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Manor Lords – The Ultimate Medieval City Builder RTS

In this article we are going to be exploring everything we currently know about Manor Lords, an upcoming Indie Medieval Strategy game being made by a singular developer known as Slavic Games, and being published by Hooded Horse, an indie game publisher who seems to have only published well-received titles.

Manor Lords has been a work in progress for about 6 and a half years, and from what has been shown so far in the announcement trailers, the gameplay demos and the actual demo from about a year ago, it is shaping up to be the RTS city builder everyone has been dreaming of.

Manor Lords – The Ultimate Medieval City Builder RTS

The vision Manor Lords has shown has been crystal clear, thanks to the game being produced by a sole indie developer, along with a few freelancers. It aims to combine city building with RTS combat into a clean, polished product, comparable to one of the most popular RTS franchises: Age of Empires. We will be going over everything we currently know about the setting, the city building, and the large scale RTS battles. Let’s check it out!

Manor Lords - Cover

Manor Lords Story & Setting

The setting of Manor Lords is based on historical references from 11th-15th century Europe, with all buildings being inspired by the style of architecture from that period in history. Players will rule a medieval empire, starting out with a simple, untouched prairie which can be developed into a small village, then a small town, then an entire realm. 

There isn’t much of a story in the game that has been shown so far, giving the impression that the game will mainly focus on simulation, much like City Skylines. However, it was stated in a trailer that you have been chosen to govern a land of great peril and promise, suffering long from the scourge of banditry, while facing another threat; an illegitimate baron who claims the northern territories as his own.

Players will start by creating a character via the “empire customization” at the start, where you can put your name, chosen portrait, as well as edit the Coat of Arms for your manor, with several options which you can tinker with to create the perfect Manor Lord. Once you do that, you get several quests to guide you on creating your manor.

Manor Lords - Character Creation

Manor Lords City Building

Manor Lords’ city building appears to be the selling point of this game. In their words, the aim is to provide a grid-less, organic city-building experience with full freedom of placement and rotation. However, even without a grid system, players will still be able to use a snapping tool which automatically aligns roads and buildings to keep the build process comfortable while still allowing the organic freedom of a grid-less environment.

The building mechanics of Manor Lords are motivated by the growth of real medieval towns and villages from the 11th century, where major trade routes and landscapes greatly influenced what the settlement would shape up to be, and how far they would develop.

Wherever you begin, there will already be some regional differences which will separate your manor from others. Each region will have its own abundant resources, such as farming being desirable in a large field, or stone from mining in a rocky area. Advancing in the game will include progressing the Development Tree, which allows players to expand the capabilities of their village, such as unlocking the recipe to create ale then beer, or unlocking the ability to create charcoal. Development Points to advance this Tree can be obtained by upgrading residential buildings for peasants, the Peasant Houses.

Other constructable buildings will include resource gathering structures such as Carpenter camps, Logging camps, Forager huts, Weaver workshops, Grain Farms, Windmills, Livestock areas and more which we probably haven’t seen yet. The number of resources you can acquire in your region will grow as you build more and more resource buildings, allowing you to trade expensive goods made with these materials such as shoes or clothing with passing merchants.

There are a lot of small details that you can find within each resource gathering method, like an Ox being brought out by a peasant to carry wood back to the village, where it is brought to the logging camp and then brought to the storehouse once it’s all chopped up. Families will be assigned to permanent jobs such as wood gathering, ensuring that all peasants are used within your manor.

There are also peasant areas such as Burgage Plots which can provide visiting peasants with a new home, increasing the population of your city. These plots can be upgraded by unlocking a certain amount of food, clothing, entertainment and faith, and can yield additional resources such as chickens from a chicken coop or vegetables from a vegetable farm. You will need to be careful about increasing the population with new houses though, as without the proper amount of supplies to foster families, hungry and cold peasants will rebel, severely impacting the economy of your manor.

The economy of your nation will hinge largely on the pricing of its goods. Depending on the optimization of your production chains, prices for materials and products circulating within your borders will fluctuate. For example, scarcity of leather from not constructing livestock farms may drive up the cost of items like Leather Boots, while an abundance of livestock farms might cause animal hides to become more affordable. 

These shortages in supply can also result from a change in season rather than negligence. Spring will yield freshly growing berry deposits, Summer will be when crop harvests begin, Autumn will be the end of the harvest and the beginning of berries disappearing, and Winter will have no berries, require firewood, make people ill and forbid sheep shearing. Managing your resources during winter will be necessary to ensure that the supply of your goods doesn’t fluctuate too much.

