Manor Lords Review | PC

Although it is currently in early access, Manor Lords is still likely to be a solid city-builder real-time strategy game.

By RON, Posted 10 Jun 2024

Likable real-time strategy games are hard to come by. A couple of years back, Knights of Honor II: Sovereign stood very strongly for the genre but last year's Total War: PHARAOH didn't meet the expected high as RTS fans had hoped for. The return of Pharaoh: A New Era as a city-builder RTS was also a good addition to the genre, but the game lacked more content other than just being a remake.

So, when we draw a line for city-builder RTS games, it's really hard to name a few games that really stood up to the task. While as a city-building RTS, Manor Lords aims to shake things up a bit. The game pretenses to be a city-builder with all the standard fare, but it sneaks in a little bit of simple real-time strategy by letting you form formations with your inhabitants. Although it serves its purpose, it also serves as a minor annoyance, which naturally, is one of the most criticisms of Manor Lords. Having said that, the game's pleasant changes are what set it apart from other city-builders, and the addicting and gratifying nature of the gameplay is hard to beat.

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You and a group of peasants begin Manor Lords by settling into an empty town and making do with makeshift shelters. The first thing you do is select your character from the few options given and establish your own code of arms. This code of arms will be displayed on your shield during combat and will also be displayed on your flag. There aren't too many options, but enough for you to tweak them to whatever suits you.

With many different levels of micromanaging in Manor Lords, the objective is to turn your village into a town while simultaneously ensuring that the inhabitants have all they require. You begin each game with a small group of settlers, and your objectives include gathering resources, building dwellings, trading, and expanding your colony. Depending on the style of the game, you may also have to fend off bandits and go to war with enemy lords that the game controls.

Right after you enter the map, your primary objective should be to provide them with firewood, food, water, and a place to stay. The next step is to begin clearing land, but before you can do that, you'll need wood. Setting a logging camp and subsequent sawmill or woodcutters lodge for firewood or planks is the natural progression. The quaint tiny forests will soon be disappearing, and you'll need to employ workers to restore the trees so the area can continue to support itself.

Over time, your town will establish a basic layout, which allows for an incredibly smooth road system compared to other city-building games. Despite the lack of maps at the moment, the available ones are massive and feature multiple zones with randomly generated resources. Building as per the surroundings is a common practice when beginning a new game, guaranteeing that each installment will provide its own unique set of challenges.

Manor Lords, Review, PC, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building, RTS Games

Although a lot of features are still in the works, Manor Lords still feels mostly finished in terms of gameplay. Right off the bat, your village comes equipped with a diverse range of buildings to meet all your inhabitants' needs. off wood camps to hunting areas, there's plenty of room to cultivate crops and even a basic road mechanic to link all your buildings. The building process is quite straightforward, and you can create most buildings—including houses—according to a construction zone you choose, which is called a flexible plot. Therefore, there is a great deal of leeway for personalization, and everything is quite straightforward.

The game's difficulty spikes abruptly when it comes to meeting the demands of your villagers. Opening a marketplace is essential for distributing clothing, fuel, and food to your citizens, all of which are in continual demand. There, villagers will build up booths to sell the things they've made using their given resources to the rest of the village. A greater variety of products and a greater quantity of resources are required for a larger colony. However, the game's concepts are designed to be understood with each subsequent playthrough, allowing you to optimize productivity—the game's overarching goal.

You can play Manor Lords in one of three primary game modes. The first is a city-builder set in a calm environment called "Rise to Prosperity," in which all bandits and hostile are disabled, allowing you to cultivate your town without any disturbances. Still, it's possible to lose your town if you fail to meet the demands of your citizens. Failing to do so could lead to a downward spiral of negative approval, and eventually, people will start to leave. It is highly configurable, so you can lower the complexity to avoid this if you so desire. Most of the time, you'll be concentrating on things like managing a complicated supply chain, increasing your people, and improving your buildings.

