Lords and Villeins
Colony management games have made quite a splash in recent years, with probably at the helm the very popular Rimworld. It really has become its own genre and meanwhile we are seeing more and more similar games, especially from smaller developers. Similarly, Czech company Honestly Games has taken up the genre and there Lords and Villeins released. As a unique and innovative concept they have chosen the medieval era, where you are assigned a piece of land by the king. It’s up to you to develop this land and, of course, obtain as much money and resources as possible for the king. As a result, the emphasis is more on growth and economy, rather than fighting and survival. The developer itself praises it as a relaxing experience, so we went to test that out.
The first thing that is recommended is to go through the tutorial, which is certainly wise. Being the administrator of a piece of land, as it turns out, is not so easy. The basic concept is that you designate different zones for different families. Of course you place the lumberjack family by the woods and the fishermen by the water, but that’s not all. You have to make sure that shelter and comfort is built, there is enough supplies for all the families, the local economy does not collapse and of course that the king stays happy. This is thankfully explained quietly in the tutorial, so when you start a new piece of land, you know how to get started.
But of course the systems go deeper than that. Once the basics are in place, many production lines become possible. With each expansion, it becomes more challenging to provide everyone with their basic needs, but in addition, there is the whole economy. For example, a manufacturing company with too much stock causes the prices of their product to drop, reducing their income and perhaps preventing them from paying for food. A shortage of products in turn causes prices to rise, so your subjects can no longer afford it all. This combined with keeping everyone happy and making sure the king gets his fair share makes for a continuously challenging game. Sometimes seem menu’s, overviews and graphs do become somewhat unclear or not intuïtive. Fortunately, this has been tweaked many times during Early Access, so I’m sure this will continue to improve.
Besides the subjects and the king, of course, you yourself are also important. For yourself, you can claim a piece of land for a nice mansion, hire subjects, set up a bodyguard and much more. Of course, as a landowner, you also have duties. Thus, you will have to listen to demands of your subjects and make difficult choices. Sometimes the inhabitants will not be happy with your choices and show criminal behavior. How you deal with this and whether you choose imprisonment or execution is also up to you. This especially makes it a bit more personal, since as a leader you are really physically in the game. You don’t have to take war into account, only the king will occasionally borrow some of your people to fight for him, but otherwise you have to guard the order in your own area.
All the managing and arranging you do, as we have come to expect from the genre, from a bird’s eye view over your land. Everything is divided into small squares that form the guidelines for your zones and structures. Lords and Villeins looks charming. Mostly brownish colors are used, but some color and the changing seasons provide nice variety for the eye. For us, the graphics were a bit busy at times, and the menus’s are sometimes a bit overwhelming with all the icons. The default font did not help this either and was sometimes even unreadable, but fortunately that is quickly adjustable in the options. The interface is otherwise clear though with a separate set of buttons for building, managing and the clock with general notifications.
Lords and Villeins Is a solid medieval colony management game. The economic and social systems are well thought out and all affect each other. The degree to which the game becomes more complex and challenging is also good. Factors that make it unique are the basic concept of dividing land between families and the extra interactions you have as ruler with your subjects, since you do not govern the latter directly. Because you can always press pause, there are no instances where your entire population suddenly dies and you do not have to wage war, it is also a pretty relaxing experience. You can play as large- or small-scale as you like, you’ll have a fun, personalized experience either way. A few minor downsides in terms of menu’s and graphics certainly can’t spoil the fun.
For this review we played Lords and Villeins on PC, the game is available exclusively for this platform.