Manor Lords: Finally, a Strategy Game Worth My Time Is Here!

Just like the other buffs worldwide, gamers come in all shapes and sizes. While my friends grew up playing shooting games, I whittled my time away in the world of strategy. I still remember sinking away my teenage days in games like Age of Empires 2, Generals, Stronghold, and even the likes of AoE Mythology and Lord of the Rings Battle of the Middle Earth 2. However, somewhere down the line, things changed. Strategy games started to veer towards city-building instead of real-time combat.

The games I used to love stopped innovating and slowly succumbed to simpler city builders. I stopped playing strategy games because they lost their charm. That was until I chanced upon Manor Lords.

It has been a week since I first played Manor Lords, and I am in love. The game checks all the boxes I had been asking for in a modern strategy game. While I can begin my love for its real-time strategy right here, I urge you to keep reading as I break it down below. With that, let’s begin!

Free-Form Building Rewarding on Proper City Design

One of the strongest elements of Manor Lords is the absolute level of freedom you get through the building mechanic. I could build my city the way I wanted with complete freedom. I particularly loved the ability to connect every area with roads that don’t require resources.

Many strategy games have fixed build spots or have free-flowing buildings but don’t emphasize the planning aspect, making everything work without consequence.

Manor Lords free flowing building
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

Manor Lords executes this so well, letting players free-build anything anywhere, while also rewarding for proper city structures.

For instance – I could build a Log Camp anywhere on the map, but the worker assigned to the camp will have to travel to where the trees are, cut them, bring them back to the camp, and move them to the storage. Without proper building structure, it would all work, but at a hellishly slow speed.

Real-Time Deployable Combat

Realistic Combat Manor Lords
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

Most of the strategy games released within the last decade have replaced real-time strategy with simulated combat. Games like Civilization and Crusader Kings are good examples. Both are focused on combat and conquering while not featuring any real-time combat.

Similarly, games like Frostpunk don’t feature it at all, only focusing on city building and the survival aspect. While games like ANNO do feature real-time combat, they are restricted to naval combat. The recent release of Starcraft 2 and Age of Empires 4 obviously features the RTS element, but these games are not new franchises, so we expect them to follow their old counterparts.

Thankfully, Manor Lords returns to the old-style real-time combat found in almost all old strategy games.

Manor lords Realistic Combat
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

The game does RTS in a very satisfying way, almost reminiscent of the old strategy games. You can build your army and deploy them separately. Strategically send them to different locations and make them engage or retreat. The combat is a combination of Mount and Blade Bannerlords and Age of Empires and I love it wholeheartedly.

Hyper Realistic Environments for the Win

Manor Lords Spectator mode
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

You might be reading this and wondering why I just don’t return to the old games if I love them so much. While I agree that playing AOE 2 during my childhood was one of the best times of my life, old strategy games haven’t aged well.

Yes, I do put gameplay over graphics, but there are times when games do need to look good. I mean, when you’re micromanaging entire cities, you do need that visual fidelity right? While Microsoft did try to satisfy gamers with AOE 2 HD and even the new AOE 4, something was still missing.

Families Working Realistically in Manor Lords
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

Compared to that, Manor Lords brings a level of hyperrealism that I have never seen before. Manor Lords shows you the actual actions of every worker and their tasks. If you zoom in on the camera, you will actually see the worker cutting logs or looking for resources in real-time.

The game even lets players actually enter the settlement as a villager and simply walk around and see it all in action. I’m not lying when I say that I spent an hour zooming into the little workers doing their assigned work, watching them actually work, and not just waving their hands in the air. As minor as this sounds, this was something I was dreaming about.

Scouting Adversaries in Real Time

Another neat feature implemented in Manor Lords is the ability to scout your enemies, whether their armies or local brigands. Scouting is something I loved in the old strategy games. I would move my troops to enemy territories to spectate their work and maybe try to sabotage them. Before heading into battle, I could scout the enemy armies and create formations that would be able to handle them effectively.

Scouting Armies in Manor Lords
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot (Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti)

It’s great that Manor Lords has implemented this nifty feature, although it still requires a lot more work. Hopefully, they add more to this feature, maybe giving more skill points or even policies that boost scouting in the game. Having something like a Spy Master would be amazing, but that might be too much for now.

Perfect Combination of City Building and Real-Time Strategy

For me, Manor Lords feels like the perfect combination of old-style RTS combat with the free-fluid city-building I used to love. Do note that the game is just in early access and is only being developed by one person. Nonetheless, Manor Lords feels miles ahead of its contemporaries. Combined with new-generation graphics, I expect Manor Lords to pave the way for a return to old-style strategy games.

Having said that, the game still requires a lot more work. The developer has officially stated that a single-player experience is at the top of their mind for now. However, I still feel they need to work on a PvP mode or at least 1v1. Similarly, there needs to be a lot of rebalancing with the lifestyle in the game, and some minor changes to the UI.

Overall, I have really high expectations from Manor Lords and will continue to follow its progress. What do you think about the game? Are you in love with Manor Lords? Let us know in the comments below!

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