The chaos of Manor Lords has me dying to play more

The chaos of Manor Lords has me dying to play more
Images via Slavic Magic

Written by 

Harry Boulton

Published 

12th Apr 2024 15:00

As a lover of both city builders and medieval settings Manor Lords feels like an ideal game - but the PC-favoured subgenre has often faced complications in the past where the brutality of the setting has become a roadblock to your own success.

Of course, a big part of the enjoyment of this specific blend of ideas comes from the challenges faced when you land within the severely restricted setting - but getting that balance right, and making those hardships feel not only enjoyable but fair is certainly a task.

So far, however, Manor Lords feels up to that task, offering an enthralling experience in the hours that I have played for preview so far, offering up both panic and joy as I expand my settlement and battle away the harsh wilderness.

M(edieval)TV Cribs

While there are strategy elements to the game, a large part of the appeal of Manor Lords comes from its city-building mechanics. You start out with just a mere tent and five isolated families, and it's then up to you to not just build up your settlement, but also make sure that everyone stays alive.

There are three different 'scenarios' of sorts to choose from when you start a new game, with each having a different end goal, and some with the option to disavow combat entirely. With the intention of getting to grips with the city-building side of things to start I chose the 'Rise to prosperity' path, which removes the threat of combat and instead tasks you solely with building your settlement to a 'Large Town'.

Image of rain over a settlement in Manor Lords
Click to enlarge

Don't be fooled into thinking that this is a peaceful experience though, as there are more than enough threats within nature itself to push even a well-functioning town over the edge. I was barely five minutes into my save before I nearly made my first mistake - using all of my timber without building a means of creating more!

Thankfully the game toes the line between handholding and stopping you from falling at the first hurdle well, as it quickly stepped in here to avoid frustration on my part, but leaves you largely to your own devices otherwise.

Panic! at the Granary

The chaos certainly didn't stop there either, as the constant plate spinning of keeping my villagers happy, well-fed, warm, and also having enough resources to continue my expansion was genuinely thrilling.

Image of winter in Manor Lords
Click to enlarge

Your food and firewood counter is quite literally a ticking clock that you constantly have to keep in check, as otherwise your poor villagers will be left to die. With the impending threat of winter approaching too you always have to be looking ahead - even if it does mean that the new expansion is put on hold.

I love that there are appropriately no quick fixes in this medieval setting too. You can't just grow your own food to solve that problem or sell off a bunch of your resources for a quick buck - as crops take a whole year to process, and traders from other regions have to make the lengthy trek to reach you.

Image of a trader in Manor Lords
Click to enlarge

In so many instances I felt like I was on the brink, but it was that sense of fighting back against adversity that constantly keeps you engaged and on your toes. Even in moments where I felt 'safe' I was always thinking ahead to what my next danger might be, as resources will eventually run out and the joys of expansion come at the cost of demand.

I'm intrigued to see how well this continues to hold up as I continue to play, and also how the game manages to maintain that tension on a larger scale - especially with the integration of combat. However, I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with Manor Lords so far, across both its joyous highs and catastrophic lows.

Previewed on PC, code provided by the publisher. Manor Lords releases in early access on April 26, 2024, on PC.

Harry Boulton
About the author
Harry Boulton
Harry is a Guides Writer at GGRecon, having completed a Masters of Research degree in Film Studies. Previously a freelance writer for PCGamesN, The Loadout, and Red Bull Gaming, he loves playing a wide variety of games from the Souls series to JRPGs, Counter-Strike, and EA FC. When not playing or writing about games and hardware, you're likely to find him watching football or listening to Madonna and Kate Bush.
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