Manor Lords: Top things to consider before you buy

By Nabadeep
10 Min Read

Manor Lords is a city-builder and real-time tactics video game developed by Greg Styczeń from Slavic Magic and published by Hooded Horse. It was released as early access on April 26, 2024, and before its release, it had over three million wishlists on Steam. The game is currently available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.

According to SteamDB, Manor Lords is currently the most trending game on Steam and the 14th most played game on Steam, just behind Team Fortress 2 and Rust.

Manor Lords Game Explained

The game is set as a medieval city-builder and war game. I remember hearing about this game in 2019 when one leading developer ran a Kickstarter campaign. You’d never know this game was mostly made by just a single person because it looks almost like it was made by a team. The game looks way too good to be made by a single person, as it feels almost too good to be true.

Before the early release, the game was in beta. And since the developer has access, you can tell that this is not the final product, but it feels refreshing and captivating. The game impresses with its natural-looking medieval cities and complex gameplay.


Manor Lords

As I said, it is a highly anticipated medieval city-builder and war game available as early access. I felt like this game had similarities to ‘Ano’ or ‘Banished,’ but it has many RTS game elements where you command soldiers, battle bandits, and enemy lords. There’s a strategic map, diplomacy, upgrades, trees, and supply chains. It’s a complex game with many moving parts, and the core of the gameplay is still the city building.

Is Manor Lords a war game?

War in Manor Lords

This isn’t a total war game. You’re not building gigantic armies that clash all the time. Combat is pretty infrequent, and the game’s not like a paradox game. You’re not playing as the Manor Lord with a dynasty and role-playing choices to make.

It’s not a full-blown medieval simulation game with grand strategy elements. It’s a city-builder, pure and simple. The focus here is building a town.

For one thing, it looks absolutely fantastic. The towns you can build in “Manor Lords” are easily some of the most natural-looking medieval cities I have seen in a game, with roads that bend naturally and buildings that are basic but very authentic.

You start with just a basic camp, a handful of families, and a pile of starter resources, and depending on the scenario, some of these things can vary a bit.

Gameplay Explained in Depth

Manor Lords Gameplay

There are only three different scenarios, though, and those basically amount to one with no combat, one with some combat, and one where you’re constantly getting attacked by raiders. There’s only one map currently, but it is a big one with multiple regions that you randomly start in. You can fine-tune each scenario’s difficulty as much as you want.

In Manor Lords, many options exist for folks who want to mess with it. You start with nothing—just a pile of wood, tools, a few loaves of bread, and a dream. From there, you must build houses called burgage plots and a wood-cutting station.

You probably want to buy another ox. They’re necessary for moving logs around and are one of those early-game bottlenecks that can slow you down if you don’t invest in them early. Without a tutorial, the game’s a little disorienting at first, especially for somebody not accustomed to this kind of game.

Manor Lords

Building roads is free in Manor Lords, and it’s important that your faculties connect to roads to make them easier to access and improve efficiency. Starting out, you’re also going to need somebody to pick berries and hunt wild game, ’cause everybody’s got to eat.

Manor Lords

You assign villagers tasks by simply clicking on a building and assigning the job to somebody, and they’ll most likely do it without any issues. One thing I must commend the game on with the early access is the basic gameplay loop here; it’s locked in. There’s a lot of missing stuff, and I’ll get into that a little later, but the villagers get around and do their jobs mostly without issue.

Manor Lords: The Downside

Manor Lords
  • If there are bottlenecks in Manor Lords, they mainly make sense, and in general, the game does a good job easing you into the experience without constantly tutorializing you. It isn’t perfect, unfortunately, but it’s also an early-access game. No game, even in its final finished state, is typically perfect. Still, the alert popups and warnings you get sometimes mean they’ll get locked into the screen well past the point where you’ve already resolved whatever issue they’re discussing.
  • The help menu in Manor Lords is pretty inadequate. There’s no information here, so you’re wondering how you get regional income. The help menu does not do anything to explain it to you. Your main goal in the early game is to get more people to move in, upgrade your burgage plots, and increase your town level, which allows you to unlock additional upgrades.
  • The system is simple and satisfying, and all the upgrades in the game have direct and obvious benefits, but most are locked into early access. To upgrade the houses, you need to fulfill various requirements. To get a burgage plot for level two, you need a church and market stalls for food, firewood, clothes, etc. None of these things are automatically generated. You need villagers to get food and, in turn, run the market stalls. You need someone to cut firewood and another villager to turn animal hides, which your hunters collect, into clothes. To get to level three, it’s even more complex. You need a tavern, more goods, and a nicer church.
  • Mostly, it’s not hard, but if you want to run a tavern, you’ll need beer, which means barley from fields, which needs to be brewed before it can be served. These resource chains are common in this type of city builder, but it all feels a little more tactile here because the stuff needs to be done by a villager.
  • The supply chain in Manor Lords is not abstracted in the way it is in many other games. It’s just taking place on screen in, I guess, real-time. The burgage plots are one of the most impressive things in the game. Instead of building ’em like most other RTS structures, you lay out a “Sim City”-like zoning district, and depending on the size and shape of the zone, that’s how many houses you build.
  • Give it more room for a backyard. You can attach attachments to each house, like a chicken coop or a family farm, to a fletcher or an armourer shop. It’s a complex system that still manages to be intuitive, and that’s how I would describe much of this stuff with this game. It all starts simple enough, but the supply chain requirements get increasingly complex as the game progresses.
  • The UI in Manor Lords is otherwise really readable, very intuitive, and, dare I say, somewhat pleasant. Still, some quality-of-life features are missing in Manor Lords, which are generally standard features in city-builder games, at least at this point. If you want to bypass a lot of that busy work, use the trading post.

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Manor Lords

If you think this game is going to be Paradox plus Total War but bigger, you may be disappointed, but if you’re like me and you’re here for a fun and complex but still approachable city builder with some RTS elements, that’s what you’re getting, and it does it very well. I am excited about where this game will go moving forward.

Where can I play Manor Lords?

The game is currently available for early access on Steam and Xbox.

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Nabadeep widely known as Pixel Prowess in the gaming world. With a background in game design and a keen eye for emerging trends, Nabadeep's leadership has shaped Gaming DNA Zone into a go-to platform for gamers. His dedication to fostering a positive gaming environment has fueled the community's growth.
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