With the addition of fighting, bandit camps, raids, and a rival Baron, the following game mode, "Restoring the Peace," incorporates all of the elements that were stated in the previous mode. As you expand your town, these bandit camps will steal from you every so often until you destroy them. That is to say, in this method, you absolutely have to raise an army. There are three distinct troop types available to you in this mode. Your male peasants and employees can serve in the militia, but they'll need their own weapons and supplies, and if they die fighting, your economy will have to scramble to find replacements.

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Another option is to invest some of your cash in a standing professional army known as retinue troops. They're expensive to recruit and improve, but they're well-protected and taught. As a last option, you can engage mercenary troops. These troops are a combination of professional soldiers and regular soldiers; they have superior equipment and unique skills, but they are far more expensive to maintain.

Standard troop types include archers, shielded troops, armored spearmen, and tanks. If you want to keep your cities from being leveled and their inhabitants killed, you'll have to defend them from raiding parties every few years after you figure out which forces to utilize. It is your primary goal to conquer the enemy Baron's territory. With every plot of land, you attempt to seize, he will eventually call upon vast armies to oppose you.

The last showdown is always the biggest, with armies numbering over a thousand strong. You can conquer the Baron's territory whenever you're ready, albeit the game isn't overly demanding. To a large extent, it is comparable to Total War in terms of the actual combat of the game. Your army can be deployed in any way you like, whether that's spreading out in long lines or remaining compact. Whether you're battling uphill or downhill, whether you flank the enemy or not, how many volleys of arrows you discharge into opposing formations, your attack and defense numbers, and many other elements all contribute to the final tally.

Depending on your needs, you can put your units in different stances; for example, to boost their durability at the expense of their offensive output, you can put them in a defensive stance. Even if your opponent has the upper hand, you can counter their advantage by charging at them from a distance and then swiftly retreating. A devastating flank charge is another option available to you as you command your forces. Once again, there's nothing groundbreaking here, and Total War veterans will be right at home from the get-go.

Manor Lords, Review, PC, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building, RTS Games

"On the Edge" is the final game mode, and it is a defensive one. The primary objective of this mode is to expand your town to a sufficient size while simultaneously countering continual attacks from raiders and bandit camps. Since adversary Baren is absent in this game mode, it essentially functions similarly to the previous one. Nevertheless, if you are the type of player who enjoys a wild challenge, you have the option of turning the settings up to the maximum.

This will begin with five bandit camps, you will be rated on your first year, you will begin a winter with no resources, and your peasants will become quite irritated and leave your town very fast. Coming up with a solid construct that could last past the initial two months required me to try six or seven different approaches. If you're seeking a challenging experience, this is the mode of Manor Lords that you should play.

With each level of your infrastructure, you gain access to new development points as your village advances. You can specialize in several areas and broaden your abilities with these points. For example, enables charcoal production as a substitute for firewood, a price reduction in your trade logistics that enables you to construct more trade routes and earn a little bit more money, as well as the ability to produce armor, obtain more berries, and so on. Although the game doesn't explicitly state it, it appears that upgrading the Burgage Plots is the primary means by which you can acquire these level points.

In addition, you are allowed to pick some policies, which can carry out actions such as limiting the amount of food that your villagers are allowed to consume; however, more of these policies will become available after the full lunch of the game. Since you only have access to a few policies now, it's hard to tell how they affect the late game, when you build multiple large cities. So, there are a lot of things to discover once the game is fully launched.

Manor Lords, Review, PC, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building, RTS Games

At some point, you'll want to branch out to other parts of the map and establish brand-new settlements there. This is when the battle system of Manor Lords comes into action. You can give orders to your population to establish a militia and battle against bandits or forces serving the Baron, who is an off-screen adversary who opposes you for control of the area.

You can provide your citizens with weaponry and armor that you either produced yourself or acquired through trading. A small, incredibly competent retinue of men-at-arms armed with heavy plate armor can be employed with personal income gained from taxes, and mercenaries can be hired for monthly fees. Unless you choose not to challenge, staking a claim to a province by either you or the Baron will almost always result in violence.

