Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 15, 2024
Manor Lords hype

Manor Lords is the most wishlisted game on Steam, with over 2 million people. It will be released into early access on April 26th, and this weekend a large number of streamers were allowed to show the current version. Manor Lords is a medieval village / city builder, with an RTS combat part that resembles a small scale Total War. It is the first game of a small indie developer (which started out with a single developer), and the expectations are high, as early versions of the game are extremely pretty. By having some variation of looks for identical buildings, and by allowing for curved roads and irregular shaped plots of land, the resulting villages look very organic. They can be zoomed into very far, and even walked through. It is all very promising.

However, the obvious promise lets people forget the even more obvious limitations. The general idea is that the game plays on a map with several regions, and these regions are populated by AI opponents, who can war each other. But in the early access version, the AI is still missing. You can only have an "external AI" opponent, who lives outside the map, but sends troops to claim regions, so that you can fight him. There are no AI villages being built anywhere yet. The diplomatic system is basically non-existing. And while you can already build nice little villages, there are features missing that would allow you to more easily manage larger villages and towns. You can certainly have fun in early access Manor Lords for some hours creating a pretty village and defending it against bandits and the "external AI". But right now there isn't much replayability.

I won't be getting Manor Lords on April 26th. The parts of the game that are finished are pretty, but offer only gameplay that a lot of other similar games already have. The innovative elements of turning your village into a barony at war with others are hinted at, but not yet implemented. Now of course it is totally possible that 2 million people buy the early access version, that the indie developer with the help of the more experienced publisher manages to use the money well to finish the game, and that in a year or so we get an absolutely brilliant and complete game. But there is absolutely no guarantee for that, and there have been numerous examples of an inflow of cash only leading to mission creep and bad project management. Having actual players means needing to deal with bugs in a timely fashion, and a level of support that can take away from development time. Development time is always longer than players hope, and might take years before a release version, which still might not be 100% of what is promised now. There is even a chance that the hype turns sour after people played the early access version for a while and notice how much stuff there is still missing. This is the quintessential early access game, a crowdfunding opportunity for a game with promise. People who expect more are likely to get disappointed.

My experience with city builders which are made "moar difficult" by adding combat is negative. The two genres have nothing in common and usually combat sucks atrociously compared to the city building aspect. Of course time will tell, time which I'll spend NOT buying the game and checking how it develops.....
This is also why I've stayed clear of Farthest Frontier.
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