To the manor born

25 May,2024 08:30 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Jaison Lewis

Imagine the thrill of playing as a lord in a medieval city-building game. Manor Lords, still in its early access phase, offers this unique experience. But does it deliver enough to warrant your investment? Let’s find out

Manor Lords

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Manor Lords
Rating: 3.5/5
Developer: Slavic Magic Publisher: Hooded Horse
Platform: PC
Price: Rs 1,499

Manor Lords has a simple premise: You are the lord of a medieval town and must transform it from a tiny settlement into a bustling city. The game is still in early access, and that said, there are bugs and lots of updates that will happen as you play the game. The game is the brainchild of developer Slavic Magic, a one-person game studio by Greg Styczeń, and it took seven years to reach this point. The game is now being tested by people who have bought the game and the feedback is what is driving the current updates in Manor Lords.

Country life
Manor Lords really captures the essence of a medieval town with its beautiful fields and muddy dirt roads that get all puddly and wet when it rains. Livestock strutting along with the appropriately dressed townfolk. While most of the game is played in the top-down view, zooming in always shows you the amount of work that has gone into every little animation in the game. The seasons are also well-defined, and the map is transformed accordingly. The resources available also change according to season, especially where food is concerned.

A significant amount of thought has also gone into building the world economy. But there is a minimum price of 1 below which no commodity will sell, no matter how much you flood the economy, so if you find a way to mass produce something it is very possible to drive the export price down but it never passes the threshold, and that means you can technically make a lot of money. Taxing is also dynamic. As the lord, you can choose how much to tax your people, and sending grain to the church also builds up your influence in the region, which will help you expand and take over neighbouring land. However, if your neighbour is occupying the area already be ready for combat.

Combat takes a chapter out of RTSs like Age of Empires. However, your army is limited, and combat is not as fine-grained as a proper RTS. However, placing the army in a certain configuration and in certain areas gives an advantage in efficiency, which was interesting to see. I feel like the developer still wants to work on this and improve it because it feels unfinished. It is also easy to make an overpowered army, which renders combat pointless after a certain point in the game. Despite heavy graphics and complex world politics, the game is not too intense on the PC requirements. A reasonably modest gaming PC can easily run the game.

Work in progress
Now I realise that Manor Lords is still a work in progress, and you will see that many features are marked as such or are coming in the future. The game proudly advertises this fact everywhere, but it is receiving a lot of love, and the community is getting behind in improving and supporting it. I personally feel it is at a stage where the developer needs to hire a few people and start delegating tasks while there is still interest in the game.

Overall, Manor Lords pushes the boundaries of city building with its medieval-themed approach and the RTS-inspired combat, though a bit clunky, is still fun and will improve over time. Considering it is still early access, it does enough to earn both the investment of your time and money. It offers enough to get your beak wet right now and has lots of potential for the future. Although challenging, Manor Lords is playable enough to get you hooked for a few weeks and has enough prospects to keep you coming back as the game develops. My only red flag is that one developer is doing it all; adding more staff could keep pace with its growth.

Medieval mayhem
While the game has its plus points, it is still a work in progress, and many things need to be fixed or don't work as expected. The version I played while reviewing the game was plagued with issues related to farming. It was nearly impossible to farm enough food; the yields were always bad, and the more intensely you farmed, the worse the soil got. I finally had to look at some guides on feeding my starving population, and the solution was vegetable patches at the backs of houses. Lambs, though easy to breed, cannot be used for meat, only wool. Honey was also a dead end when it came to food. Though full of potential, the combat system is overpowered after a certain point in the game when you have all the necessary tools and buildings. Defeating an enemy is child's play. Figuring out how to get there takes a lot of work.

There is also a serious lack of documentation regarding how to progress in the game, and most wisdom has to be found online. However, the biggest problem I have with the game is its singular map. After a couple of runs and getting total domination, the map will wear thin on you.

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