Manor Lords is at Steam’s upcoming October fest and I can’t wait to play it

Manor Lords is the kryptonite of my video game, and I’ve never even played it. I’ve been following its development news since July 2020. The game was delayed by developer Slavic Magic, so they could refocus and rework the majority of its features. Last June, it was picked up by publisher Hooded Horse.


Manor Lords has come a long way since I first laid eyes on it. I described it in 2020 as “Banned meets Total War”, and I stand by that description. At Steam’s Next Fest, a celebration of upcoming games and new talent that runs through early October, we’ll finally be able to dive into the city-building portion of the game. I can’t wait to try it out.

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I’m a sucker for city builders and settlement simulators. Last week I wrote about Songs of Syx, which is currently my favorite colony sim, and I’m super excited for the release of Dwarf Fortress in 2023. They can be challenging games, but generally it’s a bit like playing with Lego. Paste this piece here, build this little piece, and then all of a sudden it’s 3:00 in the morning. All I ever wanted was a really, really nice colony sim. Small in size, perhaps, but with unparalleled style. Step into Manor Lords, whose gorgeous graphics and attention to detail are on a whole new level.

Each building is hand-built by your citizens, step by step, plank by plank. Every deer is shot in the woods by your hunters. Farmers sow and harvest the fields. Carts transport goods from region to region, including cattle traders who will deliver sheep to your settlement. Your soldiers train in their fields. The battles span across the windy moor. I saw the developer meticulously crafting various costumes and architecture to suit the period – an ambiguous European medieval setting, but based roughly on the late 13th century during the Holy Roman Empire period. It’s an ambitious project that I can’t wait to see come to fruition in its Next Fest demo.

The photorealistic style of Manor Lords is remarkable. Banished was a gorgeous game when it was released, but it’s pretty dated now, and the engine has always struggled to keep up with big cities. I have the same concerns with Manor Lords, but the big city photos are so fantastic I’m excited regardless. The developer confirmed that there were no major cities originally in the game, and it was a later addition once the game received more development time and funding. We won’t know how well it works until it launches, though.

There’s already a tech tree that we’ve seen in internal testing, and it looks expansive. I imagine you will be able to research upgrades that will allow you to slowly expand the size of your town. Like others in the genre, you will have to manage food, clothes, tools and will be able to trade with other colonies. Endgame tech includes bakeries and tailors, and endgame towns will have wealth scatter among buildings and their upgrades to make the place more organic.

In addition to city building, Manor Lords introduces the battlefield mechanics of Total War to a genre that isn’t used to something like this. Many fights in settlement simulators and city builders are limited to small-scale engagements or tower defense type battles where waves of enemies approach your base. Songs Of Syx has a combat system quite similar to Total War, but the graphics cannot be compared to Manor Lords.

These battles will be a test for the genre, that’s for sure. Balancing the city’s population with realistically sized battles is something that could be problematic. While we won’t be seeing these battles in the next demo, I’m still excited to see how the developer has balanced city building with building and managing armies on a battlefield.

Manor Lords is one of the most ambitious city builders I’ve ever seen, and the developer’s dedication and communication has been fantastic over the past two years. Although the game has already received so much time and effort, I imagine there is still a lot to do before an inevitable early access period. You can experience Manor Lords at Steam’s upcoming festival, October 3-10.

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