Manor Lords Early Access Review: Medieval City Building Magic

Serf's up!

Manor Lords is a complex city-building strategy game that's been years in the making. You can't blame developer Slavic Magic for taking its time, as it's a one-man team working on this project. It took some time to get here, but I finally had a chance to play the early access version. All my fears that the game was overhyped disappeared the second I started building my first village.

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City Building

Manor Lords village in early stages of development
Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

The first few minutes in Manor Lords were confusing, as I didn't know what to build first. But then it hit me—this looks very much like Settlers. Hence, I need to chop some trees and find food. So, by relying on my city-building experience, I developed what looked like a decent town. But then winter came, and I was not prepared for a cold and lack of food. As soon as spring came, I realized I must use real-life logic to improve my town. (Even in this early stage, I observed the user interface is very good, while the learning curve is low.)

I improved one step at a time, mainly by relying on trade, which allows you to import everything you need and export all excess items. I soon learned how to break the game by selling large quantities of easily obtainable items like berries and firewood. While the economic part is a bit broken, the trading system allowed me to develop my town faster and experience the game with less stress.

Having said that, I expect trading, a major game component, to be redesigned. The current trading mechanic allows me to ignore most of the structures. That's especially true for farming, where importing flour to make bread is much easier than building several buildings, dealing with crops (and their rotation on the field), bad weather, snow, and more.

Score: 4/5 Stars


Manor Lords army overview showing spearmen and archers
Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

Combat in Manor Lords is very satisfying as long as you don't expect Total War or some complex strategies. Simply put, battles are an addition to the main activity—city-building. There are no separate maps for combat; your units will face enemies on the same map where your town is. What's more, your units are villagers who took arms, so if someone dies, your economy will suffer because of the lack of workers.

Battles are fluid, while units move realistically. They'll tire if you force them to run, thus gaining combat penalties. The fighting looks good, but it's evident that this game segment is still in development. Many units are not available (mostly cavalry), and I'm still waiting for a chance to attack and defend castles.

Score: 3/5 Stars

Related: Manor Lords – Gameplay, Game Pass, and more


Lord walking in the snow-covered village in Manor Lords
Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

I'm a big fan of city-building games that focus on atmosphere. There's always something happening in the streets, so I'll often take my time to check out what's going on. Not only could I zoom in and see what's my villagers up close in Manor Lords, but I could also personally walk the streets with my avatar! While that's strictly a cosmetic option, it allows me to soak in the atmosphere up close. On top of that, you have changes of seasons, each with its challenges (especially winter, when you must think about fuel and food reserves).

Combat and diplomacy significantly improve the game's atmosphere. I traded pleasantries and insults with other lords and raiders, making wins more personal and enjoyable. Combined, I enjoyed my life as a medieval noble, balancing peaceful development and war.

Score: 5/5 Stars

Graphics & Performance

Manor Lords militia marching through the village
Image by Pro Game Guides

Even in this early stage of development, Manor Lords look great. The developer focused on details: your villagers have different clothes, move naturally, and look very much alive. Structures are visually appealing, although more colors would be welcome, especially when you reach higher levels of development. While only cosmetic, the day/night cycle is very nicely done, and I suggest you try it out.

For an early access game, Manor Lords runs very well, without any stuttering. I typically saw at least 86 frames per second with plenty of units on the battlefield on my PC with 32 GB RAM and GeForce RTX 3070, running 1920x1080 resolution and max graphics settings. The game even ran smoothly on my laptop with integrated graphics and 16 GM RAM (but on the lowest settings).

Score: 4/5 Stars

Verdict - A good place to start

Manor Lords is off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to playing it for years to come. I hope version 1.0 is around the corner so I can have a complete medieval strategy experience. But even at this stage of development, the game offers a lot with its three scenarios: city-building (discussed above), casual play with battles (clashes with bandits and a final battle against another lord), and dynamic for experienced players (you have one year to prepare before the raiders attack you, and there are always other lords invading you.) I suggest you take it easy and start with a city-building sandbox scenario where you'll learn the basics.

Disclosure: A free copy of the game was provided to PGG by the publisher for review purposes.

Looking for more game reviews? Check out Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Review: The golden standard for a modern-day remake here at Pro Game Guides.

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About the Author

Nebojša Prijić is a senior staff writer at Pro Game Guides with over 25 years of experience in journalism, screenwriting, and copywriting. He previously worked as Editor-in-Chief of Maxim Serbia magazine and the IGN Adria website. Nebojša is an old-school gamer who loves real-time strategies, shooters, and RPGs, but most of all, he plays Roblox and mobile games with his son. He remembers the first Diablo, PC games on a single floppy disk, and playing Mortal Kombat on the keyboard.
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Manor Lords Early Access Review: Medieval City Building Magic

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