Colony management games have been on the rise in recent years, probably with the very popular ones at the helm Rimworld. It has really become its own genre and meanwhile we are seeing more and more similar games, especially from smaller developers. The Czech Honestly Games has also started working with the genre, and there it is Lords and Villeins hatched. As a unique and innovative concept, they have chosen the medieval era, where you are granted a piece of land by the king. It is up to you to develop this land and of course get as much money and raw materials as possible for the king. As a result, the emphasis is more on growth and economy than on fighting and surviving. The developer praises it as a relaxing experience, so we tested it out.
The first thing that is recommended is to go through the tutorial and it is definitely wise. It turns out that it is not so easy to be the manager of a piece of land. The basic concept is to designate different zones for different families. Of course, you place the lumberjack family near the forest and the fishermen near the water, but that’s not all. You have to make sure that shelter and comfort are built, that there is enough stock for all families, that the local economy does not collapse and of course that the king remains satisfied. Fortunately, it is explained calmly in the instructions, so you know how to start with a new piece of land.
But of course the systems go deeper than that. Once the foundation is there, many production lines become possible. With each expansion it becomes more challenging to provide all their basic needs, but there is also the whole economy. For example, a manufacturing company with too much inventory causes the prices of their product to drop, reducing their income and may not be able to afford food. A shortage of products, on the other hand, leads to an increasing price, so that your subjects can no longer afford it all. This combined with keeping everyone happy and making sure the king gets his share makes for a constantly challenging game. Sometimes menus, overviews and graphs seem a little unclear or unintuitive. Fortunately, this has been tweaked many times during Early Access, so it will continue to improve.
In addition to the subjects and the king, you are of course also important. For yourself, you can claim a piece of land for a beautiful mansion, hire subjects, create a bodyguard and much more. As a landowner, you of course also have duties. For example, you will have to listen to the demands of your subjects and make difficult choices. Sometimes the inhabitants will not be happy with your choices and exhibit criminal behavior. How you handle this and whether you choose imprisonment or execution is also up to you. This makes it a little more personal, as you as a manager are really physically involved in the game. You must not take into account war, only the king will occasionally borrow some people from you to fight for him, but otherwise you must keep order in your own territory.
All management and arrangement takes place, as we are used to from the genre, from a bird’s eye view of your country. Everything is divided into small squares that form the guidelines for your zones and structures. Lords and Villeins looks charming. Brownish colors are mainly used, but some color and the changing seasons provide nice variety for the eye. For us, the graphics were sometimes a bit busy and the menus are sometimes a bit overwhelming with all the icons. The default font didn’t help and was sometimes even unreadable, but luckily it can be quickly adjusted in the options. The user interface is otherwise clear with a separate set of buttons for structure, administration 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 sharing land between families and the additional interactions you have as a ruler with your subjects since you don’t directly control the latter. Because you can always press pause, there are no cases where your entire population suddenly dies and you don’t have to go to war, it’s also a pretty relaxed experience. You can play as big or as small as you want, you get a fun, personal experience either way. A few small hiccups in menus and graphics certainly can’t spoil the fun.
For this review we played Lords and Villeins on PC, the game is exclusively available for this platform.