A well optimized economy offering affordable goods and rare products will attract more free merchants to visit your city from the trade routes, spending their money on your goods and thus contributing to the city’s wealth in Manor Lords. It’s been said that this will be the only way to make your city more wealthy, so careful management of your resources will be crucial for both increasing wealth and advancing the manor.

Another building within the game is Tax collection buildings, which allows players to regulate the taxation of peasants or goods, and allocate the money to various purposes such as personal projects or subsidies for groups within the manor. The different types of Tax include the following: Geld, which is basic income tax on peasants; Heregeld, which is Tax gathered for upkeep of mercenaries; Tithe which gives a percentage of goods to the Church, converting Silver to Influence; Banalities which are collected when Grain is turned into flour; Trade tax which taxes trade in market stalls; and War Tax, which is collected on the first day of the month in wartime. 

Allocating a portion of your tax to Churches will increase your manor’s influence, which you can think of as your reputability. This is important because the king of the nation will occasionally provide valuable rewards to the most influential lords of the nation, such as new territories.

Other ways of garnering influence include interacting with other lords via the diplomacy system, where players can create a custom message to lords using some provided rhetoric, proposal and declaration sentences. For example, “Dear Pharlew of Bardford, I welcome you to these lands and I hope your fiefdom rots to hell soon.” This would reduce the target’s influence by 50 unless they declare war, creating a risk reward system where you try to be as boastful as possible without stirring up a hornets nest. 

Manor Lords RTS Battles

On top of the already fleshed out city building system, Manor Lords also features large scale RTS battles against neighbouring lords and their regions. There exists 3 types of militia within the game which can be used after you declare war on a region, or vice versa; the first one is the Peasant Militia, which can be used as a last resort when you cannot acquire the other 2.

This will entail equipping your untrained peasants with sharp farming tools to go fight highly trained, armored soldiers. Using these peasants will not only harm your population, but also affect the economy, but if you have an archery range or a training camp, peasants will be a more formidable force which can be used as a proper militia.

The second type are paid mercenaries, who are expensive but very well trained. One of the hireable mercenaries will be the Jomsvikings, a legendary order of Viking mercenaries from the 11th century, so we may see more historically accurate mercenary groups in the future.

Manor Lords - RTS Battle

The last group is the Lord’s Retinue, an elite fighting group serving directly underneath you, with proper training and customizable armor. Players will not only be able to customize how they look, but also upgrade specific parts of armor. 

All 3 of these militias will be divided into different fighting categories, such as front soldiers wielding spears and swords, archers and cavalry. Other weapons of war will include fortifications, gunpowder and siege engines such as trebuchets to destroy structures which have impressive building destruction animations.

Manor Lords Battles will be properly fleshed out with important mechanics, such as large scale unit formations, morale, flanking, fatigue, weather and equipment all coming into play. It’s also worth noting that a big part of the battle system is the mo-cap technology being used to create the animations; unlike the stiff, repeated animations of warring soldiers colliding in most RTS games, each soldier is more distinctive, making battles look more visually appealing. There was also a 3rd person view available to use on peasants within the city, so it’s likely this feature will be utilized in the war mode as well, giving you a nice third person perspective.

Release Date & Platforms

There is no release date or price yet for the full launch of Manor Lords, which is to be expected given that it’s almost a solo project with ambitions that a AAA studio would have. However, there is an early access release this year on April 26th, so you can look forward to that if this game interests you. It has also been confirmed that on full launch, the game will be available on day 1 for PC Xbox Game Pass, as well as playable on Steam, GOG, the Microsoft store and even Xbox, though at a later date. 

Manor Lords - City Building

Final Thoughts

Manor Lords has become the second most wishlisted game on Steam as of this recording, beating the likes of Hollow Knight Silksong and Black Myth: Wukong in terms of sheer numbers, despite being a solo project. Its extremely impressive, and goes to show how much people wanted this type of game before a singular passionate dev came around to make it.

From what’s been shown so far in the 20 minute demo and the trailers, the game is shaping up to be the perfect medieval city building RTS game, boasting a optimizable economy and city building alongside well thought out and complex strategy battles with other cities. The FULL release date will definitely be the sore point of Manor Lords, as I can’t imagine how long it would take to take a solo developer and some freelancers to fully flesh it out, but I believe if given time, it will be well worth the wait.

For more information about Manor Lords, you can check out our articles on Fextralife.com, and if you’re looking for something similar you might also be interested in Age of Empires 4 or Age of Darkness.

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