A few weeks back, the long awaited historical city-building RTS Manor Lords had a demo available through the Steam Next Fest. Oomzer, our in-house city-building connaisseur was looking forward to this for quite some time. What did he think of it? Read it below!
I could sum up what I thought of the Manor Lords demo in one word: amazing. It was everything we city building enthusiasts could have hoped for, and some more. For someone who has been following the development of the game for quite some time, seeing it in action for the first time was quite something. But I did not expect the demo to be so well rounded, and to be so ‘polished’.
I actually didn’t really know what to expect when I heard there would be a demo for the game. Knowing that Manor Lords is basically being developed by a single developer, I didn’t have anything to go by except for the screenshots and trailers from the Discord. Besides, there have been demos for other games which have just been unfinished (pre-)alpha products and were unplayable, so you should always be a bit on the fence with demos. However, I felt that under the hood of publisher Hooded Horse (who you might know from games such as Clanfolk and the amazing Old World), it would probably be fine.
But I didn’t know it would be this fine. I’d say the demo surpassed all my expectations. Often when you play demos, there’s stuff missing. It might be graphics, textures, animations etc. However, for Manor Lords, the full experience was there. Yes, obviously the game isn’t finished, but it seemed like an already well rounded and polished experience. The graphics were great, the building animations were on point, and you could actually build your own city.
To my amazement, there is even a mode where you as your ruler can walk around in the city, visiting all the people living in your humble settlement. As I walked around, I really felt like this game would be a big one. I didn’t even know that would be in the game, let alone that it would be finished for the demo. But no, Manor Lords proved me wrong once again.
Now I could write a whole piece on how the game works and how I like the way you can build the city, but I feel that’s a bit pre-emptive, as it was still a demo, and a lot might change during the further development. That said, I feel that the base is there for a very solid city builder. There’s a solid city building base, with resource gathering, building and trade. You start out like any other city builder / resource gathering game, and buid your food gatherers, your resource gatherers and some houses for your villagers. You expand, gather more resources, and set up a supply chain where you produce more expensive and luxury goods. It’s all pretty basic, but when the base is good, you know the rest will be good as well.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. That’s not often the case with demo’s, but Manor Lords does look like a stunning game. Building is also awfully satisfying. You can see the construction of each building step by step. You can see the beams being put up, the clay being used to make walls and the fences placed down. That’s pretty cool. Aside from all the cool building stuff, Manor Lords also lets you upgrade buildings. That in itself isn’t very novel, but it’s always cool to give your villagers the ability to farm themselves (a bit like in Ostriv, which I feel Manor Lords‘ dev might have played as well). It gives you more to do with your buildings then to simply plonk them down. Manor Lords city-building side is already well rounded, and I can see how the developer will expand on this existing base, bringing in more resource management and a more complicated economy.
As written above, you cannot give a real verdict on the game, as it is still work-in-progress. We still need to see something of the RTS element which is meant to be in the game, as well as any broader diplomacy or interaction with others on the map. However, if the demo is anything to go by, I’m sure the end product will be the city builder of the year. It might even become a landmark game in the subgenre of historical city builders (like Banished revolutionized this subgenre, I feel Manor Lords might take it to the next level).
All I can say is: thank you Greg / SlavicMagic (the dev) for the amazing demo you put out. I cannot wait for the game to go into Early Access and build some more amazing cities. And be assured that when the game is out, all of you will see plenty of streaming of this game, like the stream of the demo. If this was the quality of the demo, the bar has been set, and the end product can only be even more amazing.
Omar ‘oomzer’ Bugter is a Cultural Historian from Utrecht. Since interning at VALUE, he’s stuck around, mainly working on the Interactive Pasts website and the weekly streams. He wrote a thesis on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and mods, so knows this game very well. He likes many other games, including F1 2020, Hearts of Iron, Mount & Blade and Crusader Kings III., and is VALUE’s in house city builder connaisseur. Tweet to him at @oomzer if you want to know anything about Civ or city builders.