Later on, you can attempt to conquer the territory, but doing so will require more of the "Influence" resource, which can be obtained from tithes paid to the church or triumphs against bandits. You are given 90 days to gather your forces and dispatch them to the designated battleground after an area is declared at war. The last component of Manor Lords is its real-time fights, which take an innovative tack in battle. There are two paths you can take if you want to start a fight.

The first is to organize a male-dominated militia to engage in combat against outside forces, such as bandits. In the aftermath of this, the production of your economy inside a city will be halved, forcing women to stay at home and men to take up arms. There's a big risk involved in establishing militias, and when you engage fight in this manner, you immediately face the risk or reward of doing so.

Manor Lords, Review, PC, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building, RTS Games

As it stands, the battle feels like it's still being fine-tuned in terms of the action that happens from moment to moment, and they appear to be the game's weak spot right now. Although the game is still under development and in early access, out of the three main components of Manor Lords, the fighting system has the most room for improvement. Several aspects evoke the Manor Lords immediately, such as the effects of environmental slopes and drops in battle, army exhaustion, morale dips, the need to bury dead soldiers, and so on.

Several features have already been included, such as animations for battles or even troops slowing down when they are tired. But for the battle to excel in this game, more features need to be included in the game. One particular improvement that I felt necessary is the lack of materials when you're trying to build your army. The process feels way too tiresome and it directly impacts your overall economy since the households you assign for producing weapons and armor don't get involved with any other production activities.

Not only that but to reach the level where you can effectively produce the armaments for battles, you have to have a fair amount of production going to feed the people and trading. And when you lose people in battle, it takes a heavy toll on the production which eventually makes the entire city crumble. So, anyone who'd only play the game for the "On the Edge" mode, might get annoyed very soon.

Although there are a great number of things that Manor Lords has accomplished successfully, this does not mean that there are not any areas in which it might use significant improvement. The lack of further in-game content stands out as the most significant issue that you might be facing after 20 hours into the game. In fact, after a certain point, you start to feel like you've hit a wall. On the other hand, it has all the features an early-access game should have.

Manor Lords, Review, PC, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building, RTS Games

The commerce and agricultural systems are intricate and realistic, yet they are still easy to understand. The problems are challenging, but they are solvable if you understand the fundamentals of the process. The structure is simple to operate and intriguing, you simply have to figure things out by yourself.

Manor Lords' graphics are impressive. Getting too close in management view makes everything look a bit dense, but overall, you'll satisfied with the visuals. The audio is well-made, and it's impressive that the background music doesn't get old after a while. Additionally, the voice added between the villagers is passable when observing, and the effects, both during battle and construction, are quite good.

Considering it's an indie game, overall visuals are good. You would never be able to tell that it was created by a single person due to the quality of being detailed in some areas. One funny thing though, is when you're viewing the town in third-person mode, you can never look at your character. No matter how you turn your camera, s/he will always turn their faces in the opposite direction.

Although it is currently in early access, Manor Lords is still likely to be a solid city-builder real-time strategy game. But it isn't the game for you if you're looking for nonstop action.  The game's difficulty spikes and its micromanagement might be a common complaint, but that's the nature of real-time strategy games. While Manor Lords's tutorial still needs a lot of improvement, you will need to find out a lot of things by trying different approaches, particularly in farming and combat.


Resources are scattered around the map, as they are in most city builders, and it forces you to make tough choices about the town's expansion, which could have benefits or drawbacks depending on your choices. But these aren't an issue when this genre has the most demanding player base. So, to satisfy the RTS veterans, Manor Lords still requires a substantial amount of content during its final launch. Otherwise, after 30–50 hours of play, you would forget about the game.

Sarwar Ron (@SarwarRon)

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General Information

Manor Lords


Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Hooded Horse
Developer(s): Slavic Magic
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Simulation, City Builder, Management
Release Date: 2024-04-26

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