at the start and this mean very limited number of workers who can gather resources or build more structures. Managing this is vitally important in order to create a flow where every person can have what they need to live and be happy.
One part that confused me was after building the houses required by the tutorial, how you can get more people to move in. At the start you have 5 men working hard and the creation of these homes allow for families to be created. Yet despite having them, it didn’t seem I was about to assign more people into jobs.
As it turns out, and it appears to be a function rather than a bug for Manor Lords, households share the same assigned job – definitely not a norm for the genre.
This means if you set 1 person to gather for berries, then that means 3 were put to the task. This is something that wasn’t explained well in the game, and would’ve saved me when I struggled to create resources to survive the winter.
But aside from that one minor inconvenience, the game has a lot going for it as is during the Manor Lords’ demo. The struggle for survival is tough, but fair. And simply having this might be enough for some people.
In the future survival will be expanded up more with the inclusion of diplomacy with other lords who are building their own settlements on the land, as well as military combat where you draft your population to fight.
Manor Lords is already a solid take on the medieval city builder genre, which will provide players an engaging system to control their citizens and prepare to survive harsh winters and expand their territories. The future is even brighter with more features planned and if they work on fixing up some of the kinks – this will be a great game when it launches fully in the future.