Manor Lords Impressions Review: Incredible Potential (But Worth Playing Now?)

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Manor Lords Impressions Review: Incredible Potential (But Worth Playing Now?)

As I write up my early thoughts on Manor Lords, my laptop’s sitting in the corner, smoking a cigar and happy with life. Why is that? Manor Lords can be fairly punishing on modest hardware, and while my laptop ran decently enough, the poor bastard coughed up his lungs. Thanks to the cloud gaming magic through Geforce Now, my laptop enjoys a well-deserved break! It did well during the few weeks of my early access to Manor Lords (huge thanks to the lovely publisher Hooded Horse!)

This is just as well because I want to play Manor Lords as much as possible. It’s been a while since a city builder received so much attention. I would count Cities Skylines 2, but that game has been a dumpster fire ever since its broken launch last autumn. Still, with so much hype for Manor Lords, I had my concerns. How would hype translate into practice? It was in development for 8 years by a single developer before launching in Early Access. How would it hold up to the enormous attention?

We’re in May, and already we’ve seen several massive Early Access hits. Between Palworld, Enshrouded, No Rest for the Wicked and Manor Lords, that’s a lot of players trusting in the Early Access model. It has long been a polarizing topic, although with the growing frequency of rough AAA launches, perhaps Early Access is becoming more acceptable. In an ideal world, of course, games launch in a complete state, or very least don’t break from a light breeze. That’s a whole new ball pit, except the balls are instead grenades, all with the pin removed. I’m not going in there.

Now comes the question. Is Manor Lords worth playing right now? Yes, it is, but there are things to consider, even taking Early Access into account.

Kicking things off with visuals, you’ll open into Manor Lords with a few ways to customize your map. There aren’t many tweaks to be made, but there’s the usual difficult stuff, being able to start in any season, extra resources and toggle raids. Booting into the game proper, I was impressed immediately with the graphics. It’s not just the visuals, however, but the interface. Unlike many city builders, this makes you feel like you’re really overseeing your village. Not many games can do that, and this is incredibly rare for the genre. This has positives and negatives which I will go into later.

Economy and simulation are real-time and a delight. It all happens slowly in normal times, but that is just part of the appeal. Great animations watching people walk around doing their jobs. Speedup functions nicely if you don’t want to wait. I usually play at normal speed just to watch the village grow. I’m weird like that.

Despite the unfinished state of the game, the current version is still deeply enjoyable. While many parts are missing and underdeveloped, the core gameplay is great. The hands-off design and the mechanics are hard to master but easy to learn on a basic front. The map is generally the same, but locations and resources are randomized for some replayability. Features like diplomacy, edicts and deeper combat aren’t available yet.

The base tutorial is decent at teaching players the early game, and the in-game codex is also helpful. Some things aren’t explained well, and there’s no interface for locating buildings and families. This is for gameplay/immersion reasons rather than a developer oversight, but a toggle would be a nice QOL addition. I often have to spend a while going through every building in my budding village to find the place I need.

On the technical side, I personally had a decent time all in all. Performance was surprisingly decent on my ancient GTX 1060 laptop but obviously heated it up a lot. Switched to Nvidia Geforce Now’s cloud with great overall results. This will test hardware, but I was surprised by the overall performance. For an Early Access launch, it could be a lot worse. I had a few visual bugs, but haven’t crashed once so far.

The music and sound is overall great, if a little repetitive at times. Not that it is a major issue in the music, but it is worth noting. Not a high priority I’d argue: Performance and bugs first, then balancing/content I reckon. All the ambient sounds are fantastic and show how much attention the developer put into the game.

The combat is present, but focuses on smaller scale conflicts, with the emphasis on ‘military-drafted from the population’. Everyone drafted into the army will take the economy away from your town when called. Bandit camps seem to steal from you like ghosts, and I would like to see them physically stealing supplies. Raids exist as well if the toggle is on. They are a fun way to gather influence, but you need to make sure you can accommodate your army. Formations and animations are solid, but it is not the main focus. This is not a total war game or a game that focuses on combat. Due to the hype and some content creator videos, a lot of people got confused by what Manor Lords is. Know what you are getting into.


The guts of Manor Lords make for a refreshing experience, with just enough ‘content’ to keep things interesting, even on multiple playthroughs. I almost stopped caring that I was screwing up, but happy to keep trying and experimenting with different strategies. The more I’ve played it, the more I enjoy it. However, you have to consider the entire picture and for everything I love, it is difficult to ignore the fact the game is incomplete. Still, that is the point. If you want to play a complete game, don’t pick up an Early Access game at launch. I play a lot of Early Access both for myself and review purposes, so I’m aware of all the things about it. There’s more than enough meat in here for me to play for a while yet, and that’s not counting more experiments. That’s how I operate, anyway. I know many out there prefer a more concrete experience for the investment.

Now, let’s talk about the price. The base price of 40 USD could be seen as steep, especially for a game in Early Access. However, the discounts will be frequent, with Hooded Horse as a publisher backing it. The Game Pass availability is another big advantage that cannot be ignored. If you don’t want to pay this for an unfinished game, that is understandable. With a chunky 25 per cent discount and plans for more sales later, the discounted price is far easier to swallow.

This won’t be my only piece on Manor Lords. I’m in this for the long haul and there’s so much for me to discover. Despite the current flaws and caveats that come with early access, I can’t wait to return to Manor Lords. This is an impressive game. Deeply immersive with its gridless building mechanics. Even more impressive with a small team developing most of the game for years. That potential comes with a lot of extra eyes, however, and the coming months will be interesting.

An immersive city builder crafted with heart and passionEarly in development and the unfinished status is felt throughout
Beautiful visuals and sound design combine with the gridless interface for organic city designDeep systems can be difficult to understand, with the immersive interface adding to confusion like tracking citizens and building locations
Decent amount of replayability and long learning curve despite early developmentCombat is enjoyable but fairly barebones right now. Main focus is city building mechanics.
Runs fairly well even on modest hardware, with Game Pass and Geforce Now availabilityBase price tag is significant, but Hooded Horse/Developer plan on frequent 25 percent discount sales. This is in good hands, but wait for a sale

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TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. |

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