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Manor Lords is Total War, Crusader Kings and Age of Empires in a blender, and it's headed to Game Pass

An ambitious mix of city-building, historical simulation and real-time battles from a solo dev

A line of soldiers prepares to charge in Manor Lords.
Image credit: Hooded Horse

We first saw Manor Lords a couple of years ago, when its mix of Crusader Kings-like simulation, Ages of Empires-y city-building and sweeping battles a la Total War made it one to watch. We weren’t alone in that anticipation either, as the ambitious medieval strategy game - created by a solo dev, no less - rocketed up the Steam charts to become one of its most wishlisted games.

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Two and a bit years on, and we’ve had another taste of Manor Lords thanks to its reappearance during today’s Xbox Partner Preview stream, which showed off more of its ambitious gameplay and revealed a release date.

Manor Lords plonks you in the leather boots of a ruler overseeing your 14th-century lands, needing to deal with both bandit attacks and the more underhanded threat of an illegitimate baron who is trying to seize control of the northern territories.

That Age of Empires comparison comes through in the ability to build up your settlement with buildings, assigning your peasant villagers to various tasks - chopping trees, growing vegetables, rearing animals and the like - to help you sustain and grow.

A snow-covered village in Manor Lords.
Image credit: Hooded Horse

There’s a solid foundation of historical realism at Manor Lords’ base, though, with the game apparently following an accurate simulation of how towns grow, trade routes appear and villagers establish their homes, in line with the historical burgage plot system - something I had to look up, but basically means you’re a medieval landlord renting homes to residents who pay you taxes to live there. Over time, those homes might expand to gain access to extra income and resources, adjusting their focus to the changing seasons and even the fertility of the soil. The environment will respond in kind to your actions, with overexploitation of natural resources risking a lack of sustainability while carefully managing the local area can attract more animals and boost the price of your most valued goods.

If that level of historical sim sounds more like Crusader Kings, that’s where Manor Lords’ second big comparison comes in. As well as managing the day-to-day admin of your town, you’ll have to sign in policies and handle diplomacy with your fellow lords - either buttering them up to sway them with your influence, or skipping the niceties and threatening them to get them to fall in line. There’s a load of tech tree branches to move along as you outline your way of ruling, seeing how it harmonises or collides with the differing aims of your rival lords.

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If things do go south, Manor Lords’ real-time battles kick off, which look to be closer to the tactical strategy of the Total War series. You can use your armies to defend your territory or try and seize land from others, having to consider your soldiers’ equipment, the weather and terrain, and their morale and exhaustion to claim victory - as well as the actual positioning and commands of your army during each fight. Every soldier lost is a villager lost too, making even victories potentially very costly.

It seems to be a hugely ambitious project, especially from the single developer of Slavic Magic, but one filled with potential - making it no surprise it’s made its way to become one of Steam’s most-wishlisted games of 2023.

Thanks to this latest reveal, we’ve now got a release date too; Manor Lords will hit Steam on April 24th, when it’ll also come to PC Game Pass, letting subscribers give it a go for free.

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