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Manor Lords Preview


  • Beautiful medieval aesthetic
  • Historical authenticity
  • Solid core gameplay loops
  • Varied starting orders and strategies
  • Lots of potential for varied strategy, combat, and late-game expansion


  • Lack of A.I. and Diplomacy
  • Replayability lacking in initial build
  • Many core features still heavily work-in-progress

Since the debut of Maxis’ legendary 1989 release Sim City, the ensuing decades has seen the coming of many entries in the city management genre - offering players the chance to run themed communities and allowing its citizens to prosper. The genre has evolved from its more basic, formative titles all the way to the more modern takes on thematics, survival aspects, and even mega infrastructure games - as seen in titles such as Dyson Sphere Program and Satisfactory. Today, we’re looking at a whole new take on the genre, with the Early Access release of what is currently the most wish-listed game on Steam - with over three million followers as of April 2024. From developer Slavic Magic, it is the historically authentic medieval city management game, Manor Lords.

Manor Lords boasts so many features, inspirations and variance in style that it has naturally attracted many fans into the fold even before release bag. So much so, that Slavic Magic even went as far as to post a blog asking the community to manage its expectations. At its foremost, Manor Lords is a city management game, but its attractive real-time tactic battles and pseudo-4x regional expansion make it an intriguing one. Having spent two weeks exploring the game ourselves, we’re here to help you understand what you’re getting yourself into with Manor Lords Early Access launch. We’ll let you know what works, what is still to come, and hopefully help manage those expectations.

Building a New Life

The core gameplay loop of Manort Lords is progressing your settlement from a small village to a large town, filled with self-sufficiency, amenities, and production

The core gameplay loop of Manor Lords is all about building your city up from a small village to a large town. You’ll start off with very little, naturally gathering resources, stockpiling food & firewood, and generally preparing for your first winter. In addition, you’ll be looking to keep your citizens happy, in order to encourage population growth within your newly built housing community.

As you gather more resources, further variety in food, fuel, and shelter will become accessible, and you’ll see your citizens get happier and happier. You can then start upgrading your “Burgage Plots” (old-school housing for citizens) as you fulfill the needs of the people living in them.

When you upgrade houses, you’ll start unlocking new features like extensions and living space upgrades. These are key ways to get more family income, and extensions for specialized family roles in your settlement. Not only that, but upgrading burgage plots is also key to increasing your settlement rank which, consecutively, leads to the unlocking of new developments (technologies). This cycle of expansion and improvement represents the core gameplay loop of Manor Lords.

While the requirement per playthrough and settlement are the same, the different starting builds offer unique methods. If you choose to run a farming-heavy settlement, then you’ll get lots of clothing via flax and sheep wool. If you choose to trade, you have more viable options for buying cheap base materials, and refine them into more valuable goods, giving you plenty of flexibility to define your settlements’ industrial niches.

And, as you work toward these large, overarching goals, you’ll continue to steadily and safely accrue surplus food and fuel stocks, which will keep the population happy, growing, and open up further possibilities for planning your town. Despite being Early Access, Manor Lords’ core gameplay is tight, hitting the key goals of a great city builder title. There’s certainly work to be done through EA, but for now, you’ll be pleased with how its works and with the agency offered the player.

Manor Lords: A City Builder with Battles

Manor Lords is primarily a city builder also offering optional, large-scale, real-time battles

Remember that line from Slavic Magick that Manor Lords is a city builder with battles? Well, that line is the truth. But, in its current iteration, it should be noted that the combat is not particularly in-depth.

For these real-time battles, the army planner has some tactics, squad formation and a visual style that is reminiscent of a Total War. The combat in this Early Access build essentially has a fallback, go here and attack option. A lack of cavalry in the game means you don’t really need a square formation with pikemen, nor do you really need to mess around with loose formation against archers, castle wall defenders or similar. In its current state, combat are essentially a mosh pit, with the higher numbered or better equipped army typically winning the day.

That’s not to say there are not some tactics you can employ to win. Gaining the higher ground, having a high morale rating, employing hit-and-run tactics can all help turn the tide of battle in your favor. Most notably, combat is largely treated as an important, high-profile moment with serious consequence. This is a city management game and, when troops die, that actually results in a citizen gone from your town’s community and industry. War is something that can make or break both your settlement and your playthrough if you’re not careful. Consider it something like Shiro Games’ Northgard in that sense.

Thankfully, at this stage, combat doesn’t need to be too in-depth or technical, and while some basic and advanced features are not currently available, we can expect Slavic Magic to continue to evolve this element of the gameplay.

Manor Lords as a 4x

The map has several regions lords can claim over. But, as of the 0.7 EA patch, only players are on the map.

Another comparison Manor Lords has received is to that of the “4x” strategy genre, mostly thanks to its expansive map and regions. As you start a playthrough, there are plenty of land plots available. These territories can be claimed by the player to get access to more resources and diversity industries, along with additional trade and supply options. In that way, it’s kinda like the Anno series.

In the current build, Diplomacy mechanics are not fully implemented. There are no A.I. leaders to trade with, but some game modes offer an A.I. opposition for battle. This is not an interactable A.I., but it will spawn armies for you to fight when your expansion gets out of hand. This mode gives you some idea as to how large-scale combat plays out. Diplomacy will be something that is naturally evolved over the Early Access window. So don’t go into Manor Lords expecting a deep Civilization-style feud with other world leaders. The future of this particular element has possibility though, and it is something we’ll inspect closer in a full review of the release build.

As of right now, Manor Lords offers solid city-building foundation, with incredible graphics, an immersive historical setting, and a solid range of playstyles and strategies. There’s still more work to be done, which will help open up the world and add elements of longevity and replayability. Having already received feedback, Slavic Magic will have a solid idea of the title’s more pressing matters, and will no doubt continue to evolve the game and its features. Either way, Manor Lords starts its Early Access journey strong, with lots of promise for its bright future ahead.

This preview is based on an Early Access build of the game provided by the publisher

Final Verdict

Solid Foundations

Manor Lords shows a lot of promise as an Early Access release, with plenty of great features and engaging gameplay loops. There’s still work to be done, but this is a strong starting point, and there is much evidence to suggest that Manor Lords is on track to become an epic entry in the city-building genre.






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While Craig graduated from university in 2018 with a degree in History, he spent his uni downtime writing about esports and video games. It turns out a career in gaming journalism would come calling sooner, with Craig spending several years freelancing before moving into the full-time world as a Staff Writer and a Guides Editor. He now writes for Gamer Guides as an Editor, working on some of the biggest and best titles to launch every month and debunking everything there is to know about a game.
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